Robert Morrow's Reviews > Summer of Shadows: A Murder, A Pennant Race, and the Twilight of the Best Location in the Nation

Summer of Shadows by Jonathan   Knight
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's review
Jun 15, 2012

it was amazing

After reading three lengthy histories and Margaret Atwood's depressing dystopia, all I wanted was to relax with a baseball book from the pre-DH era when baseball was truly the national pastime, when the sun shined on men and women in hats and bleacher seats were under a dollar.

Summer of Shadows gave me so much more! First, it is a great baseball book about the 1954 Cleveland Indians, the team that set the American League record for wins prior to flaming out in the World Series. Jonathan Knight captures the essence of the team and its journey, giving us enough in-game action without burying us in statistical detail. The author's gift for making scene and character come alive in tightly-written paragraphs is truly exceptional; the two chapters devoted to the doubleheader conquest of the evil Yankees are baseball writing at its best.

But Mr. Knight does not limit his talents to the ultimately disappointing history of the Indians. That summer also featured the murder of the young wife of a physician by the name of Sam Sheppard, whose story gripped Cleveland as tightly as the pennant race. Knight uses this tragic but compelling tale of "newspaper justice" to draw attention to the elements that drove a once-great city ("The Best Location in the Nation") into moral and physical decline. The goal is ambitious, the challenge significant, but Mr. Knight pulls it off with aplomb. Never once did I feel that he was stretching too hard to weave these three superficially disparate themes together; instead, his mastery of narrative provides us with a tight, page-turning story that is difficult to put down and consistently stimulates thought and emotion. We enter a time of both innocence and naiveté at the start of 1954 and leave it with a greater understanding of the cultural causes behind Cleveland's tragic decline, much of which lies in the darker side of human nature.

There are few books I bother to re-read, but Summer of Shadows will definitely make that exclusive list.

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Reading Progress

June 15, 2012 – Shelved
June 16, 2012 – Started Reading
June 21, 2012 –
page 160
June 27, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Sarah (new) - added it

Sarah Your review has sold me on this book. Have you read "Devil in the White City"? Was it similar in style to that?

Robert Morrow I haven't read that book, but I'll check it out. How would you describe the style?

message 3: by Sarah (new) - added it

Sarah It is historical fiction. It is set during the World's Fair in Chicago. There are 2 main plot lines: 1) How they built the fair and 2) A serial killer who built a hotel to attract the tourists and kill them. Both super interesting!

Robert Morrow The key difference is that Summer of Shadows is non-fiction and weaves three themes: the 1954 pennant race, the Sam Sheppard Murder Trial and the beginnings of Cleveland's decline. However, the narrative is very strong and has numerous "page turner" moments, particularly related to the Sheppard "investigation" and the Indians' battles with the Yankees.

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