Winegardner, Mark 1961-

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Winegardner, Mark 1961-

PERSONAL:

Born November 24, 1961, in Bryan, OH; son of Gary and Beverly Winegardner. Education: Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1983; George Mason University, M.F.A., 1987.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Tallahassee, FL. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer, novelist, and educator. George Washington University, Washington, DC, lecturer, 1988—; John Carroll University, Cleveland, OH, assistant professor, 1989-1997; Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, Burroway Professor of English and director of creative writing program, 2002—. Visiting faculty member at conferences, including the Sewanee Writers Conference, Wesleyan Writers Conference, University of Iowa Writers Workshop, and Latin American Writers Workshop.

MEMBER:

Phi Beta Kappa.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Playboy College Fiction finalist, 1986, for "Summer in Blue"; Irene Leache Fiction Award, 1987, for "More Than a Casual Fan"; recipient of fellowships and residences from the Ohio Arts Council, Lilly Endowment, Ragdale Foundation, Sewanee Writers Conference, and the Corporation of Yaddo; University Teaching Award, Florida State University, 2004; University Mentoring Award, Florida State University, 2006; Distinguished Research Professor Award, Florida State University, 2007; several of author's stories have been named Distinguished Stories of the Year, The Best American Short Stories.

WRITINGS:

NONFICTION

Elvis Presley Boulevard: From Sea to Shining Sea, Almost, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 1988.

Prophet of the Sandlots: Journeys with a Major League Scout, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 1990.

(With Steve Fireovid) The 26th Man: One Minor Leaguer's Pursuit of a Dream, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1991.

(Editor) We Are What We Ate: 24 Memories of Food, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1998.

FICTION

The Veracruz Blues (novel), Viking (New York, NY), 1996.

Crooked River Burning (novel), Harcourt (New York, NY), 2001.

That's True of Everybody (short stories), Harcourt (New York, NY), 2002.

The Godfather Returns (sequel to Mario Puzo's novel), Random House (New York, NY), 2004.

(Editor) 3 x 33: Short Fiction by Thirty-Three Writers, Thomson Wadsworth (Boston, MA), 2004.

The Godfather's Revenge, Putnam (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to magazines, including Playboy, Family Circle, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, DoubleTake, Sporting News, Witness, Story Quarterly, American Short Fiction, GQ, Ladies Home Journal, Parents, New York Times Magazine, Oxford American and Phoebe: The George Mason Review.

Author's books have been translated into more than twenty languages.

Coauthor of script for the Godfather video game.

SIDELIGHTS:

Mark Winegardner writes about baseball, both as myth and as reality, in the form of fiction as well as nonfiction. His Prophet of the Sandlots: Journeys with a Major League Scout follows one of baseball's most successful scouts, Tony Lucadello, as he makes the rounds one last season, searching for another future star. In Winegardner's novel, The Veracruz Blues, the author mixes fact and fiction to recreate the baseball season of 1946, known as the Season of Gold, when a wealthy Mexican businessman was able to lure a number of American major league baseball players to the Mexican league by offering them more money and, for several black players, a chance to play professionally in an officially color-blind league. Winegardner's familiarity with his subject, and the extensive research he conducted for his novel in particular, were singled out for praise by critics.

Over the course of fifty years scouting talent for the Chicago Cubs and the Philadelphia Phillies, Tony Lucadello discovered, and signed to contracts, forty-nine future major league baseball players, including such figures as Mike Schmidt, Ferguson Jenkins, Jim Brosnan, and Mike Marshall. Winegardner's Prophet of the Sandlots follows Lucadello on what turned out to be his last season scouting. "As they drove from game to game, Lucadello's chatter revealed a gentle but wily character," Diane Cole observed in the New York Times Book Review. Cole added: "Winegardner's engaging portrait of a scout's life is at its best when he simply allows Lucadello to talk," noting that the author's own narrative voice necessarily pales in comparison. Similarly, a critic for Kirkus Reviews observed that Winegardner fails to attempt to uncover the roots of some of Lucadello's more eccentric behavior, but concluded that Prophet of the Sandlots makes for "good reading nonetheless."

