Baseball crime or awful judgment? A PITCH FOR JUSTICE – author interview with Harold Kasselman

HAROLD KASSELMAN’S FIRST NOVEL has been in the top 10% of Kindle paid books for a solid year — no small accomplishment. It has ranked #1 in baseball and in sports psychology, and it’s a good read. I had the pleasure of reading it before publication, and I read it again before I interviewed Harold this week. You can find the book, in Kindle and paperback editions, on Amazon. It’s rated four and a half stars, with 150 reviews. A Pitch for Justice cover Wed 05-07-14I wanted to know where this particular story came from (it’s a very inventive plot but could have been one of a thousand courtroom novels), and how he went about turning concept into reality. Following is the email exchange we had this week:

JP  I think the starting point has to be this: have you ever seen anything like your plot in real life, either as a baseball fan or as a prosecutor?

HK I have never seen anything in person in baseball that was prosecuted as a crime but I did see an incident in 1965 on television that likely would have been prosecuted today. Hall Of Fame pitcher Juan Marichal of the Giants hit Dodger catcher Johnny Roseboro over the head with a bat. Marichal was batting and Koufax threw a fastball at his head. Marichal said something to Roseboro and Roseboro stood up and faced Marichal. The latter then went berserk and struck Roseboro on the head( no helmet was worn since he had taken off his mask). He had to be hospitalized and had a huge knot in his head and needed stitches to close the wound. The point is that Marichal had flattened two Dodgers earlier in the game by knocking them down with pitches because they had gotten hits off of him. There were never any criminal charges filed. Today I believe there is a good chance a DA would file charges of assault with a deadly weapon.

HAROLD KASSELMAN
HAROLD KASSELMAN

There was an incident in 1999 in college where a pitcher, later drafted by the Cubs, deliberately threw a ball at the head of an  opponent which resulted in multiple fractures of the face and head. The latter never played baseball again. Charges were filed against the pitcher but a grand jury declined to indict. Based on what I have read, that decision was disturbing. But the victim did settle a civil suit for an estimated $400,000. If such an incident happened when I was prosecuting, I would have done all I could to have ethically gotten an indictment for aggravated assault. The point to be emphasized is that customs on the playing field cannot be immune from societal laws when they cross the line to criminality.

JP  Which came first, the desire to write a novel or the plot idea for this novel?

HK The truth is, I was bored after I retired from the practice of law. Someone suggested I write a book but I said ” lawyer books are a dime a dozen” (shows you how old I am). But I liked the idea and the challenge so I thought about something that combined my two passions, baseball and the law. I was always haunted by the Ray Chapman death from a pitched ball thrown by Carl Mays in 1920 and I began to wonder what would happen in today’s society if  a player died from a pitched ball. From there it was relatively easy for me to take the scenario though the legal process.

JP  Have you had any reaction from your lawyer friends about the entire concept of bringing a felony charge against a pitcher in a bean ball case like yours?

HK Several lawyer friends told me the same thing. Before they read the book, they thought such a prosecution would be fanciful or capricious. When they finished reading, they were convinced of the viability of such a case. Still, most had very strong feelings about the outcome.

JP  Did you write the book with the intention of making a moral point?

HK Yes in large measure I did intend this to be a morality piece of fiction. I think many players in all sports (recall the New Orleans Saints’ scandal about bounties for taking out players from the opposing team) are too often cavalier about gratuitous violence in sports. Admittedly, there is a certain degree of consent to physical contact. But when someone in a sport throws a 95 MPH fastball at a player’s head because that player “showed up the pitcher” on a prior home run, or when someone deliberately tries to disable an opposing football player by causing a concussion or knee injury, doesn’t that cross the line? At what point does that gratuitous violence become  criminal activity? It’s a fine line and there is no easy answer. There is always the danger of a slippery slope, and how labeling someone a criminal will deter the players from playing the game the way they learned to play.

JP  How would you apportion responsibility between Buck the manager and Tim the young pitcher?

HK  I think that is such a core aspect of the novel that I’d rather let readers decide whether the manager or the pitcher bear any criminal responsibility, and if so, their respective liabilities. I have a point of view but part of the fun in the read is answering those questions by the readers themselves.

JP  You have revised the original story somewhat since A Pitch for Justice was originally published. What impelled you to do that?

