Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: Murder at the Foul Line



Today I am featuring two stories from Murder at the Foul Line, edited by Otto Penzler, and published in 2006. I have had this book for a long, long time. This one and Murder in the Rough, also edited by Penzler. This book got buried under a pile of books and I had almost despaired of ever finding it.

The theme for stories in this book is basketball, obviously. The subtitle is "Original Tales of Hoop Dreams and Deaths from Today’s Great Writers." I was a basketball fan for about a decade of my life, in the 1990s. I watched professional basketball games, focusing on the Lakers games of course. So I know enough about basketball to enjoy reading about the game but I am no expert.



The first story I read was "Shots" by S. J. Rozan. I have discussed short stories and novels by Rozan several times on this blog. Her Lydia Chin and Bill Smith series is one of the few contemporary mystery series that I keep up with, buying each book as it comes out. Lydia and Bill often work together on cases. Each book in the series is narrated by either Lydia or Bill.

This is a story featuring only Bill Smith and it was my fondness for the character and Rozan's writing that pulled me in. It was like getting a mini-dose of the series. The story was fairly long, 42 pages. 

The story is set in New York, and the team is the Knicks. Tony Manzoni, an investigator that Bill had worked with in the past, is one of the suspects in the murder of a star player for the Knicks, Damon Rome. The evidence is all circumstantial, but he is the prime suspect because he was playing around with the player's wife and he and Rome had a fight shortly before the murder. Bill takes on the case with the goal of finding out who really did it. He questions the wife, members of the team and those connected to management, etc. Nobody really liked Damon Rome and most people questioned don't have an alibi. It is a quiet story but I liked it.


The next story I read was "White Trash Noir" by Michael Malone. I have read novels by this author and one other short story, but now I can see I need to read more of his short stories. According to copyright dates in Murder at the Foul Line, this story was first published in 2006, but actually it first came out in a 2002 in a collection of Malone's short stories, Red Clay, Blue Cadillac: Stories of Twelve Southern Women (which is on my bookshelves). 

In "White Trash Noir," Charmain Luby Markell tells the story of her life leading up to when she killed her husband, at age 24. She is in court, on trial for that crime. Her lawyer wants her to get on the stand and tell her story; he is afraid that she will get the death penalty if she doesn't. As he says to Charmain: "This is Murder One, Charmain. You just cannot kill your husband in the state of North Carolina if he played ACC basketball." Charmain is more worried that her husband's parents will get custody of her young son. A fantastic story. Very emotional.


19 comments:

Cath said...

The world of basketball is pretty much alien to me apart from the fact that I liked playing netball at school and it's a little bit similar. We also played, at school, a form of baseball we called 'rounders'... now that I absolutely loved and was in the school team so if I'd lived in the US I'm guessing I might have played women's baseball. But do women play that in the US? And Peter and I have actually been to a baseball game, in Pittsburgh when we were visiting some friends there. It was quite an experience!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Basketball is perhaps my least favorite sport. I enjoyed the movie Hoop Dreams but the recent Hustle eluded me. I doubt I have ever read a work of fiction with basketball center court.

George said...

I read MURDER AT THE FOUL LINE when it was first published. I enjoy sports mysteries!

Margot Kinberg said...

I always like it when an anthology has several consistently good stories, Tracy. Sometimes those collections can be a bit hit-or-miss. I can't say I'm an expert - at all - on basketball, but I do respect it when authors weave in a theme like that; I always feel I learn something.

Kay said...

I wish that I liked short stories and these anthologies better. Not sure why they are usually not for me. Too little time with the characters? I guess I just want my tales to go on and on....LOL!

TracyK said...

Cath, I suspect you would have loved basketball. I have never played any sports and am very unathletic, unfortunately. Yes, women do play basketball in the US. Now there are even professional women's teams, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). And I believe that basketball is very popular with both boys and girls in US schools.

TracyK said...

Patti, I have watched one basketball movie that I remember, Hoosiers with Gene Hackman. I don't think I have read any mysteries about sports, or not any memorable ones. Rex Stout wrote one Nero Wolfe novelette centered around a baseball game, and Archie Goodwin loved baseball. I don't care much for sports in general, but in small doses in short stories, they work fine.

TracyK said...

George, I bought my copies of MURDER AT THE FOUL LINE and MURDER IN THE ROUGH in 2006 but I bought them primarily for the skeletons on the cover. I am glad I still have them to read now, when I am enjoying short stories.

TracyK said...

Margot, I can say for sure that S. J. Rozan enjoys playing basketball herself, so I wasn't surprised that she had a story in this book. I look forward to seeing what kind of connection to basketball the other stories have, someday.

TracyK said...

Kay, I used to feel that way about short stories too, the story just didn't go on long enough. I did not even like novellas. Don't know what changed my mind. I still have to push myself to read short stories and long books both. But I mostly enjoy them when I do. And I have a plethora of short story books on my shelves.

Lance Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lance Smith said...

I love basketball and have never heard of this book. Thank you for sharing- hope I can find a copy. Might even write a review for my blog, The Guy Who Reviews Sports Books. www.sportsbookguy.blogspot.com

TracyK said...

I hope you like the book, Lance.

Judith said...

Hi Tracy,
These stories sound fascinating, particularly the one in which a woman is on trial for murder. Just curious--But do you still follow basketball these days? Do you watch on TV?
I was a fiendish tennis fan from 2010 until the pandemic. We subscribed to The Tennis Channel and everything. But since then the costs have gone up prohibitively, and to be truthful, we shouldn't try to afford it. However, I am looking forward to Wimbledon, which is on ESPN, which we can get at an affordably.
If you come across Tennis Mysteries, do let me know!

TracyK said...

Judith, I do not watch basketball these days. Back when I watched it (before 2000), the Lakers and Clippers games were easily available on cable TV, which is one reason I watched mostly Lakers games, and the final games would show on TNT or one of the major networks. Nowadays with all the various changes in cable and streaming, I have no idea if I would have much access.

I can understand why you would enjoy watching tennis on TV. I have known casual players and one semi-Pro player who watched tennis games a lot.

If I run into any Tennis mysteries, I will let you know. I read that there is a book in this series of sports anthologies titled Murder is My Racquet but I haven't run into it myself.

Sam Sattler said...

I'm not much a fan of professional sports anymore, but I like the way that basketball has been used as a common thread for a collection of short stories. The ones you mention sound quite good.

I love the way that this book was suddenly unearthed after having been lost for a long time...that's the mark of a real book lover.

TracyK said...

Sam, the other book I have of this type is about golf, which I know little about, but I am looking forward to seeing what will be done with golf stories or that setting.

By the way, I just put up a post reviewing The Assault by Harry Mulisch and I linked to your review of that book in my post. I liked the book a lot.

col2910 said...

The Malone story sounds good. I have a few books by a Michael Malone, but I'm not sure of it is the same author or not as I think there is more than one.

TracyK said...

It is a very good story, Col. I need to read the remaining stories in that book. I still have one of his mystery novels to read and a couple of regular fiction books also.