Out now from Lake Union:
A poignant story about hopes, dreams, and how far one man’s talent takes him before he realizes it’s about what you do―and how you do it. Frank Ryder is unstoppable on the baseball field―his pitches arrive faster than a batter can swing, giving his opponents no chance. He’s being heralded as a game-changing pitcher.
But within the maelstrom of press, adulation, and wild speculation, Frank is a man alone. Haunted by a tragic incident from years past, he yearns to be the best but cannot reconcile the guilt he carries with the man everyone believes him to be. Frank’s path to redemption leads him on a journey back to where his life changed forever, to visit his family, his high school coach, and his brother. Through reconnection and reconciliation with
those also deeply affected by the devastating
event of Frank’s youth, he finds peace and his
place in the world both in and outside the game.
The Fireballer is a lyrical, moving story of
undeniable talent and the life-changing power of forgiveness and a subtly romantic ode to America's favorite pastime.
Publication date: Jan. 1, 2023
Reviews & Articles:
The audiobook version of THE FIREBALLER, narrated by Shea Taylor, has won an "Earphones Award" from AudioFile Magazine. More here. "Shea Taylor is outstanding with every voice. He excels at differentiating men's and women's voices and keeps straight Ryder's two girlfriends, a widow, his mother and brother, a team owner, and assorted players and executives. Author Mark Stevens ... has created a well-written book with an intriguing premise and a fascinating plot that is shaped wonderfully by Taylor's narration. Great baseball action, great writing, phenomenal narration." (Feb. 6, 2023)
Interview on Carter Wilson's Making It Up Podcast (Feb. 2, 2023)
"There's Nothing Boring About Baseball in The Fireballer" - article in WESTWORD (Jan. 31, 2023)
Shark Bites Podcast (Jan. 31, 2023) here.
Podcast chat on ML Sports Platter (Jan. 25, 2023) here.
Podcast chat on the Baseball Bucket List here. (Jan. 12, 2023)
Interview on KSUT with Tami Graham (Jan. 6, 2023) here.
Q & A on Do Some Damage (Jan. 4, 2023) here.
Interview on Fanbase Press (Dec. 30, 2022) here.
Podcast chat on Nerd Cantina (Dec. 23, 2022) here.
Article in the Cortez Journal (Dec. 21, 2022) here.
Interview on the Section 336 Podcast with Matt and Josh Sroka here. (Chat about "The Fireballer" starts at 28th minute.)
"You don't need to follow, or even to like, Major League baseball in order to enjoy The Fireballer. An appreciation of fully-realized characters, compelling conflict, and confident storytelling will suffice. But congratulations if you do love the game, because Mark Stevens has penned one of the better novels of this uniquely American canon." - Four Corners Free Press (January 2023)
A “first-rate novel … Set partially in Denver, the book mentions a number of familiar places. Local readers will like that. But a broader audience will love the author’s use of baseball language and lore. Stevens’ love of the game is evident, and he captures that in his writing. ‘The Fireballer’ is an ode to baseball.” - The Denver Post
(Jan. 22, 2023)
"This review cannot do justice for how much I enjoyed reading this book. Not just for the baseball, but for the various messages it tells about self-reflection and the care and compassion shown to Frank by those who either are close to him or whose thoughts were sought out by him. The book is just as big a winner as Frank’s won-loss record."
– The Guy Who Reviews Sports Books
[Full review here.]
"There is much to love in The Fireballer ... Stevens gives us a book to enjoy like it was the seventh game of the World Series and your team won."
- New York Journal of Books (E. Ethelbert Miller)
[Full review here.]
"The Fireballer is a lyrical, moving story by novelist Mark Stevens about the undeniable talent and the life-changing power of forgiveness. A subtly romantic ode to America's favorite pastime, The Fireballer will have a very special appeal for baseball enthusiasts, as well as readers with an interest in contemporary romance and Coming of Age stories." - Midwest Book Review
[Full review here.]
“Stevens’ writing is a love letter to baseball."
– Library Journal
"Brilliantly written in confident, crisp prose, The Fireballer is a compelling portrait of a baseball phenom running from his past. Stevens' latest is not only a paean to the game of baseball; it’s also a gripping tribute to the power of compassion and self-forgiveness. He brings grace and sensitivity to the smallest of moments, making The Fireballer a smart, perceptive, and wholly absorbing read to relish."
