The Bookshelf: Part 3 of 3

Books

What follows is Part 3 of my annual look back at a year in reading. The list concludes with a list of the 10 books that I most enjoyed in 2021, in alphabetical order. I didn’t include books by Don Winslow in that list because they would have dominated. You really can’t go wrong with anything by Don Winslow. . . .

Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate — Despite the lengthy title, this was a truly fascinating read. It was published in August 2013, and you can bet that not much has changed in the intervening eight years. Author Rose George was able to spend five weeks on the Maersk Kendal, one of those giant container ships you may have seen going under the Lion’s Gate Bridge. To say that this one is an eye-opener would be a real understatement.

Nothing Ventured — In the Clifton Chronicles, author Jeffrey Archer’s seven-book series following one family, one of the characters, Harry Clifton, is a writer of crime novels involving a copper named William Warwick. Now Archer has spun Warwick into a series of his own, starting with Nothing Ventured. There’s nothing deep here, just an easy read. The second and third Warwick books, Hidden in Plain Sight and Turn a Blind Eye, also helped get me through a few days in the latter part of 2021.

October 1964 — Published in 1995, this was picked by The New York Times as its sports book of the year. As much as it’s a story of the 1964 World Series, it’s a story of that MLB season with a heavy focus on the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees. They would meet in that World Series, and this is more a story of how they got there than anything else. Written by the legendary David Halberstam, it is impeccably researched and loaded with anecdotes and notes on many greats and a lot of not-so-greats. I had read this 20 years ago; I think I enjoyed it even more this time around.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — First, Quentin Tarantino made the movie of the same name, then he wrote the novel. If you have seen any of his movies, well, this is just as quirky. It is, as The New York Times, put it “a pulpy page-turner.” It also features Charles Manson and his crew and a whole lot of Hollywood-based gossip.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft — A few years ago, Stephen King — yes, that Stephen King — took a break from writing thrillers to bang out this really neat book. In the first bit, he tells about his early life and how he came to be a fiction writer. Then he goes on to write about writing — some dos and a lot of don’ts. And he finishes up with a detailed report on the accident — he was drilled by a guy in a blue van — that almost killed him. This was a nice, enjoyable look into the life and thought process of one of today’s most-prolific writers.

Pain Killer: A Memoir of Big League Addiction — This one, by former WHL/NHL enforcer Brantt Myhres, is hard to read, especially the first two-thirds. Myhres didn’t have much of a childhood, then went on to fight his way through the WHL and into the NHL. But a lot of it was snort coke, guzzle Jack Daniels, punch an opposing enforcer in the face, get punched in the face. Rinse. Repeat. Myhres really should be dead. Really. This book is ample proof of that. Instead, despite having only a Grade 9 education, he turned things around to the point that he ended up working for the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings as player assistance director. That lasted for three seasons until he lost his job in a regime change. If only this book had fewer cocaine-and-Jack anecdotes and more on Myhres’ life after snorting and drinking, more on why none of the NHL’s other teams has hired him, more on his work with First Nations youngsters. If only . . .

Pat Quinn: The Life of a Hockey Legend — Despite never having met the late Pat Quinn, author Dan Robson has done a more than credible job of chronicling the life of the cigar-chomping guy who was known as The Big Irishman. Quinn never gets nearly enough credit for being ahead of the game as a coach, especially when it came to using video, basic analytics, nutrition and various training techniques. Robson also explores the downside of Quinn’s career, including the eye-opening episode where he agreed to join the Vancouver Canucks — and accepted a hundred grand — while under contract to the Los Angeles Kings.

The Second Life of Nick Mason — After five years in jail and with at least another 20 years ahead of him, Nick Mason, the creation of author Steve Hamilton, makes a deal with a devil named Darius Cole. And thus begins Mason’s second life, one that is on the outside, mostly in the streets of Chicago, but is controlled entirely by Cole. Mason is one of those good bad guys, so this is quite readable and enjoyable. . . .  Exit Strategy is the second book in what surely will become a long-running series.

The Sentinel — This is the 25th book in the series that chronicles the adventures of Jack Reacher, the lone wolf who makes his way aimlessly across the highways of a nation, always seeming to find a mess to clean up. In this one, there are Russians and Nazis and a whole lot more. Yes, it’s all good fun. This is the first Reacher book not to have been written solely by James Grant under his pen name of Lee Child. He shares writing credit for this one with his younger brother Andrew Grant, who is Andrew Child in the publishing world.

Serge Savard: Forever Canadien — This book, written by journalist Philippe Cantin, was a huge success in Quebec with the French version selling more than 30,000 copies. And it’s no wonder. Serge Savard was one of the great players in the history of the Montreal Canadiens, one of the NHL’s proudest franchises. Cantin, with Savard’s co-operation, runs through his childhood and his climb up hockey’s ladder — from all-star defenceman to Montreal’s GM, a job he lost four games into the 1995-96 season when president Ronald Corey fired him. Savard lets it all hang out, too, as he pulls back the curtain to show the Canadiens, warts and all.

