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Reviewed by Keith Julius for Readers' Favorite
Port Newton, California in 1900 is hardly a prosperous community. The owner of the local Savings & Loan has embezzled the town's money, leaving many penniless and destitute. Once thriving industries have left the city. And, perhaps the ultimate insult to the inhabitants of this tiny burg, their baseball team is in the midst of a years' long losing streak. This is the realm brought vividly to life in The Fade-Away by George Jansen. A world of characters is paraded before us, each colorfully described and vividly portrayed. "Doc" Sam Fuller, the local physician and president of the Port Newton Athletic Club. Gerald "Foghorn" Murphy, owner of the Railroad Exchange Saloon, Long John Sheets, the town constable, and Sophie Fuller, the high school senior who keeps a diary of town events. But when an Indian by the name of John Poe Dobbs quite literally washes into town, things begin to change, the former baseball star shining a light of hope over the bleak city.
The Fade-Away refers to the pitching style employed by Dobbs, and much of the novel revolves around the game of baseball, though it isn't so much that someone like me, who is hardly a baseball expert, can't enjoy it. The story is marvelously told from a variety of viewpoints, each possessing a unique style and voice. From the colorful journalistic jargon employed by the local newspaper, to the rambling musings of a teenager trying to grow up in the stifling atmosphere, to the matter-of-fact delivery of the physician, each voice rings true, bringing its own perspective to town events. George Jansen has hit a home run with The Fade-Away, offering a solid story line, an accurate portrayal of life at the turn of the century, and a cast of characters you'll grow to love.