~Christine Carbo, author of A Sharp Solitude
"If you love books steeped in soul, with a story and characters so engaging you can't stop turning pages, then Mark Stevens' The Fireballer is for you. Sure, it's set in the world of baseball, and though I know people are passionate about the sport, I don't know an RBI from the FBI, but I absolutely love this book. Frank Ryder is the kind of decent, but flawed hero you'll root for from page one, forgiving him and yearning for his redemption. This book will make you believe in the goodness of humanity."
~Shannon Baker author of the Kate Fox Mystery Series
"Fleet and fun, The Fireballer will appeal to fans of The Natural and Robert Coover’s The Universal Baseball Association. Frank Ryder is a classic American hero—the phenom who has to overcome his own terrible past. Mark Stevens has done the impossible: He actually had me rooting for the Orioles."
— Stewart O’Nan, co-author of Faithful and author of Ocean State
“Seldom do I read a book that knocks my socks off the way the The Fireballer did. This is a feel-good baseball story with a hold on the vernacular, the heart, the soul, the big picture, and the subtleties of America’s favorite summer pastime. The characters are beautifully etched, and pitcher Frank Ryder may be the most likeable hero since Gary Cooper gave life to Lou Gehrig on the big screen. I guarantee that you don’t have to be a baseball fan to be swept up by this moving tale. With a full heart, I recommend—no, insist—that you read The Fireballer.”
— William Kent Krueger, author of Fox Creek and This Tender Land
“The Fireballer is not just a great baseball yarn that any fan of the game will enjoy – it is also a richly-layered exploration of character, regret, and redemption.”
— Lou Berney, author of November Road and The Long and Faraway Gone
“The Fireballer isn’t just about baseball. It’s about life, and loss, and what love can do. Mark Stevens shows not only a deep understanding of the game, but of human frailty and grace as well. This book is a true triumph."
— Claire Booth, award-winning journalist and critically-acclaimed author of the Hank Worth mysteries.
“Mark Steven’s The FIreballer is one for the ages. The subject matter is compelling: a tour de force Major League pitcher struggles to survive the world’s attention while battling demons of his own tragic past. But a story is only as good as its words, and Stevens unleashes a master class in narrative prowess here. This is lyrical, sumptuous, visceral writing. You will feel every nuance of Frank Ryder’s angst just as surely as you will hear the crack of the bat at the bottom of the ninth. And don’t be fooled thinking this is a story about baseball. It’s a story about the long road to redemption, and how to reconcile doing the thing you love when that same thing might destroy you. A must read.”
--Carter Wilson, USA Today bestselling author of Mister Tender’s Girl
"Ball Four was released the summer I was seventeen. I read it immediately, and a dozen times since. I’ve read The Natural and Shoeless Joe and Boys of Summer and Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever (Satchel Paige’s autobiography) and every baseball book that comes my way, and I predict that the The Fireballer will wind up not just at a movie theater near you, but in that top tier of all-time classics. Perfectly built to capture this moment in baseball history, where triple-digit pitch speeds threaten to overwhelm the game — and the business — of baseball."
— Brad Newsham, author of Free Ride: Mercy and Madness of the Streets of God’s Favorite City
"Baseball fans or not, readers will find themselves rooting for Frank Ryder. A once-in-a-generation phenom, beneath the spin of his nearly unhittable fastballs, he is a young man struggling to overcome a tragedy from his past. In The Fireballer, the storytelling power of Mark Stevens is on full display—this novel comes at readers with the same confident force as one of Ryder's pitches."
— Wendy J. Fox, author of If the The Ice Had Held andWhat If We Were Somewhere Else
"In fresh, evocative prose, Stevens spins a tale about a phenom baseball pitcher that transcends the genre of 'sports fiction.' Compelling and humane. Highly recommended."
— Karen Odden, USA Today bestselling author of the Inspector Corravan Mysteries
"Mark Stevens’ The Fireballer is a timeless baseball story told with a love of the game and fast-moving prose that will leave your cheering and crying at the same time. Frank Ryder is the most appealing of heroes, taciturn and loyal, talented, and haunted - truly haunted - and with a fastball that will change the game. With its authentic baseball scenes and its rich heart, The Fireballer is a novel that rests comfortably with other classics of the game."
