Surprisingly, this turns out to be the best novel that I have read from Robert B. Parker so far. It is quite an unsual story, which mixes some historical baseball background – new character Joseph Burke and baseball legend Jackie Robinson.
I have read two lousy books from Parker – Spare Change and Sea Change. Initially, I was quite reluctant to read “Double Play”, but I am glad that I have read it. The storyline is quite unique, there are some empathy, emotion, love, friendship between a white man and a black man, loyalty…. all in a bundle. Up till the end, I do feel a bit emotional after reading.
Burke is a disillusioned WWII veteran who returned from war to find a note on the table and his wife gone. He landed a job to protect Jackie Robinson, who is about to break the color barrier in baseball (1947). When Robinson angers a white crime boss, Burke has navigate carefully to keep himself and Robinson from getting killed.
Burke is a white man. Jackie Robinson is a black man. As Burke has to stay beside Robinson to protect him, he encountered several racial problems. Because he is a white man, Robinson is black, they have trouble doing things together like eating together, find a hotel room to stay together and taking cabs together.
After dinner Burke and Robinson stood on the garish street. A brindled dog with one ear down limped past them. Several cabs passed them without slowing.
“All the cabbies are Negro,” Robinson said, “in this part of town. They won’t pick us up because of you.” “And if we walked ten or twelve blocks to a white neighbourhood? “Burke said.
“The white cabbies won’t pick us up because of me.”
They stood silently for a moment watching the yellow dog disappeared into an alley. “How far you figure it is to walk to the hotel?” Burke said.
Once Jackie received a letter with a photograph from a blonde lady who say she is his crazed fan and wants to meet him in his room.
“We got three possibilities here,” Burke said. “One, she’s a crazed fan and she wants your autograph. Two, she’s part of a setup to catch you in a compromising situation with a white woman. Three, she’s some kind of sex bomb with a thing for colored guys.” Based on his experiences, Robinson deduced that this lady probably belongs to the third category which is correct.
“There’s women like that,” Robinson said.
“The legend of the large black dick,” Burke said. Robinson shrugged.
“That might be part of it,” Robinson said, “but it’s more than that. Women like that want you to be crude. They don’t want no high-toned college Negro. They want a savage.
Burke said, “The way some girls are crazy for horses? You know? Get to control a big powerful thing between their legs?” “Don’t know about horses,” Robinson said. “But I know there’s a certain kind of white woman that wants to do it with a big crude nigger and have him swear and talk dirty and shove her down and tear off her clothes.”
“And if the big crude nigger is also the most famous nigger in America?” Burke said.
“So much the better,” Robinson said.
“It could still be a setup,” Burke said. Robinson nodded.
“Either way,” Burke said. “I got to keep her away from you.”
“You’re no fun at all,” Robinson said.
I guess the above scenario should be very real, as I remembered reading an article in which an interview was done with a very famous and handsome actor. He did mentioned that he also have such problems, and there are women who purposely knocked on his hotel doors to want to have sex with him. It was like he was the prize, and they could go around telling friends and neighbours that they have slept with a famous actor. He said he really viewed women very differently after such experiences in his acting career. Guess, this kind of thing better avoid, as it could be a trap or the women may take photographs or do other things to harm the actor’s reputation.