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All the Stars Came Out That Night

All the Stars Came Out That Night

by Kevin King

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Kevin King’s debut novel, All the Stars Came Out That Night, is a vivid portrait of Depression-era America written in a voice at once humorous and poetic. Set at Boston’s Fenway Park on October 20, 1943, All the Stars Came Out That Night imagines a late-night baseball game bankrolled by Henry Ford, pitting Dizzy Dean’s


Kevin King’s debut novel, All the Stars Came Out That Night, is a vivid portrait of Depression-era America written in a voice at once humorous and poetic. Set at Boston’s Fenway Park on October 20, 1943, All the Stars Came Out That Night imagines a late-night baseball game bankrolled by Henry Ford, pitting Dizzy Dean’s all-white all-stars against Satchel Paige’s black all-stars. Not a contest waged for money or trophies, the outcome of this game carries with it both the weight of a historic injustice—the barring of blacks from baseball—and the promise of vindication and redemption.

Steeped in baseball lore and featuring an array of iconic American figures—from Babe Ruth to Clarence Darrow—All the Stars Came Out That Nightfar transcends the sport of baseball, creating a tale that is mythic, captivating, and above all, quintessentially American.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Walter Winchell posthumously narrates rookie King's sparkling Depression-era baseball epic. It's the early 1930s, and blundering bad boys James Atwood and John Henry Seadlund, the latter "flush with $25,000 from his first kidnapping," meet and join forces, forging east in search of more easy money. They fall into all-star scrapes pretty quick-hitchhiking with Clarence Darrow, kidnapping Dizzy Dean and crashing a party at Henry Ford's. (Later, a pie fight at Carole Lombard's Hollywood-theme party attended by the likes of Clark Gable and Errol Flynn almost steals the show, with all of the high drama hungrily observed by gossip hounds Louella Parsons and Winchell himself.) Then with "every portable light in New England" illuminating Fenway Park, a Ford-bankrolled, forbidden all-star baseball game forms, setting Dizzy Dean's all-white team with "too green" minor-league rookie Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and Shoeless Joe Jackson against the best of Satchel Paige's Negro League: Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston and speedy base-stealer Cool Papa Bell. Eventually, Atwood and Seadlund's antics become a mere subplot to the game's nail-biting final innings. King's set pieces capture the era and his droll cast of characters, fictional and historical, provide the entertainment of a World Series skybox seat. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
It's October 1934. The Detroit Tigers have won a hard-fought, seven-game World Series, and baseball is over until spring. Then Clarence Darrow persuades Henry Ford to bankroll a contest between the best white players and the cr me de la cr me of the Negro League. Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis imposes conditions: only seven white major leaguers, no more than five from one team, and no spectators. Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, minor leaguer Joe DiMaggio, and past-his-prime Shoeless Joe Jackson go up against Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell (the fastest man in baseball), and Josh Gibson (arguably the greatest hitter ever) at Boston's Fenway Stadium, under bootlegged lights. Movie stars George Raft and Carole Lombard are there, as is gossip columnist Walter Winchell, who narrates poet King's debut novel. Written in a zippy, freewheeling style reminiscent of (but not as good as) Jerome Charyn, it captures Depression era baseball's highs and lows. Recommended.-David Keymer, Modesto, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Mingling fictional characters with real-life notables of the age, King joyfully concocts a Depression-era tale of a secret baseball game between the best white baseball players and their black counterparts. "Flush with $25,000 from his first kidnapping, John Henry Sealund headed east to Chicago." This is how we meet the first of two laugh-out-loud funny knuckleheads (the other being one James Atwood) who bumble their way into a world of movie stars, gossip mavens and the greatest baseball players who ever lived. Negro League legend Satchel Paige wants money; Henry Ford wants to prove the white (and non-Jewish) race is superior; Shoeless Joe Jackson wants his long-denied shot at redemption; some kid from the Pacific League named DiMaggio wants to prove himself; Babe Ruth wants another hot dog; and all the players want a chance to square off against their doppelgangers, whom they're prohibited from playing in the pre-Jackie Robinson era. As the organizers put their teams together and move toward game day, King spins glorious set pieces, including a Hollywood party attended by George Burns, Carole Lombard and gossip columnist Walter Winchell-who narrates the novel from the grave-at which a pie fight breaks out. King's exuberant tone is pitch-perfect, and his dialogue is sharp: Standing on the pitcher's mound, Dizzy Dean tells switch-hitter Cool Papa Bell, "Cool, the day you hit a homer off me will be a day that don't end in a 'y.' ") There's also wonderful period detail, such as Paige's catcher putting a beefsteak in his mitt to cushion Satch's bone-breaking fastballs. Fans of W.P. Kinsella, sports history nuts and anyone drawn to prewar popular culture should sprint for this book. It's abracing, bottom-of-the-ninth grand slam.