— William Lashner, author of Freedom Road and The Barkeep
“With baseball as the backdrop, The Fireballer is a rich story that will have you rooting for Frank Ryder as he struggles with imprinted tragedies of his past. Don’t be dissuaded if you’re not a fan of baseball. The enjoyment of this novel comes from the talent of Mark Stevens and his craft of characters with depth and heart. The emotion is palpable and the story moving.” — Wendy Terrien, award-winning author of The Rampart Guards
"The Fireballer is more than a story of a freakishly talented baseball pitcher. It’s the story of a good man trapped in an industry that both reveres and despises his abilities, and disregards the emotional toll the game takes. While reading The Fireballer I could see the players scattered in the field, smell the beer and hot dogs at the stadium, and feel the whoosh of Frank Ryder’s fastball zooming past the batter. A truly great sports novel." — Stephanie Gayle, author of Idyll Threats
"As a casual baseball fan, this book managed to remind me of my love for the sport but not leave me in the dark with jargon. I instantly connected to Frank Ryder, whose journey of redemption and forgiveness had me immersed in the story well past my bedtime. The clean prose yet deep character moments that are Stevens’ trademark style really shine. I've been a fan of Mark Stevens’ books for many years, but The Fireballer is clearly that breakout book that has him at the top of his game. If you’re in a book club, this is the book that will be a fresh read to recommend."
— Fleur Bradley, author of the award-winning Midnight at the Barclay Hotel and Daybreak on Raven Island
"The old game of baseball keeps coming up with new stories about the next twist or turn in the sport. In The Fireballer, Mark Stevens has invented a startling 'What if?' that stretches the limits of the game. More than a baseball book, the novel is a journey through the mind and heart of a gifted, but tragic, athlete who finds a road to redemption."
— New York Times bestselling author Stephen Singular
“The Fireballer is a compelling story that I found hard to put down, rich with authentic baseball details and full of heart. Mark Stevens hits hit it out of the park with this intricate and moving tale of redemption.”
— Robert Bailey, Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Rich Blood, the Bocephus Haynes series, the McMurtrie & Drake Legal Thrillers series, and The Golfer’s Carol
“Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie…and heart. Pitcher phenom Frank Ryder’s heart is bigger than the game—as is his grief—and his fastball has the potential to transform or destroy both. As Mark Stevens divulges Ryder’s temptations and talent alongside the complexities of the sport, readers will find themselves captivated by a world-class athlete’s regrets and life choices in The Fireballer.”
—Janet Fogg, award-winning author of Soliloquy and coauthor of the best seller Fogg in the Cockpit
”The Fireballer goes straight into my pantheon of great baseball writing, alongside The Brothers K (David James Duncan), The Art of Fielding (Chad Harbach), You Gotta Have Wa (Robert Whiting), and the many treasures by Roger Angell. Mark Stevens’s ability to get 'inside baseball' – while telling a moving human story – is both astounding and worthy of readers of all interests and tastes.”
— John Galligan, author of the Bad Axe County novels
"You don't have to know baseball to love The Fireballer. At the center of this big-hearted book is Frank Ryder, a star pitcher tormented by a mistake in his past. Readers root for Frank not for his fastball, but because his redemption delivers us all."
— Stephanie Kane, award- winning mystery writer and author of the forthcoming True Crime Redux
“Mark Stevens has crafted a powerful, heartfelt story - with a memorable baseball backdrop - that carves out a place alongside classics like The Art of Fielding and The Natural. Stevens knows the game - but it's his deft narrative and characters that help this book truly sing. I couldn’t put it down.”
— Alex Segura, bestselling author of Secret Identity
“Mark Stevens pitches a perfect strike with The Fireballer! The nuanced insights into the game of baseball elevate the character story at the heart of this novel. With so many juicy elements to discuss, it would make for an excellent book club read!”
— Kate Lansing, author of the Colorado Wine Mystery Series
“In The Fireballer, Mark Stevens may have invented a new sub-genre: the emotional thriller. As Frank Ryder journeys to the source of both his phenomenal talent and his psychic pain, I couldn’t stop turning pages. And when he earns his redemption? Reader, I cried. Love, loss, and ultimate triumph—this book delivers at 110 miles per hour.”
—Keir Graff, author of The Three Mrs. Wrights (writing with Linda Joffe Hull as Linda Keir)
"Brimming with humanity, The Fireballer is a richly imagined tale of the modern American pastime with a heart as big as center field. Pure storytelling genius."
— Scott Graham, winner of the National Outdoor Book Award and author of Saguaro Sanction
"The Fireballer is about a baseball pitcher, sure. The way The Natural is about a bat and Shoeless Joe is about a corn field. But this many-layered tale deeply considers hope, fear, love, grief, and change, all through the prism of our beautiful national pastime. The writing is heartfelt and gorgeous. The Fireballer struck me out. Looking."
— Richard Cass, author of the Elder Darrow Jazz Mysteries and The Last Altruist