This week’s other featured books, “Raking the Dust,” by John Biscello and “What the Mouth Was Made for,” by Katherine Riegel, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.
THE BOOK: The Ringer
PUBLISHED IN: 2011
THE AUTHOR: Jenny Shank
THE EDITOR: Judith Shepard of the Permanent Press
THE PUBLISHER: The Permanent Press in New York.
SUMMARY: The Ringer tells the story of Patricia Maestas, the Mexican-American wife of a Mexican immigrant killed by police, and Ed O’Fallon, the officer who shot her husband, whose sons end up playing in the same competitive youth baseball league in Denver.
THE BACK STORY: The Ringer is my first novel to be published. The story is fiction, but it was inspired by two strands of my upbringing. I grew up in Denver during the city’s era of court-ordered busing for racial integration. I attended schools that were either predominantly Mexican-American or predominantly black, and I draw on that experience for my characters and setting. The Ringer was also inspired by growing up immersed in youth competitive baseball culture. I think I spent half my childhood on baseball fields. I was a pretty good softball catcher–I made the All-City Denver team one year. My brother was an excellent baseball player, as were other members of my family. (My cousin became a professional baseball player and is currently the head pitching coach for the Chicago Cubs.) I wanted to write a story that conveyed the intensity of that subculture.
WHY THIS TITLE: I originally called my novel Mile High, after my home town of Denver, where it’s set. My agent and editor didn’t like the title, so we came up with this. I like this title now because it refers to Ray Maestas, the young pitcher at the heart of my story, who I feel represents the hope at the center of a bleak series of events.
WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: I wanted to write a book that would capture my hometown, Denver, and that would respond to a police shooting that divided the community. I tried to write a story that didn’t cast blame, but instead treated everyone involved in the situation with love, respect, and generosity.
“Shank’s first at-bat as a novelist is a hit.” – Kirkus Reviews
“An entertaining and suspenseful tale with a compelling climax.” – Library Journal
“Shank debuts promisingly with this dramatic story that barrels toward a well-handled climax.” – Publishers Weekly
“Newbie novelist Jenny Shank knocks it out of the park with her first book, The Ringer.” – 5280 Magazine
“The Ringer is a quintessential American story that deftly and compassionately examines the nuances of race, culture, and religion in contemporary society—and it does so with heart, wit, and playfulness.” – Image Journal
“Every first novel has the potential to seize the interest of a wide readership when it combines these elements: a young baseball player seeking solace on the field for the loss of a father killed by police in a botched drug raid; a veteran Denver police officer (and baseball coach) scarred by a life-ending and life-changing split-second decision; and the women-mother/widow and the wife-who seek to move forward with their lives. Add to the mix a fragile history of urban ethnic discord, rivalry and then unity in a common pursuit, and the fact that no truth ever remains hidden. The result is an entertaining and suspenseful tale with a compelling climax. For diamond fans and those who enjoy a well-written contemporary novel.-G.R.”
“Salvador Santillano dies on the shabby bedroom floor of a suspected drug lair, shot by Ed O’Fallon, a police officer: a by-the-book SWAT raid at the wrong address.
More died that day than an innocent man. Gone is reconciliation between the hardworking Santillano and his dedicated wife, Patricia, a nurse. Patricia has been dismayed by Salvador’s unbending attachment to his family in Mexico, and his refusal to stop sending money there. The shooting also may have killed O’Fallon’s career. It certainly wounded his emotional stability and his family life. And then there is the city of Denver, with Hispanic activists suspecting the shooting was racially motivated. Shank gets into the head of the hard-charging police officer and uncovers his anxieties, and she draws Patricia as a proud woman fearful that her pride contributed to Salvador’s death. That death and its aftermath are the bricks of the story, but the game of baseball drives the narrative. Both families are involved in youth leagues. Ed has been relegated to girl’s T-ball because he grew too intense coaching boys. However, his sons, Jesse and E.J., play on a championship team, and Salvador’s son, Ray, is a coveted pitching prodigy. As the season progresses, Ray, using his mother’s maiden name, ends up pitching as a “ringer” for the O’Fallon boys’ team in state and regional games. Patricia realizes early that the O’Fallons are involved, but she realizes too that baseball, Salvador’s passion and Ray’s love, might save her son from being seduced into street-gang life. Ray’s precarious hold on his own emotions falters when he discovers the man who killed his father watching from the bleachers. While some may think O’Fallon deserved one more chapter, considering the depth of his transformation, the author carries her novel to a believable conclusion, with skillful tightening of the emotional tension along the way.
Shank’s first at-bat as a novelist is a hit.”
The Onion A.V. Club:
“Good writing is about making the right choices. In The Ringer, first-time novelist Jenny Shank displays an unerring sense of direction while steering her book through rugged emotional terrain with a deft touch and obvious skill…She succeeds by avoiding the cheap plot devices, emotional pandering, and easy answers that plague even more seasoned writers. Instead, she delivers an excellent novel in her first at bat.” – Eric Hevenor
“Shank debuts promisingly with the dramatic story of two families upended by an accidental police shooting. Denver police officer Ed O’Fallon is wracked with guilt after he guns down a man during a drug raid; Patricia Maestas, meanwhile, is instantly made a widow and single mother. Their narratives are equally engaging: as Ed’s marriage buckles under the weight of his feelings of guilt, Patricia struggles to keep her 12-year-old son, Ray, out of trouble. What keeps Ray off the streets is baseball–the same sport Ed’s sons are devoted to. When an investigation reveals the warrant for the fateful raid had the wrong address, Patricia and her family become a symbol of the wrongs suffered by the Latino community. The novel comes to a full boil after Patricia and Ed discover one another’s identities through their sons’ baseball teams…The narrative finds its groove…and barrels toward a well-handled climax.”