Winegardner's first novel, The Veracruz Blues, also takes its cue from baseball history, and the accuracy of the historical details that crowd his complex narrative structure was an issue for several of the book's critics. The author expands on a fairly spectacular set of facts when he sets his novel in 1946, the year Jorge Pasquel decided to make the Mexican baseball league competitive with the American big leagues by luring a number of American players and potential big-leaguers barred from the majors by their race to play in Mexico. To this true-life scenario Winegardner adds a fictional sports writer who interviews the major characters decades after the period in question, as well as cameo appearances by such historical figures as Ernest Hemingway and the artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. "As a milieu, baseball begs writers to indulge in the pleasures of tall tales and broad characterization," noted a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, "and Winegardner … excels at it."

As in reviews of Prophet of the Sandlots, Winegardner's facility with prose was the object of some negative criticism. "If The Veracruz Blues has a problem, it is its structure," claimed Tom Miller in Washington Post Book World, adding that the device of including interviews about events long past as well as contemporary editorial asides "makes for occasionally clunky writing and dialogue." In addition, Larry Eldridge, a reviewer for Christian Science Monitor, noted factual errors in some of Winegardner's baseball history and complained of feeling "confused and unsatisfied" by the author's "hybrid method" of mixing fact and fiction. For others, such issues were not a problem. Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, a contributor to the New York Times Book Review, went further: "The Veracruz Blues is not just a baseball novel; it is the best baseball novel that I have read."

Aside from his books about baseball, Winegardner is also the author of Elvis Presley Boulevard: From Sea to Shining Sea, Almost, a nonfiction account of a two-month road trip the author took with a college friend in the weeks before Winegardner's wedding in 1984. Booklist reviewer Ray Olson compared it to John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley and Jack Kerouac's On the Road, but dubbed Elvis Presley Boulevard "a whole lot sweeter, thanks to Winegardner's ingenuous narrative voice."

Crooked River Burning is a "grand piece of historical fiction," commented Ted Leventhal in Booklist. Fourteen-year-old David Zielinsky is the son of blue-collar laborers and looks forward to a similar lifestyle working on the docks of Cleveland. Anne O'Connor is a twelve-year-old child of privilege, daughter of a political leader, who is accustomed to wealth and an easy life. When the two meet later as teenagers in 1952, they fall deeply in love and are bound for life by their feelings for each other. Their relationship, however, is doomed, particularly since David is engaged to another woman. Even as their lives seem destined to take separate paths, they continue to encounter each other as they move into adulthood and their separate careers. As he grows up, David begins to develop ambitions for political office, while Anne embarks on a career as a television news anchor and journalist. In the background, significant historical events occur and are detailed by Winegardner as the two protagonists mature and pursue their goals. David and Anne's story is highlighted by such signal events as the early days of baseball and the Cleveland Indians; the origins of rock'n'roll with Cleveland-area disc jockey Alan Freed; the Sam Sheppard murder case; race riots in the 1960s; the burning of the polluted Cuyahoga River; and more. "Occasionally, a novel comes along that so exemplifies its setting that it sings like an anthem" for its geographical setting, commented Thomas L. Kilpatrick in Library Journal, who felt that Crooked River Burning served that purpose for the Cleveland area. "Cleveland may be on the decline in this urban portrait, but Winegardner … infuses his tale with an exhilarating energy," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who stated that "Winegardner takes on the American metropolis, making Cleveland his own in plain, straightforward prose." Leventhal concluded that Crooked River is a "remarkable and entertaining book."

Winegardner's That's True of Everybody is a collection of thirteen short stories, most set in Cleveland and the Midwest. Most of the characters in his stories are blue-collar laborers and small business owners. For instance, in "Thirty-Year-Old Women Do Not Always Come Home," Harry Kreevich, a Croatian-American who owns a bowling alley, becomes concerned when one of his lane girls mysteriously disappears. "Song for a Certain Girl" follows the life of an uneducated backwoods female who is so innocent to the ways of the world that she does not even know how to consummate her marriage. While some of Winegardner's characters manage to rise to white-collar or professional status, they tend to get a harsher comeuppance. The title character of "The Visiting Poet" is a sleazy sort who is more interested in seducing his female students than teaching poetry, but who faces the repercussions of his actions when a colleague reports him for sexual harassment. "Last Love Song at the Valentine" unfolds the history of a generation of city dwellers through their attendance at the local drive-in theater. A Kirkus Reviews critic named the book "a short string of gems in a beautifully constructed and well-ordered collection." A Publishers Weekly critic observed that "these lyrical, down-to-earth tales of loss and emptiness in the heartland could probably have reached farther—but then again, so could their characters." The characters in Winegardner's stories "are often unapologetically bad, not terribly self-aware, and absolutely real," observed reviewer Kim MacQueen in Florida Trend.

