Title: The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant
Author: Douglass Wallop
What it's about: Joe Boyd, a middle-aged fan of the Washington Senators baseball team, is depressed because his life has never amounted to anything much. All he has is his wife, his job as a real estate salesman, and his devotion to his baseball team - a team that's notorious for losing. One night, Joe is approached by a fellow who calls himself Applegate and who offers Joe a chance to save the Senators and help them win the pennant from the Yankees by becoming young again and playing for the team himself. Joe agrees, but with a condition. He wants an escape clause built into his contract with the devil. Only if Joe renounces the contract at a certain time will he be able to return to his old life. Joe becomes Joe Hardy, a young, talented ballplayer, and at first everything seems to be swell, but as anyone familiar with Faustian tales like this one knows, an infernal deal always has its downsides, and soon Joe has to face them.
What I thought: This here is the novel that the musical Damn Yankees is based on, and since I've been researching musicals again lately, I thought I'd give it a read. Despite being an older book, this is a solid story. Joe is an everyman sort of protagonist, the kind of normal fellow anyone can identify with, but he's not pathetic, not a Homer Simpson type. Joe's good enough at what he does, and he and his wife have a good life - things are just stuck in a rut. And you can see Joe's good qualities throughout the course of the novel, which makes him a likable fellow. Applegate is our antagonist, and he's everything a devil should be, very smooth and ruthless, with other quirks besides, like his gluttony (although I suppose that since gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, it shouldn't be so surprising). Lola was a character who seemed to have a good amount of depth and importance, but, and this could have been my fault in the reading, she didn't seem to get the development she needed. Or, well, she got what she needed, but I still thought she could have had more... Just, I thought more could have been done with her. But, you know, this is a fun book, and now I'm curious to see how the musical adaptation looks. I've got the cast recording, the libretto, and the motion picture version all on order from my library.
Overall: A light, easy read that'll keep you entertained for an hour or two.