“Newbie novelist Jenny Shank knocks it out of the park (pun intended) with her first book, The Ringer. The dramatic story, set against the backdrop of a Little League championship, follows two Denver families from different cultures–opposing teams off the field, but teammates during the game–who are forced to deal with the tragic repercussions of a deadly mistake. Shank has a knack for writing prose that’s both artful and detailed, and is bound to have a rewarding career as a novelist: This book was a semifinalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.” – Anna Bergquist
Dallas Morning News:
“Shank’s portrayal of O’Fallon is compelling and believable. She builds a tight, palpable tension between him and his wife as he tries to keep it together after the shooting. And the author shines when talking baseball, as in this scene about Ray: ‘Then the ump told him he had three pitches left and he started to throw heaters, pitches that whistled into the catcher’s mitt with a snap. You’d need a real right fielder for this kid, someone who could sprint well enough to snap foul pop-ups — you couldn’t use it as a filler position because if any right-handed batter managed to make contact they’d likely be behind it and send the ball off down the first base line.’
Ray, with his dead father and his dreams of baseball, emerges as the most compelling of the characters. You can’t help but root for him.”
Boulder Daily Camera:
“The novel seamlessly weaves the two characters’ tales together through alternating chapters, highlighting their respective emotions as division engulfs the city… It’s a compelling story that explores cultural and economic divisions, even as it makes clear they can be bridged through the most unexpected of circumstances.”
Cathy Langer, lead buyer, Tattered Cover Book Store, interviewed on Colorado Public Radio about her summer reading recommendations:
“I’d like to recommend The Ringer. It’s a new novel by Jenny Shank, it’s her first novel. It takes place in contemporary Denver. It’s the story of two families. One is the family of a police officer who kills a man in a no-knock raid—they’ve gone to the wrong address and an innocent man is shot down by the police. It’s the story of the two families, what happens to them, how they end up meeting through their sons’ baseball. It’s wonderfully written, and you really see a lot of Denver in it. She knows Denver well, and there are a lot of landmarks in it that you’ll recognize, and there’s also a lot of baseball. So if you’re a baseball fan you’ll enjoy reading this one. It works very well because it deals with true life and with what families do and how they carry on after tragedy, and it’s a really beautiful story.”
Jonathan Evison, author of West of Here, writing for the Algonquin Authors’ Favorite Books of 2011 Blog:
“As good as Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding is (and I wrote a blurb for it which started with the word “spectacular”), The Ringer may be even better. Like Harbach’s Fielding, baseball serves only as a framing device for this promising debut about such durable American themes as race, class, and family.”
“The Ringer by Jenny Shank is a fine first novel and a great read for fans of baseball, presenting fast-paced action with lots of heart thrown in…As it reaches the explosive climax, this skillfully paced story presents a superb balance between a driven plot and the deeper connections underlying vengeance, anger and redemption.
In addition to creating a gripping set of events, Shank asks us to consider that, in the end, passion, commitment and heroism can apply to parenthood and the career of a dedicated policeman as well as to baseball. In this affecting novel, there is no such thing as a routine play.” – Kate Manley
Jenny Shank grew up in Denver, Colorado, and earned degrees from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Colorado. Her novel The Ringer (The Permanent Press, 2011) won the High Plains Book Award in fiction, was a finalist for the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association’s Reading the West Book Awards, was a Tattered Cover Book Store Summer Reading 2011 selection, and was a finalist for the Book Pipeline competition.
Her stories, essays, satire, and reviews have appeared in The Atlantic, The Guardian, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Onion, Poets & Writers Magazine, Bust Magazine, Prairie Schooner, Alaska Quarterly Review,Michigan Quarterly Review, The Toast, Barrelhouse, High Country News, PBS MediaShift, The Rumpus, 5280, The Huffington Post and The McSweeney’s Book of Politics and Musicals (Vintage, 2012). One of her stories was listed among the “Notable Essays of the Year” in the Best American Essays, three of her stories were nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and one received Special Mention in the 2018 Pushcart Prize anthology. She’s won writing awards from the Center of the American West, the Montana Committee for the Humanities, SouthWest Writers, and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund.
Jenny Shank was the Denver/Boulder Editor of The Onion A.V. Club for six years, and for four years she was the Books & Writers Editor of New West, which was named “Best Literary Blog” in the Westword Best of Denver issue. She was a Mullin Scholar in writing at the University of Southern California. She has taught creative writing at the University of Colorado, the Lighthouse Writers Workshop, and the Boulder Writing Studio, and she is on the faculty of the Mile High MFA at Regis University in Denver. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and son.
SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link). There was one up, but it looks like it’s no longer online—I think you can see a few pages on Amazon.
LOCAL OUTLETS: Signed copies of The Ringer are in stock and available at a discount at Book Bar in Denver. You can also ask for it at the Tattered Cover:
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT:
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: www.JennyShank.com
Or @jennyshank on Twitter.