In 2003, Winegardner landed a prestigious writing assignment as the winner of a competition, sponsored by publisher Random House, to continue the iconic "Godfather" series established by novelist Mario Puzo, who died in 1999. Selected out of a pool of thirty well-qualified candidates, Winegardner was chosen because of his established author credentials and his "gift for propulsive narration and a grasp of the social, religious, and political forces that affect individuals' destinies and traits—and, indeed, that are reminiscent of Puzo," noted Bruce Allen in Kirkus Reviews. His first book in the resurrected series was The Godfather Returns. His intention, noted BookPage Web site interviewer Jay MacDonald, was to not only do justice to Puzo's original novel, but also to incorporate the events of the "Godfather" movies into the written mythos. Set in the mid-1950s and 1960s shortly after the end of the first movie, the novel recounts the struggles of Michael Corleone, son of original Godfather Don Vito Corleone, as he works to turn his inherited criminal enterprise to legitimate business pursuits. Doing so will allow him and his wife Kay and their two children to live clear of most Mafia entanglements while still allowing the Corleone family businesses to operate untraceable but profitable sidelines. In the background, however, is a former Corleone associate, Nick Geraci, who has been angered and disgraced by the Godfather's family. Once a trusted ally, the dangerous Geraci begins to arrange his own ascent among the crime families, with an eye toward revenge on Michael Corleone.

Critical reaction to Winegardner's continuation of Puzo's Mafia family saga was somewhat mixed, but tended toward the positive. "As plots go, it's a little thin, and Winegardner doesn't have much of a feel for Michael," commented Time magazine reviewer Lev Grossman. However, a Publishers Weekly contributor named it a "phenomenally entertaining, psychologically rich saga that spans the entire Godfather years imagined in novel and film by Mario Puzo." Winegardner "is a gifted storyteller who expands Puzo's plot artfully," remarked Peter Hyman in People. Sarah Vowell, writing in the New York Times Book Review, named The Godfather Returns "a real pleasure, a fine, swirling epic—bitter, touching, funny, and true."

With his next contribution to the "Godfather" series, The Godfather's Revenge, Winegardner "continues to breathe new life into Mario Puzo's infamous Corleone family," commented Booklist reviewer Margaret Flanagan. As Michael Corleone struggles to keep order within his volatile and headstrong family, old enemy Nick Geraci returns to seek deadly retribution against him. Elsewhere, Michael is having trouble with U.S. President Jimmy Shea, whom he helped put in office through his vast connections, and Shea's brother Danny, the U.S. Attorney General who wants to eliminate the mob entirely. When southern mobsters hatch a plot to assassinate President Shea, Michael must do all he can to ensure that the situation does not spiral out of control. Entertainment Weekly critic Tina Jordan remarked that Winegardner's second "Godfather" novel is "everything it should be: nuanced, chilling, and threaded with intrigue." A Kirkus Reviews contributor named it "bloody and bombastic—a top-notch addition to the saga." Winegardner's "true genius is that The Godfather's Revenge is a literary novel masquerading as a thriller," commented Mark E. Walker in the Florida Bar Journal. Walker concluded: "While it can surely be enjoyed poolside, Winegardner has crafted a finale befitting the Godfather saga."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, January 15, 1988, Ray Olson, review of Elvis Presley Boulevard: From Sea to Shining Sea, Almost, p. 825; February 1, 1990, review of Prophet of the Sandlots: Journeys with a Major League Scout, p. 1063; January 1, 2001, Ted Leventhal, review of Crooked River Burning, p. 922; July, 2002, James Klise, review of That's True of Everybody, p. 1824; December 1, 2004, review of The Godfather Returns, p. 619; December 1, 2006, Margaret Flanagan, review of The Godfather's Revenge, p. 23.

