Calico Joe by John Grisham

‘Baseball is a game of failure…’

😐 😐 ❓

calico joeIn a departure from his usual legal thrillers, Grisham here gives us a book about the world of baseball. The first person narrator is Paul Tracey, whose father, Warren, was a pitcher for the Mets in 1973 in the same season as Joe Castle, the Calico Joe of the title, was breaking all records as a rookie player with the Cubs. Warren is now dying and as Paul travels to see him, he tells us about his childhood, his hero-worship for Joe and why his relationship with Warren reached breaking point.

Normally I am a big fan of Grisham but really, there are limits. Firstly it is very short and yet the plot, such as it is, is so slight as to barely maintain interest to the end. Instead the book is filled with extremely detailed descriptions of imaginary baseball games, so detailed that Grisham felt it necessary to give what he calls a summary of the basics of the game. This ‘summary’ runs to 13% of the entire Kindle book and was so dull that I gave up halfway through, deciding to trust that the book would make sense even if I didn’t know what a drag bunt or a pick-off might be. By about the fourth chapter, I was so bored that I was speed-reading through the innings by innings match descriptions that fill easily half the book dropping back in whenever it looked like the plot might move along a little. However, the plot was so uninteresting and clichéd and the characterisation so superficial that it did not make up for all the rest.


I would have given this book 2 stars but I recognise some people will be more interested in baseball and perhaps in interminable scoring statistics, even imaginary ones, than I and so have upped it to an extremely generous 3. Grisham says in his introduction ‘Baseball is a game of failures’. Unfortunately I feel this self-indulgent book is an example of that. Here’s hoping Grisham returns to form (and the legal world) in his next novel.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

36 thoughts on “Calico Joe by John Grisham

  1. You’re much braver than me – nothing would induce me to read a book about baseball – or any other sport I know nothing about.


  2. On the one hand, I respect an author who tries different things and explores in different (sub)genres. On the other… Sorry this disappointed you so much. I would probably give it a miss anyway as it takes a lot to convince me to read a sport-themed book (with a few exceptions). But your excellent review has made it even clearer that this is one I’ll not be reading… Oh, and I love your use of smileys too!


  3. You use his quote against him! Priceless!!! And… 😎

    I must make a confession, though. Baseball is the American sport, I believe. Now, of course, this professor should like it. It’s fun to play, definitely, but to watch? Boring to the point of tears. I still don’t understand how it works–which is quite pathetic. After all, this professor has been to a few ball games and has seen more baseball than…than… Than whatever.

    I can only imagine the pain in Grisham’s novel… It should have got one frown at least. And then if you added his hideous picture, you could have added a few more. Now that’s… 😎


    • Well, I didn’t like to mention it because, as you know, I never like to insult my colonial friends but… in Britain we call it rounders and it’s played by…girls ❗

      The silly dancing men summed up my feelings about the book even more than Grisham’s smugness – grrrr! And if you think watching it is boring, try reading page after page of MADE-UP statistics!!! 😡


      • Well now the professor feels he should defend the other side.

        Baseball is a very complicated and challenging game. And it is very 😎 to play. I wonder what you think of football?

        Now I understand why you don’t like it! I wouldn’t either if it was played by girls and called rounders… Definitely doesn’t do the game justice, I’m sure. And must be really silly to watch. Now, McCutchen is a natural, even though I don’t root for his team…

        I wonder how Murray would react if a tennis ball was coming at him well over 90 mph…maybe run screaming?


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