Ten Innings at Wrigley: The Wildest Ballgame Ever, with Baseball on the Brink — It was May 17, 1979, and the Philadelphia Phillies were at Chicago’s Wrigley Field for a game with the Cubs. The Phillies scored seven runs in their half of the first inning but, with the wind blowing out, it wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough. Author Kevin Cook takes an entertaining inning-by-inning look at what transpired on that glorious afternoon, with lots of anecdotes and sidebars on participants like Dave Kingman, Bill Buckner, the troubled Donnie Moore and a whole lot more. This is a wild and crazy read.

A Time for Mercy — John Grisham has brought back lawyer Jake Brigance for a third time — after A Time to Kill and Sycamore Row — and he doesn’t disappoint. This time, Drew Gamble, 16, whose family is all but indigent, has shot and killed a policeman. Of course, the story isn’t that simple and, yes, it’s a page-turner.

The Wanted — The homes — 18 of them — belonging to some of the elites have been broken into and it turns out that the perps are three young people. The mother of one of them hires Elvis Cole to get to the bottom of this mess, and he brings sometimes-partner Joe Pike along for the ride. Cole and Pike are regulars in books by author Robert Crais.

The Winter of Frankie Machine — If you haven’t figured it out already, I am a big, big fan of author Don Winslow. And I absolutely loved this book that was published in 2006, Frank Machianno, aka Frankie Machine, is a retired hit man trying to make an honest buck. He runs a bait shack on a pier in San Diego and has a few other things on the go. He’s got an ex-wife, a daughter and a girl friend. But now someone wants him dead. Yes, it’s a familiar story, but Winslow’s writing makes it different.

Without Remorse — It had been a long, long time since I cracked open a Tom Clancy-written book, so I didn’t know what to expect from this one that was published in 1993. The paperback version is 685 pages and I really enjoyed it. This is the first book that features John Clark as the primary character and it bounces smoothly between the various storylines.

The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best-Kept Secret — Nashville had the A Team. Motown had the Funk Brothers. In Los Angeles, it was the Wrecking Crew. These were the studio musicians who played on oh, so many hit songs, including for the Beach Boys. Did you know that Glen Campbell — think Wichita Lineman and By the Time I Get to Phoenix — was a member of the Beach Boys? Did you know there were two Beach Boys bands, one for the studio and one on the road. Author Kent Hartman has all that and a whole lot more here. I guarantee that if you read this one you won’t ever look at ’60s and ’70s music the same ever again.

Year of the Rocket: John Candy, Wayne Gretzky, a Crooked Tycoon, and the Craziest Season in Football History — There may be just a bit of hyperbole in the title but the CFL’s 1991 season really was one to remember. Prior to the season, comedian John Candy, a true, blue Canadian, hockey star Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall, then a tycoon and later a convict, purchased the Toronto Argonauts. Then they signed Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish star who likely would have been the NFL’s first overall draft pick had he not headed north. The Rocket got what then was football’s richest contract and, all these years later, it still makes an observer shake his head. Author Paul Woods, who has followed the Argonauts for years as a journalist, writer and fan, was there for all of it and details the entire story — the good, the bad and the ugly that followed 1991.

—-

A Promised Land, by Barack Obama

Billy Summers, by Stephen King

Blacktop Wasteland, by S.A. Crosby

Call Me Indian: From the Trauma of Residential School to Becoming the NHL’s First Treaty Indigenous Player, by Fred Sasakamoose

Deacon King Kong, by James McBride

The Dynasty, by Jeff Benedict

Newspapering: 50 Years of Reporting from Canada and Around the World, by Norman Webster

Serge Savard: Forever Canadien, by Philippe Cantin

Ten Innings at Wrigley: The Wildest Ballgame Ever, with Baseball on the Brink, by Kevin Cook

The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best-Kept Secret, by Kent Hartman

Part 3 of 3

The Bookshelf: Part 2 of 3

Books

Here is Part 2 of my annual three-part Bookshelf, highlighting some of the books I read in 2021. Perhaps you will find an idea or two that will help you in our Christmas shopping.

The Cellist — Author Daniel Silva is back with his latest work of fiction involving Gabriel Allon, who splits his time between restoring works of art and being a secret agent man with Israeli intelligence. Silva wrote this one during the pandemic and while U.S. politics were redefining bizarre. In fact, he rewrote the last bit just to accommodate the goofiness that was going on in the U.S. It’s interesting how Silva refers to No. 45 without ever mentioning his name.

Crossroads: My Story of Tragedy and Resilience as a Humboldt Bronco — Kaleb Dahlgren is one of the survivors of the bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos that claimed 16 lives. As the title indicates, this is Dahlgren’s story from childhood when he was diagnosed with diabetes through the bus tragedy and onto his attempt to return to hockey with U Sports’ York Lions. It really is incredible to read in Dahlgren’s words what he went through as he fought back from a serious brain injury after the accident. The book was written with help from veteran author Dan Robson.

The Dawn Patrol — Boone Daniels is a surfer — OK, a surf bum — and, on those occasions when he actually works, a private investigator. Don Winslow is an author who has a terrific way with words. (He also wrote Broken, which is included in Part 1.) Put them together and you get a thoroughly entertaining book. The characters are interesting, Winslow’s takes on the southern California lifestyle are piercing, and the dialogue is a treat. (See also The Gentlemen’s Hour later on in this list.)