Christian Science Monitor, March 15, 1996, Larry Eldridge, review of The Veracruz Blues, p. 11.

Entertainment Weekly, November 19, 2004, Jennifer Reese, "O Capo, My Capo: Mark Winegardner's The Godfather Returns Takes a Whack at Mario Puzo's Legacy," review of The Godfather Returns, p. 86; November 26, 2004, Gregory Kirschling, "A Made Man," profile of Mark Winegardner, p. 127; November 10, 2006, Tina Jordan, review of The Godfather's Revenge, p. 89.

Florida Bar Journal, January, 2007, Mark E. Walker, review of The Godfather's Revenge, p. 56.

Florida Trend, February, 2003, Kim McQueen, "Faces of Vanity," review of That's True of Everybody, p. S43; August, 2003, "The Offer He Can't Refuse," profile of Mark Winegardner, p. S6.

Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 1987, review of Elvis Presley Boulevard, p. 1668; December 15, 1989, review of Prophet of the Sandlots, p. 1818; May 15, 2002, review of That's True of Everybody, p. 700; November 1, 2004, Bruce Allen, "An Offer You Shouldn't Refuse," profile of Mark Winegardner, p. 1018; October 1, 2006, review of The Godfather's Revenge, p. 987.

Library Journal, December, 2000, Thomas L. Kilpatrick, review of Crooked River Burning, p. 193; June 1, 2002, Robin Nesbitt, review of That's True of Everybody, p. 199; December 1, 2004, Nancy Pearl, review of The Godfather Returns, p. 106.

Newsweek, November 8, 2004, Malcolm Jones, "Take the Cannolis; But Leave the Godfather Sequel by a New Hired Gun," review of The Godfather Returns, p. 55.

New York Times Book Review, April 1, 1990, Diane Cole, review of Prophet of the Sandlots, p. 18; April 7, 1991, review of Prophet of the Sandlots, p. 32; April 7, 1996, Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, review of The Veracruz Blues, p. 14; January 21, 2001, Peter Khoury, "A Better Orchestra," review of Crooked River Burning, p. 18; January 13, 2002, Scott Veale, review of Crooked River Burning, p. 24; December 5, 2004, Sarah Vowell, "Corleone Family Values," review of The Godfather Returns, p. 8; September 25, 2005, Ihsan Taylor, "Paperback Row," review of The Godfather Returns, p. 36; November 19, 2006, Michael Agger, "The Consigliere," review of The Godfather's Revenge, p. 30.

People, December 6, 2004, Peter Hyman, review of The Godfather Returns, p. 56.

Publishers Weekly, December 4, 1987, review of Elvis Presley Boulevard, p. 68; December 8, 1989, review of Prophet of the Sandlot, p. 48; May 17, 1991, review of The 26th Man: One Minor Leaguer's Pursuit of a Dream, p. 49; November 6, 1995, review of The Veracruz Blues, p. 81; February 24, 1997, review of The Veracruz Blues, p. 88; November 20, 2000, review of Crooked River Burning, p. 45; June 17, 2002, review of That's True of Everybody, p. 40; November 1, 2004, review of The Godfather Returns, p. 42; September 25, 2006, review of The Godfather's Revenge, p. 43.

Time, November 22, 2004, Lev Grossman, "An Offer You Can Refuse: A New Novel Tries to Continue The Godfather Saga," review of The Godfather Returns, p. 88.

Washington Post Book World, February 18, 1996, Tom Miller, review of The Veracruz Blues, p. 6.

ONLINE

BlogCritics,http://www.blogcritics.org/ (November 14, 2004), Carlo Wolff, review of The Godfather Returns.

BookPage,http://www.bookpage.com/ (May 16, 2007), Jay MacDonald, "Mark Winegardner Joins the Mob," interview with Mark Winegardner.

BookReporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (May 16, 2007), Joe Hartlaub, review of The Godfather Returns.

Mark Winegardner Home Page,http://www.markwinegardner.com (May 16, 2007).