HK The luxury of an e-book and self-publishing is the ability to change chapters, phrases, even subplots at anytime. I made the mistake of rushing to publish because I was so excited about my project. If there is one thing I would tell other novice writers, it is to edit your book (even if it’s just yourself) over and over again before you publish. I had a few mediocre reviews that could have been avoided if I had followed that advice. The truth is I read the reviews especially on Goodreads. While many loved my original ending, others felt robbed and were disappointed. Accordingly, I abandoned my original ending and created a new one which I believe readers find more satisfying. Next I decided, whether it enhanced the novel or not, to create a subplot that made the book more exciting and suspenseful rather than purely a legal/moral work. I also listened to the voices of some reviewers who candidly skipped over some of the romantic chapters. I agreed with them because I never really wanted a romantic involvement. So I compromised and deleted an entire chapter that really wasn’t necessary. Frankly, every time I read the book(after it had been published ) I came up with fresher ideas and new twists to keep the reader wondering and on their toes. It was easy to re-publish so I did it. The paperback is the most recent version.

JP  Are you planning a sequel, or another novel?

HK I would like to do a sequel with prosecutor Jaime Brooks and maybe even Tim Charles but I’m struggling to find something unique. If I do, I’ll write it, but I need the obsessiveness that compelled me to write my first novel and I haven’t gotten there yet.

JP  The novel has done well in Amazon sales and rankings. What have you done to market it?

HK Yes, I have been fortunate that I have been #1 in baseball and in sports psychology in 2014 in the paid Kindle store. I have been in the top 10% of kindle books for over a year so that is gratifying. I haven’t really spent much on advertising. I joined several Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, Goodreads groups, I tweet a bit, and I’ve written several blog posts. Still, I am convinced of the viability of the Kindle countdown program to get the word spread and even the free downloads. I have had almost 22,000 books downloaded for free and I was #16 overall in Amazon’s rankings out of thousands. It gives you exposure and keeps you on Amazon’s popularity lists in their search engine. But the bottom line is word of mouth is important and you have to have a good product. If I were to recommend an email site that I have found most productive and cost beneficial, it would be EReaderNewsToday. Or if you want to gamble and spend a lot of money, Bookbub will get the greatest exposure but your profit will be minimal. It’s too rich for my blood.

JP  What was your daily routine while you were writing? Did you work every day?

HK Once I started to write the book(after research and outlines) I didn’t want to take a day off. I knew where I wanted to go and I loved the experience. I would write three to four hours a day. On the weekend even after going out to dinner, I would want to go back and write some more. I’m in love with the story. Maybe that’s why I have continued to tinker with it as recently as last month. I hope I get that feeling again about another project.

Paris for the solo traveler

PARIS IS BEST KNOWN as a welcoming destination for lovers, but for the solo traveler there are many charms as well, as Stephanie Rosenbloom, the Getaway columnist for the New York Times travel section, wrote in a recent column. She has an eye for both the small corners and broad vistas of the city — look at this description of a lunch:

“I sliced through an oyster with my cocktail fork, loosening it from its shell. A pulpy Utah Beach, it was brimming with lemon juice and its own slightly salty liquor. I lifted it with a thumb and forefinger, and tilted it to my lips.

NYT Paris Jardins Lux Wed 05-07-14
A lonesome chair in the Luxembourg Gardens

“It was early spring in Paris. To my left, a white-haired woman with red lipstick disappeared behind a newspaper. To my right, a man and a woman flirted over starters. We were at the center of one of the last sprawling brasseries of the 1920s, where a large basin into which the artists’ model Kiki de Montparnasse used to climb has been replaced with a comparatively demure sculpture of a couple forming an orb with their outstretched limbs. A waiter paused at my table to rotate the platter of oysters so that the overturned shells faced the empty chair across from me.

“’Voilà,’ he said.”

The article is here

I missed her column when it appeared last week, but found it today in one of the helpful links that run across the top of the Times’s redesigned web site. The link was actually to the paper’s “Times Insider” blog, which describes the newspaper’s internal doings and interviews the journalists about their work. In this case, Stephanie Rosenbloom’s Paris piece was included because it rose to #1 on the most-emailed list. Go here for Times Insider. I’ve linked to the blog itself, rather than the interview, because several of the posts are worth reading. (There’s a paywall, but try anyway.)

THE RESISTANCE by Peter Steiner – wartime thriller

The Resistance I reviewed The Resistance by Peter Steiner some time ago, shortly after I attended his presentation at the American Library in Paris. It’s a good book, and I hope he writes more like it (this is his latest, although he published several earlier). I was in Paris, my novel Treasure of Saint-Lazare was about to be published, and I was delighted to have the chance to talk to someone in the same business, even if he’d been doing it much longer than I. Steiner is well known, but not mainly in the world of fiction. His main claim to fame (and it’s a big and valid claim) is that he’s the man behind the timeless New Yorker cartoon captioned “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” It’s the most-reproduced cartoon The New Yorker ever printed and even has its own Wikipedia page.

