The Bookshelf . . . Part 1 of 3


It’s back, by popular demand (well, Dan Russell always asks for it) . . . For the past few years, I have compiled lists of books that I have read over the previous 12 months, and posted them here. With any luck, you may find an idea or two to help you get through your Christmas shopping.

So . . . here is Part 1 of 3 of the books that I have read so far in 2018.


All-American Murder: The Rise and Fall of Aaron Hernandez, the Superstar Whose Life Ended on Murderers’ Row — This book chronicles, as the title suggests, the rise and fall — an amazingly quick fall at that — of Aaron Hernandez, who was a tight end with the NFL’s New England Patriots when it all came crashing down. By book’s end, the reader knows that there can only be one outcome. But what leads to that outcome is mind-numbing; it is absolutely incredible how much badness one person of such high visibility was able to cram into his young life. James Patterson, one of the biggest-selling authors of this generation, had a hand in the writing, along with Alex Abramovich, with Mike Harvkey.


American Gods — If you choose to read Neil Gaiman’s work, suspend all your beliefs and open your imagination wider than it has ever been. This is science fiction and fantasy and everything in between; it is a horror story and reality. It is about gods and non-gods and war and our culture. And it’s likely different than anything else you have ever read. After you have finished it, you will look at the people next to you somewhat differently, whether you are shopping, dining, at a hockey game . . .


Beartown — Beartown is a town, presumably in Sweden, that loves its junior hockey team. In fact, if there is a word stronger than love, well, that’s what it would be. Written by Swedish author Fredrik Backman (and translated by Neil Smith), Beartown is one of the best works of fiction that I have encountered. It explores the relationship between a team and a hockey-obsessed community, including the parents and sponsors to whom winning is the only thing. This is a dark, dark novel and, if you know anything at all about junior hockey, it is absolutely full of truisms. It often will have you shaking your head, nodding your head and raising an eyebrow — often at the same time.


Beneath a Scarlet Sky — At the age of 18, Pino Lella finds himself as the personal driver for General Hans Leyers, a man of great power within the Nazi party. It’s late in the Second World War and Leyers is working in the area of war-torn Milan, Italy. Oh yes, the teenager also is a spy for the resistance. Written by Mark Sullivan, this one is based on the story as related to him by Lella, and as you read you have to keep reminding yourself that this is non-fiction.


The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created — Jane Leavy wrote two earlier baseball classics, The Last Boy and Sandy Koufax, and you can put The Big Fella right there, too. While The Last Boy was about Mickey Mantle, The Big Fella details the life and times of Babe Ruth. Meticulously researched, Leavy writes not only about Ruth but about the impact he had on the people around him and, indeed, society at the time. This is a wonderful, wonderful look at America in Ruth’s time.


Bottom of the 33rd — Darn, but this is a great book. . . . The Rochester Red Wings visited the Pawtucket Red Sox for an International League baseball game on April 18, 1981. It turned into the longest game in pro baseball history, lasting 33 innings and taking 8 hours 25 minutes to play. The game was suspended on April 19, around 4 a.m., with 19 fans still in the stands at McCoy Stadium. The final inning, the 33rd, was played on June 23 and lasted only 18 minutes. Author Dan Barry magically explores the game, all of its nuances and oh, so many sidebars. Like the pitcher who went home at 1 a.m., but whose wife wouldn’t let him in because she thought he and teammates had been out drinking and carousing. . . . If you haven’t already read this one, find a copy and prepare to be entertained.


Camino Island — This work from prolific author John Grisham is somewhat different from the legal thrillers that he has written. There aren’t any lawyers involved in what is a book drafted around the world of rare books. The pace is leisurely as it follows Bruce Cable, who owns a bookstore on Florida’s Camino Island, and Mercer Mann, a would-be writer who is trying to find her way into a second novel.