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Penguin Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt

All The Stars Came Out That Night

By Kevin King

Dutton Adult

ISBN: 0-525-94905-4

Chapter One


You make a pool hall the same way you make a schoolhouse. First you lay the planks you're going to walk on. Then you lay out two longitudinal logs and notch them for the cross-logs. And so forth, making allowances for a front door, a back door, and windows on all but the north side. You want a door big enough to accommodate a full-sized pool table. Then you saw yourself shingles for the roof. Once it's constructed, there's not much difference what goes on inside. In the schoolhouse you learn the three Rs and how you're supposed to behave in good company. In the pool hall you learn the geometry of angles in a hands-on way, learn to read the lie of the table, learn to chalk up a won game, and you learn not to interact with your peers, similarly piped out of the schoolhouse by a game. Like James Atwood Gray, who had no peer at mumblety-peg and was at least a cut above anyone in Ossage, Kansas, at pool in 1933.

In school James Atwood Gray was average in every way except his mouth, which ultimately got him expelled. He felt sorry for the sine, the cosine, the tangent-the suffocating compatibility of three peas in a mathematical pod, their every function predictable or provable, the perfectly wrapped present, the perfectly made bed, no corner untucked, and inside was everything that could be predicated of regular shapes, their mouths sewed shut by those Three Fates, and revealed by Mrs. Pearly, his geometry teacher. Unable to fathom any of the nebulous world in which Euclid worked his fabulous propositions, James Atwood became the Clarence Darrow of the merely numerate, docked for their insufficient or shabby proofs. Ultimately, it was his defense of his sweetheart Hanna Dunwoody that got him expelled. "So what if the 'e' done gallivanted from Hanna's 'sin_,'" he announced to Mrs. Pearly. It was obvious to James Atwood that Hanna was being docked for the axiomaticity of her chest. "You're just jealous cuz her tits are bigger than yers."

"You open your mouth again, James Atwood, and I'll kick you upside the head."

"You're as flat as Kansas. That's why you teach plane geometry, ain't it?"

What James Atwood learned instead was patience. He learned to wait his turn, playing mumblety-peg by himself while some stranger beat regulars Malachy Grimes and Spottswood Love out of their stakes. His thumb grew callous where the awl-point of his jackknife began its series of flips before striking the dirt or a pine board. He learned to let a stranger challenge, coax, blandish, even spot him before folding up the jackknife and picking up a cue stick. He learned not to lose the wet-behind-the-ears look, the aw-shucks voice, augmented by a naturally slow, mono-tone delivery. But every hustler has a run of bad luck. James Atwood Gray's came on an early December night. After two days of snow a warm front moved in, alternating the snow with freezing rain. Not many folks ventured out. At the pool hall that went by his first name, Eddie Moss opened cans of pork and beans and heated them in a battered, dented tin pan for the hungry. Duane Brown stopped in twice, on his rounds of saloons. Once to see what was going on, and once because he mistook the pool hall for a tavern. Each time that he left, he had to walk up the street to find his horse-pulled wagon, because his horse was tired of being beaten and just took off. When Duane's grandfather's slaves ran off, the old man would whip them with a cat-o'-nine-tails, then rub salt and red pepper into the wounds. The horse's delinquency was punished in equally cruel but less imaginative ways.

