ADDRESSES: Home—1469 Snowmass Creek Rd., Snowmass, CO 81654.
CAREER: Writer. Lehman Brothers, former stockbroker.
Battle Creek, Rob Weisbach Books (New York, NY), 1999.
All I Could Get, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Scott Lasser is a bond trader turned author whose debut novel, Battle Creek, is a baseball story. Gil Davison is a nonreligious Jew in a predominantly gentile town and the sixty-year-old coach of the Koch & Sons Dodgers, a Detroit-area amateur team sponsored by a funeral home. The team has produced players who have gone on to greatness and has made it to the finals four years in a row. This is the year, Gil vows, they will take the championship at Battle Creek. Gil gave up a career as a player because his father, who is now dying of cancer, said Gil was wasting his time. Instead, Gil began to coach, and continued doing so for thirty years. Gil wants to win to prove himself to his ninety-eight-year-old father and for his son, whom he feels he has failed, and his friend and assistant coach Vince Paklos, who is dying of emphysema. In a review for BookBrowser online, Harriet Klausner felt that Gil "is the only person who seems fully developed as readers fully understand his inner turmoil." "The baseball is lovingly, truthfully described, as are the men's friendships and betrayals," commented Marylaine Block in Library Journal.
New York Times writer Emily Barton called the plot of Battle Creek "predictable and sentimental. . . . Lasser describes baseball with obvious love, but the rest of the novel may not engage readers who love a well-told story as much as they love the game." New York Times Book Review contributor Christopher Lehmann-Haupt called the narrative "skillfully understated and elliptical. We get to know the characters in their employment as stock brokers, United Parcel Service deliverers, and car manufacturing executives for whom playing baseball is a release into a higher, more joyous calling. . . . The story's major developments are stunning surprises. And whatever success the team eventually has comes at a price that makes you question the worth of competing and winning."
Booklist's Donna Seaman felt that Lasser "glides lithely between high-energy scenes on the field and sensitive illuminations of the thoughts of his obsessive yet sweet-natured heroes." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that Lasser's language "favors honesty over musicality, but the narrative, with its poignant and disturbing insights into father-son relationships and its acceptance of the frailty of the human condition, is completely engrossing." Entertainment Weekly's Vanessa V. Friedman commented that "you don't have to love the sport to appreciate this novel."
Adam Baer wrote in the New York Times Book Review that in All I Could Get, Lasser "paints a fascinating portrait of a bondsman's life." In this second novel, the protagonist also plays ball—hardball. Barry Schwartz is a thirty-year-old Dartmouth graduate with a wife and two children. Living a carefree life in Aspen, Colorado and working at a job that allows him to ski more than three months out of the year, Barry decides he needs to make money to pay his bills and provide security for his family. The plan is to accumulate enough wealth to then come back and resume the lifestyle they love. Barry and Rachel move to Westchester with their children, and Barry begins the daily grind, commuting to Lower Manhattan, where he spends his days on the trading floor. Author Lasser lives in Colorado and has walked in Barry's shoes, and Janet Maslin wrote in the New York Times that "his overview is not hard to discern. But his use of atmospheric detail is so precise that All I Could Get is more engaging that might be expected."
An old flame from Dartmouth, now a colleague, attempts to seduce Barry into an office romance, while Rachel increasingly hates their new life. Barry rakes in the money, compromises his principles, and steps on anyone he must to accomplish his goals, which include a big year-end bonus. Ultimately the question that begs to be answered is, "When is it enough?"
Barbara Fisher noted in a Boston Globe online review that "it's hard to imagine that he [Schwartz] can readjust to the calm of the Colorado mountains." Ron Bernas wrote in the Detroit Free Press that Lasser "brings the traders to life. Their gallows humor and interoffice bickering is often funny, but Lasser never makes the traders' lives appealing. A reader wonders what Schwartz ever saw—beyond the dollar signs—in a life on Wall Street." A Kirkus Reviews contributor called All I Could Get "nicely plotted and well drawn, with believable characters in simple yet compelling situations: a winner." "This compelling merger of seductive Wall Street wealth and domestic turbulence is a great investment," observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 1, 1999, Donna Seaman, review of Battle Creek, p. 1366.
Entertainment Weekly, June 4, 1999, Vanessa V. Friedman, review of Battle Creek, p. 78.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2002, review of All ICould Get, p. 129.
Library Journal, June 1, 1999, Marylaine Block, review of Battle Creek, p. 175.
New York Times, June 3, 1999, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of Battle Creek, p. B9; March 14, 2002, Janet Maslin, review of All I Could Get, p. B11.
New York Times Book Review, March 5, 2000, Emily Barton, review of Battle Creek, p. 24; April 28, 2002, Adam Baer, review of All I Could Get, p. 21.
Publishers Weekly, March 29, 1999, review of BattleCreek, p. 88; February 25, 2002, review of All I Could Get, p. 40.
BookBrowser,http://www.bookbrowser.com/ (June 12, 1999), Harriet Klausner, review of Battle Creek.
Boston Globe,http://www.boston.com/ (April 7, 2002), Barbara Fisher, review of All I Could Get.
Detroit Free Press,http://www.freep.com/ (March 31, 2002), Ron Bernas, review of All I Could Get.
New York Observer,http://www.observer.com/ (May 7, 2002) Adam Begley, review of All I Could Get.*