Pickoff

A Novel (America's Pastime Book 3)

Fiction - Suspense
175 Pages
Reviewed on 04/30/2021
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

"GP Hutchinson has the gift to tell a compelling tale, enlighten you without preaching and keep you on the edge of your seat. He takes you on unexpected trails populated by flesh and blood characters of depth and substance," says Western TV & movie star Alex Cord.

Nick Wale of Novel Ideas says, "With great mastery GP Hutchinson paints a West I can see, feel and smell. [He] knows how to write, and he knows instinctively."

Hutchinson's first Western novel, "Strong Convictions," won the Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award for Best First Western of 2015. "Strong Suspicions," the second volume in the Emmett Strong Western series, garnered a gold medal in the 2016 Readers' Favorite International Book Awards. And "Strong Ambitions" took silver in the 2017 Readers' Favorite Awards.

In addition to his interest in the Old West, GP Hutchinson has been a longtime enthusiast of baseball, America's first true national pastime, a game played from coast to coast by the late 1800s. While he enjoys the game as it is played today, his most recent novels are tales of players caught up in life-and-death struggles during the early years of professional baseball. Steeped in the actual history of the game, as well as societal realities of the times, these stories feature both fictional and actual characters, teams, and leagues.

Hutchinson currently resides in upstate South Carolina with his wife, Carolyn. Besides writing, he enjoys spending time in the mountains and horseback riding whenever the opportunity arises.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite

Pickoff by G.P. Hutchinson is a thriller set in 1927 that combines major league baseball and Chicago mob action, mostly the latter. Joe Rath, a young, well-rounded catcher, is replaced by a younger, poorer defensive, and heavy-drinking backstop, BUT a home run star. Joe’s career was on the rise until the drunken slugger showed up. Now Joe wants to be traded. Adding to his troubles, his wife wants him to get out of baseball and stay at home with her and their one-year-old son. Adding further to his difficulties, due to innocent circumstances, Joe becomes enamored with a cabaret songstress Amie, who entrances him with her version of “Someone to Watch over Me.” Unfortunately, she’s the “possession” of a notorious mob boss who tolerates no hint of an intrusion. Thus, the flames of the plot are ignited.

I enjoyed Pickoff by G.P. Hutchinson both for Joe Rath’s conflict between his love and duty toward his family and for his natural on-the-road attraction to the beautiful and entrapped Amie. He is lured by his chivalric need to protect and rescue her from her tortured existence. And I enjoyed the meticulously researched baseball framework. Though the Baltimore Beacons are a made-up National League team, everything else about the sport is spot on—I checked: Bob O’Farrell, the 1927 Cardinals’ manager; Earl Webb, the Cubs’ right fielder; Kiki Cuyler, the Pirates’ skipper; and even Matty Schwabb, the Reds’ groundskeeper. Also real are Chicago’s streets and Prohibition’s speakeasy culture. The questions, then, are two: will Joe be able to get off the bench and play regularly, and more important, will he resolve his love for his wife with his attraction to the sexy, goodhearted songstress? Pickoff by G.P. Hutchinson offers great action, great baseball, a great love story, a great moral dilemma, and crisp direct prose. Hutchinson has hit this one out-of-the-park!

Lesley Jones

In Pickoff by GP Hutchinson, in June 1927, Joe Rath's baseball career and 3-year marriage to Mena are at an all-time low. As he struggles to keep his place on the Baltimore Beacons, manager Cap Irwin signs Frank Walsh, an up-and-coming star catcher, to take his place. Joe is also under increasing pressure to leave baseball to save his marriage. On a tour to Chicago, Joe sets eyes on the enigmatic diva Amie Dawes for the first time and is instantly attracted to her. Although he is drawn to Amie, Joe remembers his vows and is determined not to break them. However, when Joe meets Amie a second time, he discovers she is entangled in a dangerous web of organized crime run by Gyp Scaletta, a web she has been trying to escape from for two years. Even though Amie warns Joe not to become involved, he cannot ignore her plight. As Joe plots Amie's escape, Walsh mysteriously disappears. With Amie in hiding, Joe tries to salvage what is left of his career but he soon realizes Scaletta will stop at nothing to get Amie back under his control. When Joe discovers Scaletta's plans for revenge, Joe must choose between saving Amie or his family. Or is there another way out?

Pickoff by GP Hutchinson is an incredibly gripping story that draws you into the world of the characters immediately. I thought every character was believable and the excellent dialogue really highlighted their personalities. Joe was an amazing protagonist; he had his flaws but his moral compass throughout was admirable. His reactions, thoughts, and behavior when he faced danger were realistic and this made him even more genuine. I found the inner battle Joe experienced between helping Amie, fighting his feelings for her while remaining loyal to his wife, incredibly moving. There was also fantastic detail and excitement on the baseball pitch with great camaraderie between the players. The tension was superb as Joe tries to escape the clutches of Scaletta and his men. There were some great plot twists and the areas of conflict were perfectly placed to keep my interest. The ending was absolutely compelling and the shocking twist at the end caught me totally by surprise. A great read and one I would highly recommend.

BookLife Reviews

Set in Roaring Twenties Chicago, this swift-moving actioner follows major league catcher Joe Rath as he copes with rivalries on his team, recent fatherhood and his troubled marriage, and temptingly beautiful singer Amie Dawes, who involves him with gangsters. A depressed Joe tries to help Amie escape from her abusive mobster boyfriend even as team tensions and his demotion to second string lead to fist fights. Amie's boyfriend becomes increasingly jealous of the relationship between Joe and Amie, and the ballplayers find themselves facing a violent showdown as Joe has to decide what's important in his life: his family, his career, or Amie.

Hutchinson's love of baseball comes through in every ballgame scene, and sports aficionados will relish the descriptions, pulled off with such panache that even nonfans will find themselves drawn in. Equally accomplished are the scenes in speakeasies and the period argot: “Did you see the gams on those Shebas?” Joe's introduction to the seductive Amie has a deft, noirish touch about it. The plot is a little thin, and Joe's transformation into an avenging angel may be a bit over the top—how do ballplayers become such adept fighters?—but the bloody action scenes between gangsters and ballplayers are nicely choreographed.

Anchoring all the busy action scenes is Joe's character, a study in contrasts. From the beginning, it's clear he's a devoted family man delighting in his child, but he's also a tough athlete. His internal struggle becomes clear as he finds himself increasingly attracted to Amie and the two of them walk a fine line between friendship and romance. Joe thinks he is platonically comforting her: "With his hand still in hers…she nestled against him." But then he realizes: "Maybe not so safe." The richness of Joe's character and the unusual professional sports setting elevate this book above the usual gangster melodrama, and readers will find themselves caring deeply about Joe, Amie and their friends.

Takeaway: Sports and crime-fiction fans alike will enjoy this 1920s major league thriller.

Great for fans of: Dick Francis, William L. DeAndrea’s Five O'Clock Lightning.