Dog
The New Yorker, from Wikipedia

Here’s what I wrote on Amazon: “The central section of The Resistance was an engrossing and informative description of the operation of the French Resistance during World War II. I looked into this a little during the research for my own recent novel, Treasure of Saint-Lazare, but Peter Steiner covered it thoroughly and readably. I did have a little trouble getting started, and the end left me wishing I’d known more about the surprise heavy, but it was a good and informative read. I saw his presentation at the American Library in Paris on Sept. 18 and will add him to my list of regulars. (Kindle edition).” I gave it four stars. I haven’t changed my mind.  You can find it on Amazon. I recommend it.

SavvyBookWriters has questions about Treasure of Saint-Lazare and its tale of stolen Nazi treasure

Doris-Maria Heilman of SavvyBookWriters.wordpress.com and 111publishing.com was nice enough to request an author interview. I thought her questions about Treasure of Saint-Lazare were pertinent and interesting, and I enjoyed answering them. I hope you’ll find them interesting. There’s been a lot of interest in stolen Nazi treasure, and of course I’m happy to keep it going.

Click here for the interview:

This is a good chance to say again: Thanks to all of you who bought Treasure of Saint-LazareIt’s been out 18 months and is still selling well, and I’ve seen a lot of interest from reviewers — I think it proves the point that there’s no reason for ebooks to ever go out of print.

I’m well along in writing the sequel, whose working title is Last Stop: Paris.

 

Book Review: Rita’s big adventure

Quincy
Cover from Amazon.com

Decades as an elementary-school teacher left Rita Major-Hallerdin with a keen desire to write about child safety. If her first effort is a good predictor, “Quincy’s Theme Park Adventure: A Lesson Learned” will be the first of a significant series designed to teach reading skills — and at the same time improve parenting. Hers will likely be an adventure as big as Quincy’s.

Her slim book was written to be read to and with young children, and to help their parents keep them out of trouble in big and troublesome Disney World (although she used a different name for the park, which is Disney’s loss).
It’s been well received so far. Both the Kindle and paperback versions have begun to move up in Amazon rankings, and should improve as more reviews come in.

Local reception has been good, too. Two dozen interested readers — grandparents rather than parents, considering where we live — came to Rita’s presentation one sunny afternoon at the Meadows Country Club in Sarasota, where they had the chance to question her and the capable illustrator, Kathy Houghton, without whom Quincy’s adventure would not have worked.

I’m very pleased that Rita’s book came out so well. I saw it in draft, without the illustrations, and (even though children’s books, and children, are not my thing). But if they’re yours, you will enjoy it and may come away from it with some useful ideas from the pertinent suggestions on the final pages.

Quincy’s Theme Park Adventure: A Lesson Learned is available from Amazon.com in Kindle and paperback editions.
You can also find Rita on Facebook

 

MY FAVORITE RECENT BOOKS – McEwan, Grossman, Kushner, Tartt, Patchett

I sat down this afternoon to answer Doris Heilman’s interview questions (which in the course of time will appear on 111publishing.com), and it made me think more deeply about my own reading.

I read for pleasure and to admire the workmanship of my betters, so I was not surprised to find that my list included exactly zero books from my own genre, historical mysteries (example one and only so far is Treasure of Saint-Lazare, which hit #25 on the Amazon historical mysteries best-seller lists. It will be followed by a sequel, whose working title is Last Stop: Paris). Click the cover image at right to see the current book’s page.

Although I write about Paris, I don’t read much about Paris, short of the métro and bus timetables, and even those have been replaced by an iPhone app. I look for books by good writers, wherever I find them.

In no particular order, here are the books I listed in my answers to Doris. I hope you’ll look at them and, if you do, will enjoy them as much as I did:

– ATONEMENT, Ian McEwan (2003). http://amzn.to/1rr3YiV. A deep book about morality. (Its successor, Solar, was about the same subject, but not so satisfying. Still, I enjoyed it, too. Sweet Tooth was more Cold War-ish but daring in its execution. Read all three.)

– TO THE END OF THE LAND, David Grossman (2010). http://amzn.to/1rr4v4n. An Israeli novel, masterfully translated, about family and country. Beautifully written. It’s hard to overstate the impact of this book.

– THE FLAMETHROWERS, Rachel Kushner (2013). http://amzn.to/1rr4RI6. Italy in the time of anarchy, the Salt Flats in the time of motorcycle racing. Masterful, by a writer who says her neighbors think she’s a housewife who doesn’t sweep her porch often enough. Her earlier novel, Telex from Cuba http://amzn.to/1rr5h1e, was almost as good.

– THE GOLDFINCH, Donna Tartt (2013). http://amzn.to/1rr5x0f. Stephen King said it was “a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind,” which is fuzzy but unarguable. A must read, but BIG – 700+ pages.

– BEL CANTO, Ann Patchett (2009). http://amzn.to/1rr5UYx. I had read exactly zero Ann Patchett until I started hearing about her new story collection, which prompted me to read more about her and land on this book. Recommended.