Duane was nearly hit by a toboggan sliding down the small hill that terminated at Eddie's Pool Hall because he was too drunk to hear the warnings while listening to the peculiar music that played between his ears, a jumble of ballads he'd heard at the tavern he'd just left, adjusted to the tempo of the freezing rain pelting his face, never once thinking about mortality, which stalked him as he fumbled for the right lyrics, the right notes, to get it all right just once.

He stumbled into Eddie's and shook his long, tangled, unkempt hair like a dog, which caused him to lose his balance and have to sidestep to regain it. He was thinking that the kids on the toboggan were, albeit sober, more out of control than he, that they had no cause to curse him as they flew past, that he might see fit to roust the snot-noses from the toboggan for one final joyride.

Duane warmed his hands over the stove and inhaled the aroma of pork and beans burned to the bottom of the long-handled tin pan whose bottom was out-of-flat and that spun and tipped at the slightest touch, which Duane too provided. He picked up the noisy pan and set it back on the stove.

"Jesus, Duane, get a haircut. Your head looks like a patch of tumbleweed and cockleburs." The stranger sized up Duane and told himself to forget it. James Atwood didn't look much more promising, but a hustler is a variation of suitor-the hustler has to ask.

"How 'bout you, kid? Want a game?"

James Atwood didn't need to do much to make himself look like a mark. He was in that respect a natural. His straw-like hair formed an indomitable cowlick. He looked even younger than his eighteen years, with deep-set blue eyes and a slight outward bend to the nose. The curve was a perfect complement, a miniature mirror image, to the hunch of his back as he leaned against a pool table.

"Mumblety-peg?" James Atwood responded. He had an indeterminate mien that could be taken for a scowl or a smile at any one time. Speaking with his mouth half-closed only accentuated the ambiguity.

The stranger laughed. "Pool, son. Name your game."

"Ain't much of a pool player."

"Eight-ball, for a dollar. I'll spot you three balls."

"Make it four."

"You hustling me?"

"Go play by yourself."

"Okay. Four balls."

James Atwood broke and sank a striped ball. Duane took advantage of the distraction, sticking his finger in a half-full can of pork and beans, then licking it.

"Duane, get your finger out of those beans. And get your mangy ass out of here. You're falling-down drunk."

The still life that presented itself to the five other men in Eddie's Pool Hall might be entitled Coitus Interruptus with Finger and Beans. The offending finger remained involuntarily erect, the brown-caked digit a black sheep to the closed fist, as if Duane felt obliged to air his dirty laundry. The small token of guilt, in Duane's mind, did not warrant expulsion. But Duane was too potted to argue. He turned, exited, and missed James Atwood's last two games of pool in Kansas. He won the first, thrown by the hustler, who skulked and ordered a beer.

"Remind me of the name of this town."

"Osage, Kansas."

"I didn't ask the state. I know that."

"Betcha don't know who's from here."

"Ulysses S. Grant?"

"Nope. Pepper Martin. He wasn't 'Pepper' then. Just Johnny. Pepper's better." Martin grew up in Oklahoma, but since he was known as the wild horse of the Osage, James Atwood claimed him for a hometown neighbor. It gave Osage, Kansas, some panache, and truth never stampeded the wide open plains of James Atwood's consciousness.

The stranger sat onstool, put a foot on a rung, and slugged down his beer. "Pepper Martin ain't nothin'. What did he hit, .300?"

".316. Made the National League All-Star team. He was the Associated Press athlete of the year in '31."

