First edition cover
|April 10, 2012 (hardcover)|
March 26, 2013 (paperback)
|Preceded by||The Litigators|
|Followed by||The Racketeer|
The book's style mixes fact and fiction - introducing fictional players into well-known actual teams such as the New York Mets and the Chicago Cubs and lets them interact with actual people such as Yogi Berra, and letting dramatic fictional Baseball matches take place in actual stadiums.
- Warren Tracey, 34-year-old pitcher New York Mets pitcher. He abuses alcohol, his wife, and his son. He is also known for hitting opposing batters and has a high enough opinion of himself to believe he was snubbed for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
- Paul Tracey, Warren's 11-year-old son. He is a modestly skilled Little League Baseball player and huge baseball fan.
- Joe Castle (known as "Calico Joe"), a promising 21-year-old rookie Chicago Cubs first baseman from Calico Rock, Arkansas who has posted career statistics of 21 home runs in 38 games and a career batting average of .488. He is a man of extreme virtue, who donates his signing bonus to a variety of charities.
- NB: Ages above are as of 1973
Author Grisham once dreamed of a career as a professional baseball player for the St. Louis Cardinals. This, his first baseball novel, is about a beanball that ends the career of a promising player . The novel is inspired by the real-life story of Ray Chapman, the only professional baseball player killed by a pitch. The book was also inspired by some of Grisham's personal baseball experience; as noted in the forward, when a teenager Grisham played baseball, and developed a dislike of aggressive, bad-mannered pitchers; at the age of 19, Grisham saw a ball flying very near to his face, at the speed of about ninety miles per hour - and quit the game, promptly and permanently.
Grisham's novel involves a nearly fatal pitch thrown in August 24, 1973 and its implications 30 years later on both the batter, "Calico Joe" Castle, and the pitcher as narrated by Paul Tracey, the 11-year-old son of New York Mets pitcher Warren Tracey.
Castle starts his career with home runs in his first three Major League Baseball at bats as well as hits in his first 15 plate appearances and is able to keep his batting average over .500 for the first six weeks of his season. In a late-summer visit to Shea Stadium, Castle hits a home run in his first at-bat against Warren. Paul Tracey is a huge fan of Castle's. Castle's career is ended later in the game when Warren intentionally hits him with a pitch. Castle goes into a prolonged coma, suffers a stroke and is incapacitated for life, his ball-playing days definitely over. The Traceys become estranged and Paul does not watch another baseball game for 30 years.
When Warren Tracey is on the verge of death from pancreas cancer, Paul Tracey decided to try to arrange a meeting between him and Castle. That is far from easy. Paul visits Joe's hometown of Calico Rock, Arkansas, where the incapacitated Joe lives, devotedly tending the town's baseball field and being supported by his two brothers. The sympathetic editor of the local Calico paper tells Paul that Joe hardly ever talks to any strangers - much less would he speak to Warren Tracey, who destroyed his career. In fact, there is a concrete danger of Warren being physically assaulted, should he appear in Calico - the townspeople still angry at what he did to their hero. And going to Florida, where Warren Tracey had retired with fifth wife, Paul finds his long-estranged father as egoistic and vindictive as ever - reiterating , as he did for thirty years, that his hitting Joe Castle was an accident, that he had nothing to apologize for and that he had no interest in meeting Joe.
However, at the very last moment before cancer would make him unable to move, Warren has a change of heart. He does travel to Calico, and Joe does consent to meet him. In a moment of sincerity, Warren admits to having deliberately hit Joe out of pure spite and offers an apology, asking "Do you hate me?" To which Joe answers "No, you have apologized". Warren then says "You are a greater man than me" and the two shake hands.
Having brought about such a startling reconciliation between the old foes, Warren Tracey and Joe Castle, Paul Tracey finds himself unable to himself reach a similar closure with his father - too many memories of abuse blocking his way. When saying goodbye to his dying father, knowing he would never see him again, Paul is unable to offer the embrace his father hoped for at this last moment.
After Warren's death, Joe Castle and his brothers surprisingly turn up at the sparsely-attended funeral in Florida. When Warren's will is opened, it turns out that he had left $25,000 to the baseball field of the town of Calico - tending which is Joe's last link with the world of baseball.
Calico Joe debuted at number 1 on the April 29, 2012 The New York Times Best Seller list in the Hardcover Fiction category for the week ending April 14, 2012. The book also debuted atop the Publishers Weekly best-seller list for the week of April 19. Calico Joe only debuted at number 6 on the April 19 USA Today best seller list. It debuted at number 3 on The Wall Street Journal's April 15 Hardcover Fiction Best Seller list.
According to Bob Minzesheimer of Gannett News Service "In baseball terms, Calico Joe is...like a pleasant, mid-season afternoon at the ballpark, when the home team slowly rallies and wins." In contrast to the typical Grisham novel that is "full of twists and turns and tension", this novel is "a sweet, simple story" according to The Washington Post's Steven V. Roberts. Roberts describes the novel as a fable with a moral that "Good can come out of evil; it’s never too late to confess your sins and seek forgiveness." The story is also about relationships, such as the Castle brothers', and the Father-son Tracey relationship, and the relationship between Joe and his hometown community. According to Glenn C. Altschuler for The Oregonian, Calico Joe "...is not a great baseball novel. But it, too, uses America's national pastime to search for moral and cultural truths." Altschuler notes that "As a ballplayer and as a person, Joe Castle is too good to be true." On the other hand, he also notes that "Warren Tracey, by contrast, is too bad to be interesting." Altschuler opines that the ending "isn't all that credible".
- Minzesheimer, Bob (April 19, 2012). "John Grisham's 'Calico Joe' slides to No. 6 on book list". USA Today. Retrieved April 26, 2012.
- Minzesheimer, Bob (April 15, 2012). "Review: 'Calico Joe' by John Grisham". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved April 26, 2012.
- Roberts, Steven R. (April 6, 2012). "John Grisham's 'Calico Joe'". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 26, 2012.
- Altschuler, Glenn C. (April 21, 2012). "'Calico Joe' review: Grisham swings, misses with a baseball tale of redemption". The Oregonian. Retrieved April 27, 2012.
- "Best Sellers: April 29, 2012". The New York Times. April 29, 2012. Retrieved April 22, 2012.
- "Grisham's "Calico Joe" debuts at top of bestsellers". Publishers Weekly. April 19, 2012. Retrieved April 26, 2012.
- "Best-Selling Books". USA Today. April 19, 2012. Retrieved April 26, 2012.
- "Best-Selling Books, Week Ended April 15". The Wall Street Journal. April 15, 2012. Retrieved April 26, 2012.