Monday, December 22, 2008

Review - No Blood, No Foul

Charley Rosen is a somewhat unclassifiable character who's been around basketball as a player, coach, writer, commentator (currently for for years, perhaps best known for his connection to Bulls/Lakers coach Phil Jackson. A lot of his writing, fiction and non-, concerns the early days of the National Basketball Assocation (originally called the BAA) and the point-shaving scandals of the early 1950s in college basketball. This is not so surprising; as far as I can tell, Rosen was born in 1941, so the birth of the NBA and the difficult times for the college game would have occurred around the time he was becoming aware of basketball.

No Blood, No Foul (2008) is a novel about Jason Lewis, a young basketball star who goes off to World War II and loses a couple of fingers. He returns from the battlefield, is unable to play at his previous level, and becomes, almost accidentally, a referee. At the same time, he is dealing with the trauma of being a returning veteran, as well as a new marriage.

On the plus side, the book is quite evocative of its time. Rosen has a good memory for detail, and he expresses it here in fully-realized descriptions of what New York was like in the 1940s. Also, the character of Jason Lewis is affecting; you'll care about what happens to him, watch his struggles as he tries to refind his place in a world that has not turned out to be what he expected.

On the neutral side, there is not a lot about basketball. There are occasional descriptions of the action, but less than you would expect from an author of Rosen's background. Whether that's a plus or minus for you depends on whether you're reading this as a sports book or a coming-into-adulthood story (personally, I would have liked a bit more detailing of how the game was played 60 years ago).

On the negative side, the other characters are more types than people (granted, that may be how Jason sees them), and the ending is so foreshadowed and truncated that you might wonder if Rosen hit his page limit and had to send in the manuscript. It's not a deep novel in any sense, so the reader looking for deep psychological insights will end up disappointed.

Overall, this is a fairly minor work. It has its emotional moments, but not enough of them to be truly engaging. There are no real fresh insights into the nature of sports, or the role it has played in our society, but, taken as a look back to a time and a place that exist no longer, No Blood, No Foul is a pleasant way to spend a few hours.

1 comment:

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