Clandestine — This cop book, written by James Ellroy, has been around since 1982. Ellroy, of course, also wrote the Black Dahlia and LA Confidential, among other works. He is a master of the noir detective novel and Clandestine is no exception. It follows Fred Underhill, who is an LAPD detective when the book opens but, well, you’ll have to follow the twists and turns to see if he still has a badge at book’s end. If you like the noir genre, you’ll love this one.


Court Justice: The Inside Story of My Battle Against the NCAA — Ed O’Bannon, a former basketball star at NCAA, and lawyer Michael McCann explain in plain terms how and why the former chose to be the frontman in a lawsuit aimed at allowing so-called student-athletes to control the use of their names and likenesses. It all started after O’Bannon’s college basketball career was over when he saw his image playing in an EA Sports video game. Through it all, the NCAA comes out looking like a plantation owner.


Darkest Hour: How Churchill Brought England Back from the Brink — Using archived material, author Anthony McCarten provides us with a play-by-play of the days leading up to Britain’s official involvement in the Second World War. Hitler is moving west through Europe and, surely, Britain will be next. At the same time, the political arena in Britain is a mess, with Churchill only days into his run as Prime Minister. There are those who would negotiate with “Herr” Hitler and “Signor” Mussolini. Churchill, though, isn’t so sure. But will he or won’t he?


Dark Sacred Night — The latest from author Michael Connelly has Harry Bosch, who is officially retired from police work but just can’t give it up, and LAPD detective Renée Ballard teaming up. Bosch is kind of freelancing with the San Fernando PD, and is investigating a cold case, while Ballard works the late show (night shift) with the LAPD. Connelly is a master at writing this kind of fiction, and Dark Sacred Night is another fine addition to the library that includes Bosch.


Father Bauer and the Great Experiment: The Genesis of Canadian Olympic Hockey — This book, from author Greg Oliver, deserves a prominent spot on the shelf with others that detail important stories in Canada’s hockey history. There was a time when senior hockey teams, most of them having had to fund-raise, represented Canada at Olympic Games and World championships. Then along came Father David Bauer, whose dream changed the face of Canadian hockey. It wasn’t that easy, though, and Oliver has all the stories right here. If you care about Canada’s hockey history, don’t miss this one.


Finnegan’s Week — Fin Finnegan is a cop in San Diego but he would rather be an actor. He really doesn’t have a whole lot of luck at either. Finnegan, with three ex-wives behind him, is the main character in author Joseph Wambaugh’s book from 1995. It’s full of lots of great dialogue and some truly off-the-wall characters.


TOMORROW: Part 2 of 3.


Scattershooting: Blades’ voice has idea to honour Tyler Bieber . . . Guy Charron? Call him commissioner . . . Virden up 2-0 in MJHL final


Les Lazaruk, the veteran radio voice of the Saskatoon Blades, caught a ride with Blades assistant coach Jerome Engele on Thursday morning and the two headed for Humboldt.

They went to the Elgar Petersen Arena for the funeral of Broncos’ radio voice Tyler Bieber, who was killed in Friday’s bus crash.

While in the seats, just prior to the service starting, Lazaruk had an idea.

“One other thing I feel as I sit and look at Tyler Bieber’s spot in the 107.5 Bolt FM broadcast booth,” he tweeted, “. . . I want to honour Tyler’s memory by calling Humboldt Broncos game on Bolt-FM. For free! No talent fee! No gas money! No meal money! I don’t care where the game is.

“There are 58 regular-season games in 2018-19 and I hope 57 other broadcasters step up and do the same in Tyler’s memory.”

If there is a way to make this work, you can bet on it happening.

Chris Cuthbert, Gord Miller, Peter Loubardias, Phil Andrews, Kelly Moore, Shawn Mullin, Ryan Switzer, James Gallo, Troy Gillard, Dave Randorf, John Fraser, Ben Holden, Joey Kenward, Tim Edmonds, Jason Gregor, Lee Jones, Tony Brar, Rob Mahon, Nick Gismondi, Brendan Parker, Peter Mills, Pete Krupsky and Cameron Birnie were among those to respond in a resoundingly positive fashion.

