Book Buzz: Death on a Pale Horse, Baseball as a Road to God

2013-05-05T00:04:23Z Book Buzz: Death on a Pale Horse, Baseball as a Road to God Daily Herald
May 05, 2013 12:04 am

'Death on a Pale Horse'

Sherlock Holmes is deathless not only because Sir Arthur Conan Doyle resurrected him from certain death at Reichenbach Falls, but because he is too beloved a character to ever die permanently. Lucky for us, Donald Thomas does a fine job of continuing the Holmes saga in "Death on a Pale Horse:  Sherlock Holmes on her Majesty's Secret Service."

The villain in this case is a truly malevolent character, one Rawdon "Hunter"  Moran who, having suffered an indignity at the hands of a man who should have killed him, swears vengeance against the whole of the British Army -- and takes it in spades at the battle of Isandhlwana in South Africa where his treachery allows a Zulu contingent to annihilate a supposedly superior British force. Dr. Watson's deliberate, understated narrative draws both Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes into the case as Moran's depredations continue and the suspense rises exponentially.

Moran seems to be everywhere and nowhere -- "Don't go in there!" the reader silently cries, but go they must. Conan Doyle's Sherlock is still the one and only true Holmes, but Thomas' incarnation is a good tide-over until the heavens open to reveal Conan Doyle's post-mortal output.

'Baseball as a Road to God'

Baseball fans know there is something sacred about Opening Day. There's something about sitting in the stands eating popcorn and swilling Rootie, while the irreducibly complex possibilities of the diamond reduce themselves to an actual game with runs, hits, errors, balls and strikes.

And sometimes high drama.

John Sexton's "Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing Beyond the Game" is a full-length product of Sexton's NYU seminar of the same name, and in this volume he tells us in nine chapter-length innings, a seventh-inning stretch interlude, and a clubhouse recap how baseball and faith correspond.

Take the lines of the stadium. The foul lines diverge endlessly away from home plate -- or converge there from an infinite distance. The cathedral-like aspects of the place give a space for the well-worn and beloved rites and ceremonies of the game. Other chapters consider blessings and curses. The Curse of the Bambino on the Red Sox and of Billy Sianis' goat on the Cubs (even more enduring), are counterbalanced by Bill Mazeroski's blessed, totally unexpected home run to give the Pirates the win over the Yankees in the 1960 World Series.

Drawing from sources as diverse as Mircea Eliade's "Cosmos and History," to Thomas Oliphant's "Praying for Gil Hodges," Sexton has written an unlikely but deeply nourishing book with lasting appeal to baseball fans who are persons of faith, and vice versa.

Laura Wadley is a librarian with the Provo City Library. Email her at lauraw@provo.lib.ut.us.

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