Deacon King Kong — It’s New York City — actually, it’s a housing project in Brooklyn — in late 1969 and there is a shooting as the book’s central character, Sportcoat, takes an ear off a drug dealer. Author James McBride goes on to detail with tremendously entertaining dialogue and all kinds of social messaging the loves and lives of everyone who is impacted. Deacon King Kong? Sportcoat is a church deacon and a drinker who loves the neighbourhood’s home-brew (aka King Kong). This was one of The New York Times’ top 10 books for 2020, and with good reason.

The Defence — You would expect a lot of twists, turns and excitement from a story involving a recovering alcoholic who is a conman/scam artist-turned-lawyer and is defending the Russian Mafia’s top guy on a murder rap. Author Steve Cavanagh doesn’t disappoint in the book that introduced Eddie Flynn to readers.

Dragonfire — Suspend your belief for a few hours and dig into this chapter in the life of Alex Hawke, a likeable character created by author Ted Bell. This book involves a lot, including some of Hawke’s grandfather’s Second World War assignments, the potential assassination of FDR and the disappearance of Hawke’s grandson, Prince Henry.

The Dying Hour — This is the first in a trilogy of thrillers involving Jason Wade. He’s an intern in the newsroom at the Seattle Mirror, one newspaper in a three-paper town — hey, things used to be like that — and he’s eager because he wants a full-time gig. Author Rick Mofina knows his way around thrillers, and if you don’t mind a bit of blood, well, this one’s for you.

The Dynasty — Love them or hate them, you have to respect Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for their terrific run. A dynasty? Without a doubt. With this book, author Jeff Benedict really does take you inside that dynasty — from the days leading up to Kraft’s purchase of the NFL franchise and how it almost ended up in Connecticut through Brady’s last season with the Patriots. Belichick’s single-mindedness will amaze you, as will the fact that, by the end, he and Brady hardly were communicating. Yes, this is quite a book!

Finding Murph: How Joe Murphy Went From Winning a Championship to Living Homeless in the Bush — Author Rick Westhead, a senior correspondent with TSN, has written a searing indictment of the NHL for its treatment, or lack of same, of ex-players who may have concussion-related ailments in their lives after hockey. He wraps all of that around the story of Joe Murphy, a former No. 1 draft pick and a Stanley Cup winner who was sleeping on the streets of Kenora, Ont., and in the bush around the community when Westhead and former NHL goaltender Trevor Kidd found him. This is a tough but necessary read if you have anything at all to do with hockey.

The Gentlemen’s Hour — This is the second book in which author Don Winslow features Boone Daniels, a surfer and private investigator who knows his way around the beaches and highways of the San Diego area. This entertaining read features murder, broken friendships, a fishy couple and a whole lot more. And, yes, because it’s Winslow doing the writing, there’s a Mexican cartel involved here, too.

Klondikers: Dawson City’s Stanley Cup Challenge and How a Nation Fell in Love with Hockey — There was a time when the Stanley Cup was a challenge trophy, meaning anyone could issue a challenge to whichever team held the trophy. This, then, is the story of how a team from Dawson City, Yukon, challenged the Ottawa Hockey Club. But it’s more than that because it also tells the story of the Klondike gold rush and, at the same time, the birth and growth of hockey in Canada. Author Tim Falconer has written a wonderful book that should be in every sports fan’s library. Well done!

The Law of Innocence — This is the sixth of author Michael Connelly’s books to feature Mickey Haller, aka The Lincoln Lawyer. Yes, Harry Bosch, the star of so many other Connelly books, makes a cameo appearance. In this one, Haller is working as his own lawyer as he fights to beat a murder rap after the body of a former client is found in the trunk of one of his three Lincolns. Yes, we know how it will end, but it’s fun getting there.

Long Range — This is the 20th book in author C.J. Box’s series that follows Joe Pickett, a game warden based in Wyoming, and all that he has to deal with, including, in this instance, a new sheriff who is more than a little out of his element. The story is wrapped around a long-range shooting that may have been intended to kill a judge, but didn’t. The series may be 20 books old but it hasn’t lost a thing.

Murder By Milkshake — He worked at Vancouver radio station CKNW and was having an affair with the radio station’s receptionist . . . so he murdered his wife by milkshake. Seriously. Author Eve Lazarus’s chronicling of this story has to be read to be believed.

Newspapering: 50 Years of Reporting from Canada and Around the World — The older I get the more interested I seem to get in history. Norman Webster, who died on Nov. 19, was a giant among Canadian journalists; he was an international correspondent and a national columnist and later editor-in-chief of The Globe and Mail and Montreal Gazette. He was there for a lot of history and writes about it with clarity, humour and passion in this collection of his work. Oh, and he also fired Conrad Black.

Part 2 of 3

Scattershooting on a Sunday night while daring to watch Where Eagles Dare . . .

