Soos, Troy 1957-
SOOS, Troy 1957-
PERSONAL: Born November 7, 1957, in Passaic, NJ; son of Gretel. Education: Rutgers University, B.S.; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, M.A. Politics: "Moderate." Religion: "None." Hobbies and other interests: Baseball, American history, singing, silent movies, guitar.
CAREER: Writer. Professional umpire, 1975-77; research physicist, 1984-95; has taught mystery writing classes.
MEMBER: Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), Mystery Writers of America, Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America (SPEBSQSA).
Murder at Fenway Park, Kensington (New York, NY), 1994.
Murder at Ebbets Field, Kensington (New York, NY), 1995.
Murder at Wrigley Field, Kensington (New York, NY), 1996.
Hunting a Detroit Tiger, Kensington (New York, NY), 1997.
Before the Curse: The Glory Days of New England Baseball, 1858-1918, Parnassus Imprints (Hyannis, MA), 1997.
The Cincinnati Red Stalkings, Kensington (New York, NY), 1998.
Hanging Curve, Kensington (New York, NY), 1999.
Island of Tears, Kensington (New York, NY), 2001.
The Gilded Cage, Kensington (New York, NY), 2002.
Author of short story "Decision of the Umpire," published in the anthology Crime through Time, Berkeley Prime Crime, 1997. Audiotape versions of all Mickey Rawlings books have been produced. Murder at Fenway Park has been translated into Japanese.
SIDELIGHTS: Troy Soos has published a series of mysteries that center around the world of baseball in the early decades of the twentieth century. In each of the six books, the character Mickey Rawlings, a journeyman infielder, finds himself confronted with a murder in a different baseball stadium or other location. Soos has also written a nonfiction history of baseball in New England prior to 1918, Before the Curse.
By his own admission, Soos "never intended to be a writer." As a boy he had hoped to grow up to be a baseball player. But when he discovered he had "the baseball skills of [mystery writer] Agatha Christie," he decided to become an umpire instead. The high point of his two years as an umpire, he said, came when he officiated a game between various retired major-league players whose careers dated to the 1920s. Later he studied physics at Rutgers and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and while working as a research physicist, he wrote his first Mickey Rawlings mystery. The book, he stated, brought together three interests: the history of baseball, American social history, and mystery writing. By 1994 he had left his career as a physicist to work full-time as a writer.
The Mickey Rawlings series began with Murder at Fenway Park, set in 1912. Boston's Fenway Park is a new building, and Rawlings is new to the Boston Red Sox lineup, having just been brought on as a utility infielder. Reporting to the stadium, he literally stumbles onto the body of Red Corriden, who has been bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat. Subsequently a local policeman grills Rawlings, as does Red Sox treasurer Robert Tyler. Rawlings is surprised when it appears that no one on the ball team or in the press has anything to say about the murder and he learns from one of Tyler's underlings that the body has been moved. As amateur sleuth Rawlings digs deeper, he learns that Corriden had inadvertently gotten involved in a scheme to keep the 1910 batting championship away from legendary batter Ty Cobb. Then the Tyler underling turns up dead as well, and Rawlings becomes the primary murder suspect.
A Publishers Weekly reviewer called Murder at Fenway Park "a four-bagger that will leave readers eager for subsequent innings." Both the Publishers Weekly critic and E. L. Risden of Aethlon noted the fact that the book brings together fictional characters and genuine figures from the history of baseball, including Cobb, Walter Johnson, Smokey Joe Wood, and Tris Speaker. Risden concluded, "I'm eagerly awaiting Soos's sequel."
