cover art by Paul Swenson
In 1943, at the height of World War II, the Highbridge Hellbenders of the the class-C Chattahoochee Valley League deep in Georgia acquire a 17-year-old shortstop from Oklahoma named Danny Boles. The Hellbenders snap him up because he’s too young for the draft and preternaturally talented. In Highbridge, they make him the boarding-house roommate of an enormous first baseman with the awe-inspiring skill of blasting monster home runs out of the CVL’s tumbledown ballparks. Known to his teammates as Jumbo Hank Clerval, this mysterious giant and the mute Danny Boles strike up an improbable friendship that culminates at the hot season’s end in triumph and disappointment, not to mention a host of haunting discoveries in both the simmering South and the wind-swept Aleutian Islands.
Hailed by critics as a contender for the Great American Novel laurel, Brittle Innings evokes a bygone era of worldwide conflict and homeland unity. It also convincingly links documented wartime history with the immemorial mythology of the superhero and the legendary status of baseball as the unchallenged American pastime. If you read it, you will not forget it.
"Brittle Innings is a wonderful conflation of baseball history and horror—and most of the latter not reliant upon the fantastic so much as upon the terrible things that human beings do to one another. Written with the panache that Michael Bishop always dependably delivers."
—Gregory Frost, author of The Pure Cold Light
"Michael Bishop mixes baseball with fantasy and what it means to be human and drives one onto the left-field roof. Brittle Innings is anything but brittle. Brilliant might be a better descriptive."
—Jack McDevitt, author of Seeker
"Love, ambition, shame, innocence and experience, mortality and immortality, sex and race—they’re all here, in a vivid picture of small town America in the shadow of World War II and the capacity for nobility, and monstrous evil, that it demonstrated. Michael Bishop’s great American novel unveils new depths with every reading. See, there is some justice in the world: Brittle Innings is back in print."
—John Kessel, author of Corrupting Dr. Nice
"Only a writer as ingenious and skillful as Michael Bishop could stitch the joys of a great baseball story to the mythos of a dark nineteenth-century masterpiece and make the fit appear seamless. An undeniable classic of fantastic literature."
—Jeffrey Ford, author of The Physiognomy
"In some alternate world, Brittle Innings is the baseball fantasy movie that everybody’s heard of instead of Field of Dreams."
—Gardner Dozois, author of The Visible Man
"I first read Brittle Innings in 1994, and now in 2012 it’s still vivid and real to me, and its wisdom took hold."
—Gordon Van Gelder, editor of Fantasy & Science Fiction
"I’ve often said that science fiction is the literature of intriguing juxtapositions, and here’s a terrific example, luminously combining baseball and . . . well, you’ll find out: a homerun of a novel, full of heart and memorable characters, all driven by Bishop’s beautiful prose."
—Robert Sawyer, author of Triggers
"Although I’ve read many fine novels since 1994, this novel remains an all-time favorite. I keep a stash of copies to share with special friends, for this is a book about friendship, dreams, love, and finding one’s way in the world—an uplifting story that will make you believe in the goodness of people again. I envy anyone reading it for the first time."
—Ann VanderMeer, editor of Best American Fantasy
"Southern literature has always had healthy doses of the fantastic, steeped in atmosphere. Think Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Flannery O’Connor. Michael Bishop stands in such company with this deep, stirring work. It’s a Southern Gothic World War Two Baseball Novel, with a twist that you’ll never forget."
—Gregory Benford, author of Timescape
"Brittle Innings is a wonderful book: knowing, funny, and ultimately moving, with many surprises along the way. Bishop creates a vanished world in vivid and loving detail. I enjoyed it all immensely—and I’m not even a baseball fan!"
—Nancy Kress, author of After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall
"Brittle Innings is a richly evocative World War II-era Southern coming-of-age baseball story that’s also a worthy sequel to one of the classics of 19th-century literature. I don’t know how Michael Bishop wrote this one-of-a-kind masterwork, but I’m sure glad he did. "
—Andy Duncan, author of Beluthahatchie
"Brittle Innings is simply one of Michael Bishop’s many magnificent novels. His skills, insights, and verbal pleasures should have long ago driven lesser talents into silence."