Scattershooting2


Betty


You may have heard that LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers may or may not have been in violation of NBA protocol when he recently attended a promotional event for a tequila brand that he has backed as an investment. No, the NBA didn’t suspend him, so he was able to play in that play-in game against the Golden State Warriors. . . . The best explanation I have seen as to why he wasn’t disciplined came from Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon: “The NBA is not going to suspend LeBron James from the playoffs or require him to be in quarantine for a week or so unless he tests positive for the coronavirus three or four times in succession as do a half-dozen of his teammates along with his family with whom he has had close contact for the past 10 days.”


If you’ve been wondering just how things went down in Everett as the Silvertips made the decision no to renew GM Garry Davidson’s contract, Nick Patterson of the Everett Herald has the dope right here . . .


I saw this note from TSN on Tuesday night, after the Toronto Maple Leafs blanked the Montreal Canadiens, 4-0, in a playoff game: “The last time the Toronto Maple Leafs shutout the Montreal Canadiens in playoffs was April 22, 1967. It was Johnny Bower’s last playoff shutout.” . . . Gotta love historical notes like that one. And if you haven’t read Dan Robson’s book on Bower — Bower: A Legendary Life — give it a look. Bower, a terrific person, was a great story and this is a truly enjoyable read.


Phone



If you’re a regular here, you know that Dwight Perry’s name shows up in Scattershooting on a regular basis. He writes and puts together Sideline Chatter for the Seattle Times, something he has done since 1999. However, he is on the IL as he deals with a health-related issue, but if you click right here you will find what a tribute to him that was put together by his friend and workmate, Scott Hanson . . . Enjoy!


The next time you’re on your deck or patio putting the chops on the barbecue — or grill — think about this for a moment: The Food Network just signed Guy Fieri to a new three-year contract said to be worth US$80 million, or more than Cdn$96 million. . . . You are correct. We picked the wrong line of work but, hey, enjoy the chops!


Taster


Remember the Vancouver riot of 2011? If so, you’ll remember the iconic photo of the couple — Alex Thomas and Scott Jones — laying in an empty street and embracing, with a riot cop in the forefront. ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski checked in with them in Australia and with the Vancouver-based photographer, Richard Lam, this week and came up with a great read that is right here. Enjoy!


So I was puttering around in our yard earlier this week and got to wondering if anyone else has noticed that we really are living on one giant anthill (aka earth)?


Bruce Jenkins, in the San Francisco Chronicle: “They’ve taken down the ‘Loretta’s Lounge’ sign at the White Sox’ ballpark, honoring the late Loretta Micele, whose service in club concessions dated to the original Comiskey Park in 1945. The eating/seating area is now called ‘La Russa’s Lounge’ after manager Tony La Russa, 76, certain to retire within the next few years (if not sooner) and who has a history of DUI issues. Man, that’s tacky.”


If you haven’t already seen this, turn up the volume . . .


And so it begins . . . maybe . . .

The NBA’s New York Knicks announced Friday that if they advance to the second round of the playoffs, tickets will be sold only to people who have been fully vaccinated. . . . “With the Knicks’ sizeable and boisterous crowds becoming a national conversation,” wrote Marc Berman of the New York Post, “the Knicks announced they will sell second-round tickets to only vaccinated fans. No socially distanced sections will be available.” . . . Of course, the Knicks are trailing the Atlanta Hawks, 3-1, in a best-of-seven first-round series so the announcement may have been for naught. They’ll play Game 5 in New York on Wednesday.


Mike Lupica in the New York Daily News: “It is worth pointing out, as the second tennis major of the season begins at Roland Garros, that Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic have combined to win 58 major tennis championships. Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe combined to win 26.”


CrimeRate


In the QMJHL, the host Victoriaville Tigres scored three times in the last 6:36 of the third period and went on to beat the Val-d’Or Foreurs, 4-3 in OT, in the championship final. Victoriaville leads the best-of-seven series, 2-1. . . . F Conor Frenette got the winner at 7:03 of OT. . . . They’ll play Game 4 in Victoriaville on Tuesday. . . . On Sunday, the Tigres tied it on goals from F Nicolas Daigle, at 13:25 of the third period; F Shawn Element, at 18:54; and F Alex Beaucage, at 19:55.


Some Friday numbers for you to chew on . . .


A note from Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports Babe: “RIP Gavin MacLeod, aka Captain Stubing. Must admit I loved ‘The Love Boat.’ Except for when I got into the travel industry and clients expected cruise ship cabins to look like they did on TV.” . . . In real life, she’s a travel agent in Palo Alto, Calif.

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One more note from The Left Coast Sports Babe: “In St. Petersburg, Fla., a concert promoter is offering tickets for $18 if you’re vaccinated . . . $1,000 if you aren’t. Sometimes I love the free market!”


Dorothy will be taking part in her eighth Kamloops Kidney Walk, albeit virtually, on June 6; yes, that’s coming up on Sunday. If you would like to be part of her team, you are able to make a donation right here. . . . Thanks in advance for your generosity.

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If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

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Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

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Or, for more information, visit right here.


