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It’s 1905 and the Chicago Cubs are banking on superstar Donald “Duke” Dennison’s golden arm to help them win the pennant. Only one thing stands between Duke and an unprecedented ten thousand dollar contract: alcohol.
That’s when sportswriter David Voyant whisks Duke to the one-horse town of Picksville, Missouri, so he can sober up in anonymity. He bides his time flirting with Ellie Jane Voyant, his unofficial chaperone, who would rather hide herself in the railway station ticket booth than face the echoes of childhood taunts.
Ned Clovis, the feed store clerk, has secretly loved Ellie Jane since childhood, but he loves baseball and the Duke almost as much–until he notices Ellie Jane may be succumbing to the star’s charm.
Then there’s Morris, a twelve-year-old Negro boy, whose only dream is to break away from Picksville. When Duke discovers his innate talent for throwing a baseball, Morris might just have found his way out.
Four individuals, each living in haunted isolation, each harboring a secret passion. Providence brings them together. Tragedy threatens to tear them apart. Will love be enough to bring them home?
From Us To You!
I love the simplicity and precision of baseball. Most of all, I love its history. In the book Glove Affairs, an old-timer tells of men who had so many broken fingers at the end of a season, their hands were like sacks of walnuts. Splinting and setting might have interfered with their ability to catch, so they’d heal over the winter and be ready to start again come spring.
Now I, a creature of extreme comfort and minimal risk, cannot imagine such commitment. But I soon became obsessed with those who did. I saturated myself with stories and statistics. I poured over pictures, losing myself in the sepia-toned cards that came in packages of Old Judge cigarettes. These were men who played the game out of desperation. Some literally played for food, going hungry off-season.
That’s where I found Duke Dennison. Or at least bits and pieces of him. I created Ellie Jane, Ned, and Morris to fill those places in Duke that baseball couldn’t touch. They, too, would bring him closer to the love of a Lord he’s never known.
Every now and then a story grabs a hold and won’t let go. That’s what Stealing Home did for me. I love that this novel, in its structure, lets me spend a little time alone with each of the characters, creating a narrative that swirls around their isolation, easing them little by little into each other’s lives.
I hope you enjoy making them a part of yours.
Excerpt - #1 of 5
Chapter 1 / Opening News Article & Hospital Clipping
Cubs swing into Spring minus the Duke
by Dave Voyant
(March 5, 1905)—It seems the Chicago Cubs will start their ’05 season without the talented stick of Donald “Duke” Dennison, whose name has been pulled from the roster.
Despite signing a lucrative contract, the Duke has been conspicuously absent for much of the team’s training exercises. When asked about the high-priced no-show, manager Frank Chance seemed unconcerned, saying only that he expected to see the Duke back in the lineup in June.
This doesn’t answer many questions for the fans who want to see their favorite royal knock a few out of the park. Other players seem to be as much in the dark as anybody regarding Duke’s whereabouts. When asked, first baseman Ken “Long Legs” Berg said, “As for me, I wouldn’t care if Duke Dennison took a long walk off a short pier.”
Institute for the Treatment
Name: Donald Dennison (Male)
She took the job at the railroad ticket office quite by accident when her father, Sheriff Floyd Voyant, was summoned to the station to arrest the ticket agent who had shown up drunk to work. It was early June, just after graduation, and Ellie Jane—needing to stop by the post office anyway—had accompanied her father. At the insistence of Mr. Coleman, the station manager, she settled behind the desk to fill in for the afternoon.
She had been seventeen years old. She never left. Some people, she supposed, might find it monotonous to sit in a little glass booth, day after day, but not Ellie Jane. These were her finest hours, chatting with her fellow townspeople. She might ask, “Oh, do you have family in Tennessee?” or “Didn’t you just travel to Boston last month?” And the person would be forced to reply, even if grudgingly so, with averted eyes and terse comments. If she were to run into any of these same people in the town square, while running errands in the Picksville shops, they might walk right past her or make a quick detour into the butcher’s shop. But here, if they wanted her to slide that ticket through the little archway cut into the glass, they’d have to engage in a bit of conversation.
This afternoon, the first Tuesday in May, Ellie Jane was finishing her modest lunch of an apple, cinnamon butter bread, and tea, when a tentative knock at the glass window got her attention. It was Morris Bennett, a little early to take advantage of passengers needing help with their bags.
“Miss Ellie Jane?” His voice was soft and muffled. “I gots a telegraph message for you.” He slid a slip of paper through the arched opening at the bottom of the glass.
“Why thank you, Morris.” Ellie Jane sent him a smile few people outside of her family had ever seen. It was carefully controlled—an attempt to hide the excitement of such an occasion.
Other people might receive telegrams every day from friends and family who lived in places they took the train to visit. But Ellie Jane’s whole life was here—equally divided between her little glass booth and the home she shared with her father. There was, of course, her brother, Dave, in Chicago, but his was a busy, exciting life that left little time for frivolous messages home. She fished around in her handbag to slip the boy a dime, which he took with a toothy grin and dropped immediately into his pocket.
“Anything else today, m’am?”
Ellie Jane checked the watch pinned to her blouse. “The two-o’clock will be here soon, Morris. Perhaps you’d like to stay and see if any passengers need help with their bags?”
“Yes, ma’am.” He touched the rim of his cap and sauntered toward the platform, hands in his pockets and whistling.
Despite her curiosity, before opening the telegram, Ellie Jane carefully put away the remains of her lunch in her bucket, wiped the corners of her mouth with a pretty floral napkin, and removed the square sign saying the window was closed for lunchtime.
Then, with nervous fingers, she opened the envelope and saw that the message was indeed from her brother. Her reaction differed each time she read the short note: first a giggle, then confusion, then a rather cold fear.
Dave was sending her a man. And he was coming on the two o’clock train...
End of Day 1 Excerpt- More coming in tomorrow's email!
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