The Bridgeport Hammer
by Jonathan Weeks
“As you would have the right to expect from any book about a baseball-playing spy narrated by the all-time record holder for most passed balls in a single game, The Bridgeport Hammer is a delight. Jonathan Weeks’ tale of baseball during wartime lovingly gets all the details of the old ballgame right, and does so while spiriting the reader through a fascinating tale of journeymen, espionage, and one unforgettably goofy pitch. Add “the bumpus” of the mysterious rookie Emmett Drexler to the great notions in baseball lore, and add The Bridgeport Hammer to your shelf of baseball classics.” – Josh Wilker, author of Cardboard Gods
I headed down the runway to the locker room below, which was dimly lit and smelled of stale sweat. It didn’t take me long to locate the lush. He was sitting on a bench in the corner amidst a pile of empty beer bottles. I was instantly torn between sympathy and disgust. Bradley had been one of the premier sluggers of the 1930s. He had graced the covers of magazines, appeared on billboards and had even been to the White House for dinner. Now he was little more than a street bum. Worse yet, he seemed to be hurrying his own decline, as if he just wanted his career to be over with. When I thought of all the guys who would never find success in the majors despite years of hard work, I couldn’t help feeling a little resentful of him.
“Jesus, Huck, you couldn’t wait until after the game?”
I tried not to sound bitter, but doubt I pulled it off. Bradley sat up on the bench all glassy-eyed.
“What’s the difference? They’re not gonna play me anyway.”
“Wrong,” I told him. “Hell just froze over. Two on and two out in the ninth. Skip wants you to hit.”
“You have to. Especially tonight. Everyone is counting on you.”
“Who cares? You think I don’t know what people say about me? A few years ago, I was sitting on top of the world. Now I’m a joke. Everyone loves you when you’re knocking ‘em outta the park. When you’re not, you’re just a sorry sack-a-shit.”
I felt for him. I really did. Every ballplayer knows there will come a time when he just can’t cut it anymore. But there were far more graceful ways to go out than the path Bradley had chosen.
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself,” I scolded him. “It’s time to spit in the face of anyone who ever doubted you. You know as well as I do that you deserve to be in a better place right now. Show ‘em that they’re wrong about you. Prove it to yourself.”
He stared at me for a long moment with a blank expression. I wasn’t sure if I had reached him. You could hear the fans above clamoring for something to happen. Finally, Bradley climbed to his feet and shuffled past me toward the runway. He patted me once on the shoulder as he did.
Thank you for answering these questions for Room With Books. I know your time is in great demand during a tour and I appreciate your willingness to let our readers get to know you better!
Please tell me about The Bridgeport Hammerand what inspired you to write it?
The Bridgeport Hammer is a sports drama/spy thriller hybrid set during World War II. Constructed as a fantasy baseball memoir, it follows the exploits of U.S. counter-intelligence agent Emmett Drexler as he attempts to foil a Nazi assassination plot against President Roosevelt at the 1942 All-Star Game. I’ve published three non-fiction books about baseball and have always found the war era to be particularly fascinating. Though the names have all been changed, fans of the sport will recognize many of the players in my novel as composites of real people.
When you start writing a new novel, do you outline the story or do your characters dictate what will happen?
I always start with the essential plot in place. I usually have a pretty good idea who the major characters are. Other characters develop on their own as the work progresses. Since a number of my characters are unplanned, there are usually story arcs that I didn’t anticipate at the beginning of the project.
Do you ever have arguments with your characters and who usually wins?
There’s no arguing, but we don’t always get along very well. Writing fiction is always a bit of an adventure for me. I often find that my characters don’t behave in a way that is becoming of them. I have to hammer them into shape.
What is something about you your readers would be surprised to know?
I have an awful fear of public speaking that developed during high school. I’ve never been able to fully get a grip on it. I still can’t bring myself to do presentations. I don’t mind meeting readers in a one on one scenario, but to be up in front of groups of people—that just freaks me out.
If you could write with any other author who would it be any why?
As I said during my Mudville Madness book tour, I would really like to sit with a retired ballplayer—one of the old-timers—and help write his memoirs. I have always had a deep respect for the game’s history. Though I currently follow baseball, I have never tried to hide my belief that the game was more interesting many years ago.
When you were little what did you dream of becoming when you grew up and why?
My aspirations changed as I grew older. When I was really young, I wanted to be an astronomer. When I realized that it entailed using math, I set my sights on becoming a pro baseball player or a comic book artist. Whenever something interested me, I tried my own hand at it. My love of movies prompted me to write screenplays. My passion for rock music inspired me to play guitar. I never became immensely talented at any of those things, but I did become a published author.
When did you decide to write and what prompted you to start?
I grew up in a creative household. My mother made her own arts and crafts. My father held various jobs in the media. He was a TV weatherman and a radio talk show host among other things. Both of my parents encouraged me to be imaginative and to find outlets for my creativity. My earliest projects were crudely drawn comic books. I wrote several scenes for a school play in fourth grade. As the years wore on, I kept writing. (I’m pretty sure I got a little better at it over time.)
What music inspires your writing?
I like all kinds of music, but I don’t listen to it when I’m writing. I just can’t concentrate on both at once. I’m one of those guys who actually pays attention to song lyrics. I feel that if a musician pours his or her heart into a song, I should listen to the message.
What is your favorite breakfast? I do try to eat healthy, but if I had my choice, I’d eat bacon and sausage every morning. I usually have cereal instead. What is your favorite color? Green—the color of summer. What is your favorite movie? I can’t settle on just one. My favorite baseball movie is A League of Their Own. There are so many great characters and classic lines in that one. What is your dream car? A flying Delorean with a flux capacitor.
How can our readers find you?
I appreciate your time today and for allowing Room With Books to be part of your tour.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Weeks spent thirty-eight years in the Capital District region of New York State. He obtained a degree in psychology from SUNY Albany. In 2004, he migrated to Malone, New York, and has continued to gripe about the frigid winter temperatures ever since. A member of the Society for American Baseball Research, he has authored two non-fiction books on the topic of baseball: Cellar Dwellers and Gallery of Rogues. His first novel, The Bridgeport Hammer, (a baseball story set during the WWII era) is being released in the summer of 2014. He writes about the game because he lacked the skills to play it professionally. He still can’t hit a curveball or lay off the high heat.
Check out his “Cellar Dwellers” blog at: jonathanweeks.blogspot.com
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