JUST NOTES: Zach Hodder revealed via Twitter on Friday that “my time as manager of player development with the WHL has come to an end.” He joined the WHL office staff on Sept. 13, 2018. Hodder, 27, is a former WHL player who split 128 regular-season games between the Vancouver Giants, Saskatoon Blades, Prince Albert Raiders, Medicine Hat Tigers and Moose Jaw Warriors (2010-14). . . . Vukie Mpofu, who once played for the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels, has been named manager of hockey operations and legal affairs with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. He played four games with the Rebels in 2012-13 and 65 more in 2013-14. . . . The junior B Castlegar Rebels of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League have signed Carter Duffin, their general manager and head coach, to a “multi-year extension.” He is preparing for his fourth season with the Rebels. . . . The BCHL’s Langley Rivermen have signed Thomas Koshman as assistant GM and associate coach. He had been with the junior B Langley Trappers as GM and associate coach for the previous three-plus seasons.


Selfie

The Bookshelf: Part 2 of 3 . . .

Bookshelf

What follows is Part 2 of a three-part look at some of the books I have read over the past 12 months. Before we get to those, here are a handful of suggestions from the thumbnails that appeared here a year ago. If you haven’t read these, you can’t go wrong with any of them:

Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times, by Mark Leibovich

Bower: A Legendary Life, by Dan Robson

Football for a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL, by Jeff Pearlman

Hockey Fight in Canada: The Big Media Face-off Over the NHL, by David Shoults

K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, by Tyler Kepner

The Last Cowboys: A Pioneer Family in the New West, by John Branch

Scotty: A Hockey Life Like No Other, by Ken Dryden

Us Against You, by Fredrik Backman (but only if you already have read Backman’s Beartown)

Now here is Part 2 of this year’s bookshelf . . .

Gloves Off: 40 Years of Unfiltered Sports Writing: Lowell Cohn, now retired, had a lengthy career as a sports columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and Santa Rosa Press Democrat. This is his look back at some of the people he dealt with and things that he witnessed. He doesn’t pull any punches as he writes about his career; no, it’s not a compilation of columns. I’m a sucker for books of this type, but this one really is an entertaining read.

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The Good Earth: My mother was a reader and I can remember seeing Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth in a bookcase at home. But I can’t explain why I hadn’t read it before the summer of 2020. Published in 1931, it follows the life of a Chinese farmer and his family through more than 50 years of change, and it always returns to the importance of owning land. It won a Pulitzer Prize so I don’t need to tell you how good it is — but it’s great. It also is the first book in Buck’s House of Earth trilogy, the other two being Sons (1932) and A House Divided (1935).

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The Gray Man — This is the book that started the legend of The Gray Man, aka Courtland Gentry. He’s an assassin who at one time worked for the CIA but most times freelances. In his debut, there is a bounty on his head, and he faces down a dozen kill squads, but not without paying a price. Author Mark Greaney has created a likeable leading man, and the excitement is palpable between the front and back covers.

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The Grim Reaper: The Life and Career of a Reluctant Warrior — With help from writer Kevin Allen, then of USA TODAY, former hockey enforcer Stu Grimson told his story in a book that came out in the autumn of 2019. The book’s title is a touch misleading because Grimson, who had about 400 fights combined in major junior and the NHL, doesn’t seem to regret any of it. That may seem a bit strange seeing as he was forced into retirement by post-concussion syndrome. Anyway, he provides some valuable insight into the thought-process of NHL heavyweights — their anxieties and fears, both for the present and the future. Grimson, who was adopted, also opens up about his personal life, including a surprising introduction to his birth father.

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The Guardians — Cullen Post is a lawyer/minister who spends more time lawyering than preaching. His lawyering is aimed at correcting wrongful convictions and the group he works with, Guardian Ministeries, has had some successes. This book, by the prolific John Grisham, is about one of those cases, and a whole lot more. It’s good Grisham and the genesis, unfortunately, was a true story, as the author informs us at book’s end.

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The Huntress — I absolutely loved The Alice Network, and The Huntress is every bit as good, if not better. Both books were written by Kate Quinn. The Huntress is the story of two young men who pursue war criminals and are brought together with a Night Witch, a woman who was part of a female crew that flew night bombing missions for the Russians during the Second World War. The hunters’ latest target is a woman in Boston, who isn’t what she is trying hard to be. There are great characters and much intrigue here. You won’t be disappointed.

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The Jordan Rules — I don’t have any idea why I hadn’t read Sam Smith’s book prior to May. I finally read it while taking breaks from watching The Last Dance, the 10-part documentary on Michael Jordan, co-starring the Chicago Bulls, on Netflix. Smith, a writer with the Chicago Tribune, details the Bulls’ 1990-91 season. As the Bulls run to their first NBA title, the reader is left to decide whether The Jordan Rules was the name for the way the Detroit Pistons played defence on Jordan or how his teammates came to feel about what dictated life with the Bulls. If you haven’t read this, it’s great. Interestingly, Smith now writes for the Bulls’ website.