—George Zebrowski, author of Brute Orbits
"Filled with layered prose that amply rewards discerning readers while never getting in the way of an enthralling story, Brittle Innings approaches Great American Novel territory while also serving as a fine sequel to one of speculative fiction’s masterpieces. With its unexpected twists and turns and atmospheric details, it is a treasure. "
—Pamela Sargent, author of The Shore of Women
"The subject of baseball seems to bring out the best in a novelist—one thinks immediately of W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe, Mark Harris’s Bang the Drum Slowly, and Bernard Malumud’s The Natural—but Brittle Innngs is in a league of its own, burning with a metaphysical audacity to which even Kinsella never aspired. Michael Bishop has blessed his readers with a masterpiece of speculative literature that nourishes the intellect, nurtures the heart, and deserves to remain in print until the last ball game is played on planet Earth."
—James Morrow, author of Towing Jehovah
"More than a stylistic tour de force, Brittle Innings triumphs on multiple levels of plot, characterization, and theme. Bishop manages a most difficult task: creating a masterpiece of subtlety and character while seducing the reader to turn pages as fast as the eye can absorb its action. Drawing on a passion for baseball, a savor of the gothic, and a piercing poignancy for its two deeply lovable protagonists, Brittle Innings embodies my ideal of the Great American Novel."
—Mary A. Turzillo, author of An Old-Fashioned Martian Girl
"Told as an extended flashback, [Brittle Innings] is drenched in a luminous nostalgia for what amounts to a Golden Age (despite the period’s acknowledged defects), a "once upon a time" venue where mythic beings . . . still walked the earth. This Bradburyian evocation of a legendary prelapsarian past is one of the effects SF does all too infrequently, but to which the mode lends itself splendidly in the hands of a master such as Bishop.
—Damien Broderick & Paul Di Filippo, Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985-2010
"There are few books that I can hand to anyone and say, You will love this. Brittle Innings is three of them. First it’s the story of Danny Boles, a small-town kid with major league dreams, working his way through his first season in Class-C baseball in the 1940s, falling in love and learning that the world is a bit more complicated than he thought. Then it’s the story of Jumbo Clerval, and all that has happened to him since we last saw him in a famous 19th-century novel. But the third book is a combination of the two, made of parts that shouldn’t work together, but do so beautifully. It’s Bishop’s most charming novel, featuring two of his most distinctive characters, and their voices will stay with you long after you’ve finished the book. When you’ve finished reading it, give it to anyone—and I mean anyone—and they will thank you for it."
—Daryl Gregory, author of Raising Stoney Mayhall
"Bishop’s earlier novels . . . earned him recognition as one of the best writers to come out of the science-fiction/fantasy field during the past couple of decades. Brittle Innings should secure him recognition as, simply, a truly good American writer."
—Steven Utley, author of The Beasts of Love
"This big, ambitious novel chronicles a minor league pennant race in Georgia in 1943, and creates a South-ful of hilariously vivid . . . characters. You won’t soon forget its narrator, feisty Oklahoman Danny Boles, or his mysterious teammate and soulmate Jumbo Hank Clerval, a seemingly superhuman figure around whom Michael Bishop has constructed an ingenious and wonderfully surprising plot."
"Brilliant. One of the best baseball novels this country has ever produced."
—The Orlando Sentinel
"One does not have to know much about baseball to appreciate Bishop’s formidable strengths and succumb to his evocation of the old New South, its inflections, its sticky heat, the smell of its dusty ballparks. . . . Brittle Innings should secure his recognition as a truly good American writer."
—The Austin Chronicle
"Exciting, precisely rendered and genuinely moving throughout."
—The San Francisco Chronicle
"Bishop’s mix of the fantastic and the commonplace is so assured . . . may be the first baseball gothic."
—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"There’s nothing everyday about the fiction of Michael Bishop."
"Resonantly evocative of time and place, with a splendid gallery of characters. . . . Bishop pulls it off brilliantly."
"Marvelous. . . . Poetic, funny, horrific, and tragic."
—The Denver Post
"[A] richly told tale with the full mythic magic of Field of Dreams."
—The Reader’s Review
"Extravagant, powerful, and ultimately . . . moving. . . . All summer in a book."
—The Detroit Metro Times