The sequel came during the next year, 1995, with Murder at Ebbets Field, set two years after the first book, in the summer of 1914. Whereas the sinking of the Titanic had been the big news at the beginning of Murder at Fenway Park, now the world around Rawlings is abuzz with talk of World War I, then just beginning in Europe. Rawlings has moved to New York, where he plays second base on the Giants' second string. The mystery begins when Rawlings is recruited to appear in a motion picture with a popular starlet named Florence Hampton, and the actress's dead body washes up soon afterward at Coney Island. Rawlings discovers that she had been involved in solving a mystery of her own, one surrounding the murder of her husband two years before. Soon the killing strikes closer to home as the rival Brooklyn Dodgers's batboy is found dead at the new Ebbets Field. Again, the story involves historical baseball players, including Brooklyn outfielder Casey Stengel, who helps Rawlings solve the mystery. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly concluded, "Soos offers another breezy read full of the flavor of the times."
In Murder at Wrigley Field, Rawlings has moved to Chicago, where he plays for the Cubs. It is the summer of 1918, during the last few months of World War I, and anti-German sentiment is strong. The leader of Germany is Kaiser Wilhelm II, and that fact makes life unpleasant for the new Cubs shortstop, who happens to be named Willie Kaiser. During a July 4 parade someone shoots Kaiser, killing him, and Rawlings sets out to solve the mystery. He has a number of suspects, ranging from the shortstop whose job Kaiser took to the team's co-owner, Bennett Harrington. Suspecting the latter, Rawlings goes undercover as an employee at a war plant owned by Harrington, only to find himself involved in further intrigues. Sybil S. Steinberg in Publishers Weekly noted that the third Rawlings mystery was "slower paced than earlier stories," but concluded, "Rawlings still turns double plays and solves murders with equal grace."
With Hunting a Detroit Tiger, the setting shifts to Detroit in 1920. The ensuing mystery relates to union politics, Detroit slugger Ty Cobb, and of course another murder. In 1998 Soos continued the Rawlings tradition with a fifth mystery, The Cincinnati Red Stalkings. Back from the war and longing for a normal life as a utility infielder for the Cincinnati Reds, Rawlings meets Oliver Perriman, a dedicated baseball fan and the organizer of a memorabilia show and tribute to the 1869 Reds. When Perriman is killed after giving Rawlings a baseball that allegedly dates from 1869, Mickey becomes an unlikely suspect in the murder. Although the ball turns out to be a fake, it contains a note about a girl who disappeared in 1869 and a professional baseball player who dropped out of sight about the same time—and who recently reappeared, with a dubious story and an unreliable memory, but with definite connections to the missing girl and the murdered Perriman. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly, remarked that in The Cincinnati Red Stalkings, "The admirably knowledgeable Soos delivers chunks of trivia rather than a fully developed historical context. Nevertheless, the story's pace is smooth and the conclusion comprehensive and efficient." Wes Lukowsky wrote in Booklist that the Mickey Rawlings mysteries have "great 1920s period detail and a likable, carefully presented first-person narrator in Rawlings for a series that has modest goals and meets them with style."
In Hanging Curve, the sixth Rawlings book, Rawlings moves to St. Louis to play with the American League's St. Louis Browns during the 1922 season. On a whim, he agrees to play with a semi-professional team against the Negro East St. Louis Cubs, though he has to do so under an assumed name to hide his origins in the major leagues. A heated confrontation during the game leads to increased racial tensions culminating in a KKK-spurred riot and the lynching of the Cubs' star pitcher. Trading his cleats for gumshoes, Rawlings teams with a white anti-Klan activist and a black lawyer to investigate the pitcher's murder, discover the truth behind baseball's ban on black players, and prevent a recurrence of the East St. Louis race riots of 1917. "[T]his novel stands out particularly for its skillfully drawn background and intelligent use of historical and social detail," wrote a reviewer in Publishers Weekly. Wes Lukowsky, writing in Booklist, called Hanging Curve "the strongest in the series. . . .Soos delivers a richly atmospheric journey through time with Rawlings serving as an engaging guide." Similarly, Block commented on the book's greater sophistication and serious approach to a controversial subject: "More than a mystery, this is also a story of a deepening respect and understanding among good men of different races," Block concluded.