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Major Misconduct: The Human Cost of Fighting in Hockey — Author Jeremy Allingham, a reporter with CBC in Vancouver, takes an in-depth look at the post-hockey lives of three former enforcers — James McEwan, Stephen Peat and Dale Purinton — and what he uncovers isn’t at all pretty. Interestingly, all three got their starts as enforcers in the WHL, a major junior league that has yet to ban fighting. This is a horrifying look at life after hockey fights and should be read by anyone involved in junior hockey — from fans to parents to executives.

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The Mighty Oak — Tim O’Connor is the fighter — goon — for the West Texas Hockey League’s El Paso Storm. But his best days are behind him and he’s feeling it all over. O’Connor, whose nickname is Oak, hasn’t yet come to grips with the fact that a hip and a shoulder and a whole let else have him headed for hockey’s junk heap. He’s hoping the Oxy and Toradol and Adderall and whatever else is available will get him through it. Then he punches a cop. Author Jeff W. Bens has written an engrossing character study of a hockey enforcer trying to find a way back into a previous life.

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Mission Critical — I had heard of author Mark Greaney and his Gray Man books, but I hadn’t ready any of them until this one, which is No. 8 in the series. Court Gentry is The Gray Man; he also is an assassin, code name Violator. In Mission Critical, Violator is working for the CIA and there is a lot of nastiness happening in a paperback that runs 706 pages. But it is readable and it is fun.

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Mohawk — I don’t know if there is an author who captures small-town life in all of its idiosyncrasies like Richard Russo. Such is the case, again, in Mohawk as he follows a handful of citizens through the routine of their daily lives and stays with them as they deal with life’s ups and downs. Mohawk was published in 1986 and it is as great today as it was then.

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Molly’s Game: The True Story of the 26-Year-Old Woman Behind the Most Exclusive, High-Stakes Underground Poker Game in the World! — A member of the U.S. freestyle ski team suffers a career-ending injury and ends up running high stakes poker games in Los Angeles and, later, in New York City. This is the story of how Molly Bloom did all of that and more. She spills some of the beans in anecdotes that involve players like actors Tobey Maguire, who comes out rather poorly, Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Affleck, and some Russian gangsters. The obscene amounts of money thrown around in these games prove only that some people have no idea how the rest of us live. In the end, though, it all comes crashing down. Unfortunately, the book ends before the end, which is the part where Bloom pleads guilty to federal charges. You’ll have to turn to Google to find out what happened in court.

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Next: Part 3 of 3.

Scattershooting late on a Monday night with the shopping all done for another year . . .

Scattershooting


It’s a little-heard Christmas song these days, but there was a time when Honky the Christmas Goose was on the charts. It featured then-Toronto Maple Leafs G Johnny Bower, his son, and a few youngsters. . . . Dave Stubbs of nhl.com has a look back right here. . . . And if you haven’t read Dan Robson’s book on Bower — Bower: A Legendary Life — give it a read. You won’t be disappointed.



“Bed Bath & Beyond announced the departure of six members of its executive team,” notes Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports Babe. “Is it safe to assume the company will at least give each of the six a 20 per cent store discount for life?”

——

Here’s Hough, again: “So as President Trump has authorized $2 billion for ‘Space Force’, did he consider asking Michael Jordan to head it?”



After a hectic past two weeks, the plan was to spend Sunday at home in the recliner watching some football. But when the time came TSN had the Detroit Lions and Denver Broncos on four channels. . . . We went out for coffee.


Dwight Perry, in the Seattle Times: “Eat your heart out, Wonderboy. The bat Babe Ruth used to club his 500th career home run fetched $1 million on the auction block. Ruth — in his 21 MLB seasons combined — got paid $856,850.”

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Perry, again: “The Houston Rockets’ James Harden joined an exclusive NBA club by totalling 100 points in back-to-back games. Leaving him just one game shy of tying Wilt Chamberlain, who once scored 100 in one consecutive game.”



The U of Florida has named its basketball floor in honour of former men’s coach Billy Donovan. That got Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel looking for other state coaches who might be similarly saluted. He tweeted:“Best so far: (1) Jimbo Fisher Christmas Tree Recycling Center. (2) Urban Meyer Detention Center.”


The QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques appear to be something of a mess. Alain Sear, a co-owner and the general manager, left the team the other day. The next day, Martin Lacasse stepped down as the chairman of the team’s board of directors. . . . On the ice, the Olympiques are 7-23-3 and only one point out of the 18-team league’s basement. . . . According to Alexandre Pratt of the newspaper La Presse, the Olympiques had fewer than 500 fans at a recent home game at the Robert-Guertin Centre. . . . The good news is that the Olympiques will be moving into a new $80-million, 4,000-seat facility in time for the 2021-22 season.



Former WHLer Carter Rigby has taken over as head coach of the junior B Osoyoos Coyotes of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. He played one season (2010-11) with the Coyotes. In the WHL, he skated with the Prince George Cougars, Kelowna Rockets and Swift Current Broncos. . . . Rigby, 25, takes over from Grant Williams, who had been the interim head coach since Dean Maynard and the team parted company last month. Maynard had taken over as interim coach in January, and was named GM and head coach in April.


The Jacksonville Jaguars, with Gardner Minshew at quarterback, beat the Raiders, 20-16, in what likely was Oakland’s final home game before it relocates to Las Vegas. “An awesome experience,” Minshew said of the Dec. 15 game. “I saw more middle fingers today than I have my whole life.”



