Michigan writer J. Conrad Guest scores with his second novel. Backstop: A Baseball Love Story in Nine Innings, from Second Wind Publishing, is told from the perspective of the protagonist known only as Backstop, the nickname he earned during his first year playing catcher for his ability to block pitches in the dirt. You know Backstop. He plays for any team in any city in America with a major league ball club. You cheer him when he delivers, and boo him when he doesn’t. In what could be his last game after 14 years in the major leagues—the seventh game of the World Series—Backstop chronicles his rookie season, takes the reader to Chicago where he finds romance, and reveals the heartbreak he endured in the aftermath of an adulterous affair.
Guest builds the story around a fictional ballplayer who makes his dream to play in the major leagues come true. Backstop is driven to succeed, to prove himself to his father, who passed away the year before the Tigers drafted him. In his first season in the big leagues, he meets and falls in love with Darlene, a former lawyer turned business owner in Chicago. After a season-long courtship, they wed, and 12 years of happy marriage ensue. However, when the Tigers make the playoffs for the first time in Backstop’s career, he goes out on the town to celebrate with team mates and falls prey to the seductive overtures of a predatory younger woman. Thereafter, his world comes crashing down when Darlene asks for time apart to consider their future together. The following season, Backstop leads the Tigers to the World Series, while trying to win back both Darlene’s trust as well as her heart.
Fellow Michigan writer and author of Landscape with Fragmented Figures Jeff Vande Zande writes of Backstop: “J. Conrad Guest offers an entertaining and instructive journey into both major league baseball and major league matters of the heart.”
While Rachael Perry, also a Michigan writer, says, “Baseball, like love, is a game of errors and regrets. Pop-outs, ground-outs, strike-outs. A bad swing, a bad throw, a bad hop. But what captivates us most is the possibility of the next at-bat, of the chance for a rally, of an unlikely clutch play that suddenly changes the stakes. This is where J. Conrad Guest meets us in Backstop: in this beautiful, hopeful place closest to our hearts, where we play for the love of the game, and we love with everything we have.”
For this, his second published novel, Guest combines his love and knowledge of baseball with romance and the heartbreak of betrayal. Not your typical romance novel, Backstop can perhaps best be described as a literary Bull Durham, sure to appeal to purists of the game as well as those who enjoy a good love story.
A resident of Northville, Guest is the author of January’s Paradigm, first published in 1998 by Minerva Press. He is working on a new novel, Cobb’s Conscience, a murder mystery written around baseball legend Ty Cobb and the shooting death of his father by his mother. His short fiction, non-fiction and sports writing can be found at a number of Web sites and in print publications.
Book launch promo
Second Wind is having a launch party on January 29 and 30, which will include Backstop. J. Conrad invites readers to submit a personal account, between 200 and 400 words, of their most memorable baseball date. It could be disastrous; it might’ve led to marriage. It can be fictional or factual (fact is sometimes stranger than fiction!). The outcome of the game is really unimportant; what is important is what happens between the couple. In addition to a signed copy of Backstop: A Baseball Love Story in Nine Innings, the winning submission will receive a signed baseball from Backstop himself!
Please submit your entry to firstname.lastname@example.org. J. Conrad will select a winning entry, which will be announced the following Saturday, February 6.
Check out the first chapter (prologue) here: Backstop