This list omits a lot of books, but it’s a place to start. Try them — your life will be better for it.

 

My interview with “Stories in the Noir”

Stories In The Noir
CJ Johnson’s site Stories In The Noir

Thanks to writer CJ Johnson for making me the first subject of her new Weekly Book Spotlight – author interviews on her blog . She asked a few pertinent questions and invited me to answer them at any length I chose.

Here’s her post:

I am extremely excited to kick-off the weekly book spotlight with some of the most talented indie authors who write books that fall in the mystery, thriller, and dark romance sub-genres, here on Stories In The Noir.

The first indie author on, Stories In The Noir, to tell us about his new book, Treasure at Saint-Lazare, is John Pearce.

He was gracious enough to answer my questions about his book.
So without further ado, go ahead and discover this thrilling must read:

The book is set in Sarasota, Florida and Paris, France. What inspired you to place the novel in those locales?

When I started to plot Treasure of Saint-Lazare there was only one non-negotiable requirement — It had to be set in Paris. I am a committed Paris lover, to the extent that my wife Jan and I live there for a couple of months every year. Sarasota was easier. That’s where we live the rest of the time. It’s a nice small city on the West Coast of Florida, but has enough Elmore Leonard characters in it to make my cast of disreputables believable.

2. In the book, the story’s premise surrounds capturing the missing paining, “Portrait of a young man” by the Renaissance master painter, Raphael. With that in mind, are you drawn to the art world and why that painting as a focus?

I’m a fan of art, but not to the point of being able to call myself an expert. I was looking for a story that would reach back into World War II and forward into the present, and it seemed to me the continuing search for the priceless art treasures stolen by the Nazis would be a good vehicle for the story. It didn’t hurt that George Clooney started filming The Monuments Men just a few months after Treasure of Saint-Lazare was published.

Read the rest of the interview on CJ’s blog, Stories In The Noir 

 

The Real Monuments Men

Before the George Clooney movie there was the revealing and definitive book The Monuments Men, by Robert Edsel. I thought the book was fascinating when it was published, and nothing has changed my mind since.

Monuments-Men.png

(Recovered pictures at the Allied sorting facility in Munich)

Edsel is getting a lot of publicity because of the movie, and I hope it’s reflected in his sales and in the prosperity of his Monuments Men Foundation. He did an outstanding interview on Charlie Rose two weeks ago, then was on BookTV last week. He’s scheduled for an appearance sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Sarasota next month.

Parade Magazine published an interview with him in last Sunday’s edition. Of course, I thought the most interesting line in it was, “Probably the single most important painting that’s missing is Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man, which came from a Museum in Krakow … ”

If you’ve read Treasure of Saint-Lazare, you know it’s all about that painting. It’s the story of a search that spans the Atlantic from Sarasota to Paris and back, and is filled with scenes of romantic walks through Paris and a drive in the Loire Valley — all in the quest to get to the painting and its accompanying trove of Nazi gold. I invite you to try it. Kindle, paperback and audiobook editions are available on Amazon.com, at http://j.mp/UKIVVi, and the paperback is available at Bookstore1Sarasota.

Treasure of Saint-Lazare reached #25 on Amazon’s historical mystery best-seller list and #45 on the Amazon France suspense thriller best-seller list. Thanks to you if you’re one of the readers who got it there.

 

In Paris on a Sunday? Don’t miss dinner chez Patricia

Patricia - Jim Morrison Trib - 2011
PATRICIA LAPLANTE-COLLINS

 

One long-established Paris expat institution Jan and I would never miss on our annual séjour is Patricia Laplante-Collins’s ParisSoirées — Sunday evening gatherings, either at a restaurant or aprivate home, with good food, great conversation, and a whole lot of wine (you can do that in Paris because the public transportation takes you home).

I’ve been the guest speaker at two of the soirées. The first was 2012, just before I published Treasure of Saint-Lazare. I had only a few copies of the advance readers’ copy of my book to give away, and I was surprised (and very gratified) by the warm reception Patricia’s group gave me. My second presentation came during last year’s visit, and if anything the reception was even better than the year before. I was struck by how many French speakers Patricia has been able to attract into her circle. It adds a considerable depth of interest to the evening.

Patricia’s been a Paris expat resident since time out of mind. Her dinners are well known by just about every American who visits, and shouldn’t be missed. It’s a deal for 25€.

The whole thing is done by email. To sign up, go to her website www.parissoirees.com or send an email to parissoirees@gmail.com asking her to add you to the email list.

Here’s a picture taken the evening in 2012 when I discussed the upcoming release of Treasure of Saint-Lazare. Patricia’s party was held in the private dining room of a terrific Indian restaurant.

IMG_2659