You’re right . . . the NFL’s Detroit Lions haven’t been good in recent years. As Justin Rogers of the Detroit News pointed out on Twitter: “Two presidents have been impeached since the Lions last won the division.”


Once upon a time, Sara Rogers’ great-grandmother, eight years of age at the time, wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Sun. “Please tell me the truth,” she wrote, “is there a Santa Claus?” . . . The response, when it came, was one for the ages and it lives on today. . . . That story is right here. . . . Enjoy, have a Merry Christmas and please stay safe out there.

The Bookshelf: Part 1 of 3

Bookshelf

For the past number of years, I have posted thumbnails of some of the books I have read over the previous 12 months. So here were are again. Perhaps this will help with yourChristmas shopping or your Christmas list. . . .

What books are on my Christmas list?. . . The Grim Reaper, by Stu Grimson . . . Rob Vanstone’s 100 Things Roughriders Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die. (No, I’m not a Roughriders’ fan, but I spent 17 years at the Regina Leader-Post, so I have some interest there.) . . . The Irishman, by Charles Brandt. It first was published as I Heard You Paint Houses. (Watching The Irishman on Netflix is on this week’s list of things to do.) . . . Blowout, by Rachel Maddow . . . Where The Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens . . .

Anyway . . . here’s the first of three parts of this year’s Bookshelf . . .

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Basketball: A Love Story — This book is the offspring of a 20-hour,10-part TV series produced by ESPN. There were many hours of interviews that didn’t make the cut, so it remained for authors Jackie MacMullan, Rafe Bartholomew and Dan Klores to put together a wonderful oral history of basketball. It is amazing to hear so many stories told by the women and men to whom the game has meant so much. I really, really enjoyed this book.

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Before the Lights Go Out: A Season Inside a Game on the Brink — What, if anything, is wrong with the state of hockey in Canada? If there is a problem, is it due to falling registration numbers that can be blamed on the high cost of getting children involved in the game? Why aren’t more new Canadians becoming involved at a young age? Why was there such a backlash when Hockey Canada decreed that young players were going to have to play cross-ice? Author Sean Fitz-Gerald tries to get to the root of the situation in this book. Unfortunately, this is more like two books in one. He spent the 2017-18 campaign with the Peterborough Petes, and the time he spent with the OHL club as it struggled through an abysmal season takes up a lot of the book. That doesn’t leave nearly enough space for everything else, a lot of which is focussed in the Peterborough area. Still, this is an interesting read in that it does examine some issues facing Hockey Canada.

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Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times — If you enjoy it when someone pokes the bear, you will absolutely love this book. Author Mark Leibovich is a huge fan of the New England Patriots, but that doesn’t stop him from having fun at the expense of the NFL, its commissioner, the owners and THE SHIELD. This is good stuff! . . . If you don’t believe me, The New York Times called it “a gossipy, insightful and wickedly entertaining journey through the N.F.L. sausage factory.” It is all that, and more.

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The Blue — Who knew that a book about porcelain could be so engrossing. Author Nancy Bilyeau impeccably researched novel involving spying, murder, kidnapping and, yes, love in the 18th century is gripping. England and France are at war and porcelain is a commodity that is much in demand. Genevieve Planché is the main character — she was born in England but is of Huguenot descent — and she often finds herself torn as the story twists and winds its way from England to France. I quite enjoyed this work of historical fiction.

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The Border — This is the best fiction book I read in 2019; in fact, this is the best read I have had in a long, long time. It is the final book in author Don Winslow’s trilogy about the American government and its war on drugs. The trilogy began with The Power of the Dog. Then came The Cartel. . . . Both books were excellent. The Border, though, is better than that. There are times when you wonder if what you are reading really is fiction, because a lot of it certainly seems factual. Winslow spent more than 20 years researching and writing; he knows his subject and it shows.

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Bower: A Legendary Life — I read this one early in 2019 — yes, it was a Christmas gift — and I guaranteed at the time that it would be on my top 10 list for the year. It didn’t turn me into a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it introduced me to Johnny Bower, one of the NHL’s greatest goaltenders who, more importantly, was a kind and gentle person, a true family man and a lover of life. Author Dan Robson does a wonderful job of telling Bower’s story. You can only shake your head in disbelief at the conditions and wages that were part of the lives of Bower and so many other players who were involved in the NHL pre-1967, or, worse, were stuck in the minor leagues. . . . One note about Bower: The Toronto-area community in which he and his wife Nancy ended up living in named a park after him. Bower would visit it daily . . . and pick up any litter that was left laying around.

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The Browns Blues: Two Decades of Utter Frustration: Why Everything Kept Going Wrong for the Cleveland Browns — How bad have the Cleveland Browns been? So bad that author Terry Pluto’s book needed two subtitles. Pluto, a long-time columnist with the Cleveland Plain Dealer who has a number of books to his credit, explains why fans of the NFL team have suffered such pain and anguish since 1999. Why 1999? Because that’s when the NFL returned to Cleveland after the original Browns had departed for Baltimore following the 1995 season. Get into Pluto’s book and you’ll find yourself doing a lot of head-shaking because he doesn’t hold back when it comes to pointing fingers.

