Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (October 8, 2013)
Sandra Neil Wallace’s debut historical fiction novel Muckers (Random House/Knopf; October 2013; ($16.99 U.S./$18.99 CAN.), is based on the true story of the 1950 Jerome Muckers football team and the championship season that rallied an Arizona town together and turned tragedy into a triumph.
The inspiring yet heartbreaking novel delves deep into the rocky terrain of a racially-divided town and a team whose world is suddenly upended, widening the rift between Anglos and Mexican Americans forced to choose between cohesion or rebellion.
Red O’Sullivan’s world is crumbling around him: the mine that employs most of town is on the brink of closing, threatening to shutter the entire town. Red will be part of the final graduating class of Hatley High School, but he’s got his own burdens to bear: his older brother, Bobby, died in the war, and he’s been struggling to follow in his footsteps ever since. That means assuming Bobby’s old position as quarterback, and leading the last-ever Muckers team to the championship. Maybe then his angry, broken-hearted father will acknowledge him, and they’ll be able to put Bobby’s death behind them.
While the Muckers are racially-united, their town is divided. Anglos live near the top of the mountain and Mexican Americans down below—where Red’s best friend Cruz lives, and Angie, who Red longs to be with. When the Communist scare threatens to tear the team apart, Red and the hardscrabble Muckers must find a way to go undefeated and win the state title.
Unforgettable characters fighting to make their mark on the field and in the world combine for a period novel that will spark dialogue on this timely subject.
“A richly textured portrayal of a small town coping with the economic, political and racial realities of post–World War II America. … Distinctive characters and finely drawn specifics of locale and landscape set this football story apart.”–Kirkus
“Wallace, a former ESPN correspondent, captures a vivid sense of atmosphere and well-wrought characters, all while showcasing balls-to-the-wall football action.” –Booklist
“A raw, funny, powerful love story–about a place, about a time, about a way of life. It lets you fly, and it breaks your heart.” –Chris Crutcher, bestselling author of Ironman and Whale Talk
Former ESPN sportscaster Sandra Neil Wallace discovered the story while doing research in the Arizona mining town of Jerome. Within a box of memorabilia donated by the school’s last principal, she found a trove of heartfelt letters from students. They told of racial tensions still relevant today, the impact of the closing of the mine and the school, and the former students’ experiences with World War II and Korea.
The letters also put Wallace on the trail of an incredible sports story. As the smallest team in Arizona–and one of the few that included both white players and Mexican Americans–the 1950 Muckers played on a field made of gravelly slag cast off by the mine’s smelter. They battled through an undefeated season that included the sudden death of their coach, to become champions. The school closed months later, so the season was mostly forgotten.
“The story would have remained buried in the hearts of the few Muckers players who are still alive and scattered like tumbleweeds across desert towns if I hadn’t opened that box,” says Ms. Wallace.
But Muckers is more than a football story. It is also a love story and a tale of deep friendship, bitter divisions, and economic hardship in a town that simply refused to die when the mine from which it drew its lifeblood shut down.
The novel is set in fictional Hatley, but finds its inspiration in the real mining town of Jerome. Wallace interviewed former players, sifted through hundreds of newspaper articles, and spent countless hours on location in the abandoned high school, the mining area, and the winding streets of the mile-high tourist town.
For fifteen years, Sandra Neil Wallace was a news anchor and ESPN sportscaster before writing novels. After the publication of her first book Little Joe, she was named an outstanding newcomer to the children’s literature scene by the Horn Book. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband, author Rich Wallace. Visit Sandra at www.sandraneilwallace.com and on Facebook and Twitter.
Watch for the Muckers book trailer later this month!
Sandra Neil Wallace’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:
Monday, October 28th: A Blighted One
Tuesday, October 29th: Seaside Book Nook
Wednesday, October 30th: Knowing the Difference
Monday, November 4th: No More Grumpy Bookseller – review
Monday, November 4th: No More Grumpy Bookseller – author guest post
Tuesday, November 5th: Teena in Toronto
Thursday, November 7th: Reading Lark
Monday, November 11th: Fiction Addict
Tuesday, November 12th: Sarah’s Book Shelves
Friday, November 15th: The Daily Mayo
Monday, November 18th: Lavish Bookshelf
Wednesday, November 20th: Books a la Mode
Monday, November 25th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, December 3rd: Sweet Southern Home