Santa Barbara News-Press
Dyja has created a sweeping novel of humanity on the battlefield, peopled with provocative characters. The author bring sit all vividly to life. Play for a Kingdom is that rare treat - a novel that interweaves war and play, an ironic tale told with compassion. Watch Tom Dyja.
Joseph C. Waugh
Thomas Dyja knows how to mix his ingredients. In this innovative and original first novel he blends two staples of the Americans psyche --The Civil War and baseball -- into a recipe for a very readable book. The battle scenes ring true...And the baseball scenes ring true as well. Dyja's book is admirably wrought. -- Washington Post Book World
Imaginative and suspenseful. Riveting in the vivid descriptions of the struggle at Spotsylvania. And there's a particularly affecting episode involving a company of black Union soldiers...
The madness of war and the passion evoked by baseball complement each other beautifully in this extraordinary first novel, a Civil War saga of a battered Brooklyn company nearing the end of its enlistment. The few survivors of the original company have endured three years of numbing bloodbaths. In the spring of 1864 they march south again, expecting battle but with fewer than three weeks to go as soldiers. Butcher's son Lyman, druggist Louie, grocer Newt, Irish street-thug Tiger, and the others soon come under Rebel fire, an engagement in which Danny, the beloved company sergeant and Lyman's best friend, is killed. With Danny goes the men's respect for authority; lawyer Burridge, their lieutenant, is young and aloof, reading Caesar's Commentaries and dreaming of post-war success. A game of catch while the company is on picket duty, however, turns memorable when a troop from Alabama steps from the woods and challenges Brooklyn to a real game. Led by the brassy Mink, whom Burridge soon realizes is an informant to the South, the Rebels win, and the stage is set for a rematch, during which Mink transmits valuable information. The second game, a Brooklyn victory, leads to three more, undertaken while the battle of Spotsylvania rages around the players. In between are soul-searing assaults and routs, a confusing battle fought through heat and rain, day and night. Each team begins to suspect that its leader is up to more than playing first base. The final meeting between the lines is a hard-fought match, made desperate by the certainty of discovery, after which a great sacrifice is necessary simply to allow the players to leave the field alive.
A sensitive, forceful, even breathtakingcommingling of play and war, daydream and nightmare, the humane and the bestial, in which the human dimensions of warfare are unforgettably evoked.