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Cemetery Road — Greg Iles has done it again. The author of the southern U.S.-based Natchez Burning trilogy is back in Mississippi and, again, he has produced a gem. Since leaving his hometown of Bienville, Miss., Marshall McEwan has become an all-powerful journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winner based in Washington, D.C. Now, with his father dying, he’s back in Bienville to run the family newspaper. It doesn’t take long before he’s embroiled in, well, just about everything you could imagine — from love to hate, from politics to murder — and is faced with making one decision after another.

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The Cold Dish — I have watched numerous episodes of Longmire, the TV series based on books written by Craig Johnson. This is the first of the Longmire books and it ended up being one of the series’ episodes. I quite enjoy the TV series, but I have to tell you that I liked this book a lot more, if only because Deputy Sheriff Victoria (Vic) Moretti is a whole lot saltier and sassier on the written page than on a TV screen.

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A Dedicated Man — Author Peter Robinson has written more than two dozen crime novels featuring Inspector Alan Banks, who left the police force in London for a quieter life in the Yorkshire Dales in the north of England. The first of these books — Gallows View — was published in 1987, and the latest — Many Rivers to Cross — in 2019. . . . A Dedicated Man came out in 1988 and is the second book in the series. . . . Somehow these books had escaped me until earlier this year. I quite enjoyed my initiation and certainly will be back for more.

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Tomorrow: Part 2 of 3.

Scattershooting on a Monday as we await the arrival of spring. . . . It is coming, isn’t it?

Scattershooting


“It’s doubtful Marie Antoinette, beheaded former queen of France, ever played hockey,” writes RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com. “If she had, history would note her as out indefinitely with an upper body injury.”


McMars


Hey, Sportsnet, if you’re going to make a to-do about a pregame fight you should know that it happened in the ECHL, as opposed to the East Coast Hockey League. If you’re wanting to be a nation’s hockey network, you should be aware of that. Once again . . . that pregame scrap took place in the ECHL. OK?



So . . . my wife, Dorothy, was in Brandon last week. While they were paying 97.9 for a litre of gasoline, the price in Kamloops was 1.27.9. Does anyone have a clear and reasonable and sensible explanation for that? And you can’t use the word ‘gouging’ in your explanation.


A couple of Robservations from Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post: 1. Why are hockey referees so oblivious to obvious cross-checks? On Friday, for example, Logan Nijhoff of the Regina Pats was cross-checked into the Brandt Centre boards by Dakota Krebs of the Calgary Hitmen. No call. The Hitmen proceeded to score a goal when they should have been killing a penalty. The laissez-faire officiating was also on display when Nijhoff gave Kaden Elder an extra shot after finishing a check. No call (repeat). Why employ two referees if they are going to ignore penalties? . . . 2. There isn’t any justification for fighting in hockey — not when player safety is supposedly an area of emphasis.


Santa


Here’s columnist Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times on the Dodgers’ attempts to sign Bryce Harper: “They flew to his Las Vegas home this week in what appeared to be a successful attempt to convince him of their charms. It seemed like Harper was all but begging to come to Los Angeles. Yet the Dodgers let him go to the one place he clearly didn’t want to go. . . . When it comes to bringing a star to Hollywood, the Dodgers are more about raising prices than raising hopes.”


Headline at SportsPickle.com: Report: Man agrees to live in Philadelphia for $330 million.



Headline at SportsPickle.com: Somehow this Bryce Harper deal will end with the Mets paying him $1 million every month through the year 2095.


Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports Babe, notes: “With Bryce Harper’s $300-million, 13-year contract,  there are kids not even born in Philly who will be booing him someday.”

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Hough, again: “Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper at the Oscars had more chemistry than we’ve seen live since Trump and Putin in Helsinki.”



“By now,” writes Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, “I’m sure you have seen photos of the exploded sneaker that led to Zion Williamson’s ‘Grade 1 knee sprain’. Photos of Janet Jackson’s ‘wardrobe malfunction’ didn’t get wider distribution than the exploded shoe has gotten.”


If you’re looking for a good read, get a copy of Bower: A Legendary Life. Written by Dan Robson, it chronicles the life and times of Johnny Bower, and what an amazing story it was. It helps, too, that Bower was a perfect gentleman. It should be mandatory reading, too, for every player who is making his living playing hockey today.


OnHold


Wondering what’s in the future for outfielder Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels? Here’s Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle: “It’s nice to envision Mike Trout wearing a Giants uniform when he becomes a free agent two years from now, but that’s a pipe dream. Trout is an East Coast guy (New Jersey). His buddies are tired of staying up past midnight to watch a dreadful Angels game on television. Only the Dodgers could keep him in California.”


Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times flagged this one . . . Rich de Give, via Twitter, on former Trump campaign director Paul Manafort’s sentencing memo taking up 800 pages: “Wait until you get to the end, when you find out not only did he remove a mattress tag, he used the descriptions and accounts of a game without the express written consent of Major League Baseball.”

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