Book Review: “Fadeaway,” by Richard Dean Rosen

Fadeaway, by Richard Dean Rosen

I took a break from Shaquille O’Neal’s autobiography to start another edition of the Best American Sports Writing series, then another from BASW to make some more progress on Hunter S. Thompson’s The Great Shark Hunt.

When I needed a break from that, I decided to grab a work of fiction, just for a change of pace. I went with Fadeaway, a 1986 crime novel by Richard Dean Rosen.

Fadeaway tells the story of Harvey Blissberg, a recently retired baseball player who becomes a private investigator. The Boston Celtics hire him to look into the disappearance, and then quickly murder, of one of their players.

I don’t read a lot of crime novels, but this seemed like a pretty good one: A brisk pace that still builds a sense of mystery; plot twists that don’t feel forced and come at exactly the right moments; enough details to make the story easy to visualize

With the book itself, I just have a few minor complaints. Rosen inexplicably refers to the NCAA as the “N C double A” — a very awkward construction of that acronym that breaks the rhythm of whatever sentence in which it appears. And Rosen spells out the accent of Frank Heaney, a college basketball coach central to the plot, in a way that’s hard to read and actually makes the character sound slightly mentally disabled.

But these are tiny hang-ups in what was otherwise a very enjoyable reading experience. I found myself regretting every time I had to put the book down.

Unrelated to the plot, Fadeaway left me with two big questions.

Why was Blissberg a baseball player?

Blissberg seems like a pretty good detective. He’s intuitive, persistent, creative, intelligent, comprehensive — all the qualities necessary to work in that field. And he uses those skills to solve the case in a satisfying and realistic way.

Before becoming a private eye, Blissberg played for the Red Sox and made-up expansion team the Providence Jewels. That life impacts Blissberg in two ways: it gives him a passing familiarity with Providence, where much of the book takes place, and it creates a hostile relationship with the various local sports writers with whom he has to work.

But Blissberg’s prior knowledge of Providence could’ve been easily replicated by looking at a map for like 10 minutes. And here’s how every interaction with a reporter happens: the reporter says something nasty, Blissberg asks for help, then the reporter always gives it to him, usually within half a page. For all the bluster, not once does a reporter actually impede Blissberg’s ability to do his job.

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