Tyler Bieber was a huge fan of the NFL’s New England Patriots.

Upon hearing that, Robert Kraft, the Patriots’ owner, called Bieber’s family — he ended up leaving a voicemail expressing condolences, according to ESPN’s Emily Kaplan — and also made sure that flowers were sent.

Bob Wilkie was a defenceman with the 1986-87 Swift Current Broncos. He survived the Broncos’ bus crash on Dec. 30, 1986, and went on to win the 1989 Memorial Cup with SCBroncosthem.

Wilkie later co-authored a book about the Broncos and that accident — Sudden Death: The Incredible Saga of the 1986 Swift Current Broncos.

On Sunday, he was in Saskatoon and Humboldt as he, Sheldon Kennedy, Peter Soberlak and Darren Kruger worked to spread hope among those impacted by the Humboldt bus crash.

This week, Wilkie dug up a souvenir of that 1989 Memorial Cup championship.

Elsewhere . . .

The Spokane Chiefs have signed three members of their organization to contract extensions, the lengths of which weren’t released. Assistant coach Scott Burt, equipment manager Tim Lindblade and Chris Baird, the assistant director of hockey operations, all have new deals. . . . Burt is preparing for his sixth season with the Chiefs. . . . Lindblade joined the Chiefs for the 2013-14 season. . . . Baird just completed his first season as equipment manager after 10 seasons as the Chiefs’ video co-ordinator.

Jeff Wagner is the new general manager and head coach of the junior B Fernie Ghostriders of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. He had been assistant GM/associate coach with the KIJHL’s Creston Valley Thunder Cats. . . . Wagner replaces Craig Mohr, whose contract wasn’t renewed after the Ghostriders were first-round playoff casualties. This was his fourth season as the club’s GM/head coach.

Guy Charron, a former NHLer who did a couple of turns as the head coach of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, is the new commissioner of the Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League. . . . You can bet that Charron will be a busy man because, as Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week writes, “The league has never been short on fiery personalities and hot-button issues — and this year is no different.” . . . Hastings has more right here.

JUST NOTES: If you’re following the WHL playoffs, you will be aware that the Tri-City Americans completed a four-game sweep of the Victoria Royals on Wednesday night. The Americans play in the U.S. Division and were a wild-card entry into the playoffs. They have swept the B.C. Division’s top two teams — the Kelowna Rockets, who finished atop the division, and the Royals, who were second. Does this mean the Americans get to hoist a B.C. Division championship pennant prior to next season? . . . In the MJHL, Rylee Zimmer had a goal and two assists to help the host Virden Oil Capitals to a 4-3 victory over the Steinbach Pistons. Zimmer tied the game at 14:07 of the third period and drew an assist on Landyn Cochrane’s winner at 15:48. . . . Virden won the opener, 2-1, in Steinbach on April 6. Game 2 had been scheduled for Sunday, but was postponed out of respect for the Humboldt Broncos. Game 3 is scheduled for Saturday in Steinbach. . . . The winner of the MJHL championship will meet the SJHL champ, either the Estevan Bruins or Nipawin Hawks, in the ANAVET Cup series. The SJHL final opens Saturday in Nipawin. . . .

A really interesting hockey book was published a year ago, but somehow I missed it. That book is Father Bauer and the Great Experiment: The Genesis of Canadian Olympic Hockey. I came upon it last month, and simply devoured it. Written by Greg Oliver, it details all that went on as Canadian hockey moved into the national team era and beyond. When I was growing up in northern Manitoba, among my hockey heroes were the likes of Roger Bourbonnais, Terry O’Malley, Barry MacKenzie, Fran Huck, Seth Martin, Ken Broderick, Jean Cusson et al. These were the Canadian players who would venture to Europe and get in the face of the great Soviet machine. The stories of all that went into getting the national program off the ground — no, Clarence Campbell’s NHL didn’t like it at all — all are right here. Great stuff!

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