The stranger scoffed. "Now, you take Gehringer. There's a hitter. Every ball, he knows exactly where it's going, like Willie Keeler. I figure I'm the Charlie Gehringer of pool. Make my living with a suitcase and a stick."

"You a Tiger fan?"

"From Detroit."

"We're St. Louis here. Everybody's for the Cardinals."

"'Cuz of Pepper Martin."

"Yup. Like the way he plays, too. Leo Durocher's quite a pool player, they say. Better than anyone the Tigers got."

"You think you could take Durocher?"

"At wrasslin', no problem."

At 5'7", James Atwood was about Durocher's height, but he was built more like Pepper Martin. Not as big as Pepper in the chest, but his arms were well developed.

The stranger looked at Malachy Grimes. "Where'd you get this sass-ass?"

Malachy lit up a cigarette and didn't look at the stranger, who smiled at James Atwood. "At pool, knucklehead. That's what we're talking about."

"Pool? Heck, no. I need a four-ball spot and luck to beat a small-time slicker like you."

Eddie Moss didn't like the tone of the conversation, and he was familiar with James Atwood's temper. He changed the subject. "Dizzy Dean's holding out again. Did you hear?"

"Yeah," said the stranger, laughing. "About a month ago. I guess news travels slow in Kansas."

"You don't like Kansas much, do you?"

"What I see, all you got is corn and snow."

"Got Kansas City. Got a Negro team there, the Monarchs. They'd kick the ass of your Tigers." The stranger laughed derisively.

"I seen 'em do it," said Spottswood Love. "Those black guys beat a bunch of Tigers, barnstorming down in Texas in the winter. Charlie Gehringer put that team together, so you know it was good. Beat the House of David team, too."

"I've heard those Negroes beat Dizzy Dean's team, too," said Malachy Grimes. "Got a guy named Paige that throws a ball out of hell. Guys say you can't see it. You know what Paige and Dean make for one of those barnstorming games? Five hundred dollars. And that sonofabitch Dean is still holding out."

James Atwood shook his head. "Five hundred clams for just playing. I don't understand it. You get all that money for playing. You don't work a lick. Then you ask for more. Soon as I get a proper stake together I'm going to St. Louis and have a talk with Dizzy Dean. Talk some sense into him."

"You're going to St. Louis to talk sense into Dizzy Dean?" The stranger laughed.

"Don't pay no attention to what he says. He's a megalomaniac," said Spottswood. "That's what they called him at the high school, when they kicked him out. Got a mouth, too."

"You know what a megalomaniac is?" asked Malachy.

The stranger got up and picked up his cue. He threw a few balls on the table and began to practice. "Don't reckon I do. Megalo-what?"


"Is that what's on his face? Or did someone play mumblety-peg on it?"

"I got some blemishes, I admit. They'll disappear in the course of time."

"See what I mean?"

James Atwood grew self-conscious. He smoothed down the hair that was the color and texture of straw, hair that was to "coiffure" what the "Gashouse Gang" was to baseball.

The stranger imitated James Atwood patting down his hair. "What's that roosting on your head, boy?"

James Atwood resented being called "boy" by someone just four or five years older. "Why don't we make this game fifty dollars? You give me a two-ball spot."

"You got fifty dollars?"

James Atwood pulled an indeterminate wad of bills from his pocket, then shoved it back in. "Satisfied?"

"Rack 'em up."

Inside, James Atwood was grinning. The hustle couldn't have gone better. The would-be hustler thought he'd gotten his goat, to where taking the hustler's money was his only way to save face. He could beat the man three out of five, he figured, straight up. And now he had a two-ball spot. Maybe so, maybe not. Maybe the hustler was holding something back. Or maybe all the skill in the world doesn't matter when your opponent hits a streak of good luck, or you hit a streak of bad.


Excerpted from All The Stars Came Out That Night by Kevin King
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Kevin King has published three English as a second language textbooks and is a published poet. This is his first novel.

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