With Island of Tears, Soos leaves behind the diamond and focuses on the harsh and gritty atmosphere of 19th-century New York City. Writer Marshall Webb, looking for inspiration for his next dime novel, attends the opening of Ellis Island and meets Dutch immigrant Christina van de Waals, a 14-year-old from Amsterdam. She seems the perfect heroine for his new book, but the girl disappears before reaching her cousin in New York. Webb's investigation into Christina's disappearance brings him into contact with traffickers in immigrant slave labor, corrupt Tammany Hall politicians, and crooked cops. Webb also meets Rebecca Davies, a wealthy social crusader and operator of a shelter for troubled and unprotected young women. Rebecca becomes Webb's greatest ally in the search for the missing Christina, his instructor in the fate of missing immigrant girls in the sweatshops and brothels of a harsh turn-of-the-century New York—and his romantic interest. "[T]his is a nicely paced, entertaining novel with just enough of the happy ending its protagonist always seeks," wrote Michele Leber in Booklist. A reviewer in Publishers Weekly noted, "The solid plot and well-researched background help to carry the tale, even though Soos never builds the suspense the novel calls for. Still, history buffs will enjoy this look at a harsh transitional period in New York history." Rex E. Klett, writing in Library Journal, called Island of Tears "A promising series debut."
In 1997, Soos published a nonfiction book, Before the Curse: The Glory Days of New England Baseball, 1858-1918. The title refers to "The Curse of the Bambino," which is described on the author's Web site as "the spell of doom that was cast upon the Red Sox after the club sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees." The Red Sox won the World Series in 1918, but from that time until the publication of Before the Curse, no New England team had won a world championship. The book highlights professional and college teams not just in Boston, but in other towns such as Hartford, Connecticut, and Providence, Rhode Island, during the sixty-year period.
Soos once told CA: "Baseball history is more a collective memory than a sequence of events. Stories told by old-timers, personal experiences at the ballpark, and yesterday's box scores all mingle together in one vast pool of shared experience. You can dip your foot in any part of it, stir up the mixture, and wade right into the past."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Aethlon, fall, 1995, pp. 140-141.
Booklist, May 15, 1998, Wes Lukowsky, review of The Cincinnati Red Stalkings, p. 1599; August, 1999, Wes Lukowsky, review of Hanging Curve, p. 2036; October 15, 2001, Michele Leber, review of Island of Tears, p. 384.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1995, p. 349; March 1, 1996, p. 338; February 15, 1997, p. 259; March 1, 1998, review of The Cincinnati Red Stalkings, p. 305; September 1, 1999, review of Hanging Curve, p. 1352; September 1, 2001, review of Island of Tears, p. 1251.
Kliatt Young Adult Paperback Book Guide, September, 1998, review of Murder at Ebbetts Field (audio), p. 61; March, 1999, review of Hunting a Detroit Tiger (audio), p. 56.
Library Journal, April 1, 1996, p. 122; August, 1999, Marylaine Block, review of Hanging Curve, p. 147; November 1, 2001, Rex E. Klett, review of Island of Tears, p. 136.
NEA Today, September, 2000, Lorraine Peoples, review of Hanging Curve, p. 46.
New York Times Book Review, November 7, 1999, Marilyn Stasio, review of Hanging Curve, p. 37.
Publishers Weekly, March 28, 1994, p. 86; March 27, 1995, p. 79; April 1, 1996, p. 60; March 24, 1997, p. 63; March 9, 1998, review of The Cincinnati Red Stalkings, p. 51; September 13, 1999, review of Hanging Curve, p. 64; October 8, 2001, review of Island of Tears, p. 40.
BookBrowser Web site,http://www.bookbrowser.com/ (January 6, 2002), Harriet Klausner, review of Island of Tears.
Troy Soos Web site,http://members.aol.com/TroySoos/ (January 6, 2002).*