Synopsis (from Amazon.com): In the summer of 1973 Joe Castle was the boy wonder of baseball, the greatest rookie anyone had ever seen. The kid from Calico Rock, Arkansas dazzled Cub fans as he hit home run after home run, politely tipping his hat to the crowd as he shattered all rookie records. Calico Joe quickly became the idol of every baseball fan in America, including Paul Tracey, the young son of a hard-partying and hard-throwing Mets pitcher. On the day that Warren Tracey finally faced Calico Joe, Paul was in the stands, rooting for his idol but also for his Dad. Then Warren threw a fastball that would change their lives forever…
Review: Whether reading one of his signature legal thrillers or a novel outside his usual milieu, like Skipping Christmas, Playing for Pizza, or A Painted House, fans anticipate Grisham’s ability to craft a veritable setting, compelling characters, and an engrossing plot. Grisham has been waiting for a baseball story to inspire him — Calico Joe was worth the wait.
Calico Joe is the story of two major league baseball players: Joe Castle, an exceptional rookie who inspires all who watch him play, and Warren Tracey, a violent alcoholic who never lived up to his potential and punishes those around him as a result. The protagonist, Paul Tracey, has the misfortune of being the son of the latter; his childhood is defined by these two men as he attempts to navigate his ambivalent feelings about his father and the sport of baseball. In classic Grisham fashion, the characters are unambiguously good or evil; however, the defining conflict of the novel is satisfactorily complex and forces the reader to contemplate the unwritten codes of baseball and the power of redemption.
Calico Joe’s structure traverses the past and the present, gaining momentum and building suspense — in the past by anticipating Joe and Warren’s meeting on the mound and in the present as Paul attempts to gain access to his former hero. Grisham, a baseball fan himself, includes fast-paced, play-by-play action and although Calico Joe is fictional, Grisham’s use of real names from baseball’s past creates an authentic atmosphere that will whet any fan’s appetite for the upcoming season.