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We've been fans of Harry Turtledove and his alternative histories since Guns of the South, which was in the original box of books I sent to the Other Brother in Bosnia, the birth of BrothersJudd. That fun novel featured Afrikaaners traveling back in time to supply the Confederacy with AK-47s, seeking to tilt the balance opf power in the Civil War so the South African apartheid regime would have an ally in the future. Since then, Mr. Turtledove has extended that series and written alternative takes on two world wars, among his many books.

House of Daniel does offer a skewed take on history but it is clearly a labor of love and that love, which we share, is for baseball. Borrowing freely from the real life House of David, a religious sect which fielded a barn-storming baseball team seeded with ringers, the author creates the House of Daniel and has his hero, Jack Spivey, hide out under the team's whiskers, playing centerfield, after being forced to flee his team in Enid, OK after not doing the bidding of a local hoodlum. Spivey had been forced to take on such work to supplement his meager salary in a 1934 America that is mired in Depression following the bursting of the Big Bubble. And, as if that weren't bad enough, magical creatures--vampires, zombies, wizards, even chupacabras--have come out of hiding and live openly in the population, zombies having taken over most menial labor jobs.

All of this is really just a set-up for Mr. Turtledove to send the team on a tour around the Western United States of the '30s, from Enid through the Southwest, Northwest and on to California. A thinly-disguised Satchel Paige signs on with the team for a Denver Post Tournament, where the Daniels take on a likewise transparent Josh Gibson and the Homestead Grays. Other teams play town ball or industrial league or are semi-pro. Each game is lovingly described by a writer who knows everything from the butcher boy to the hidden ball trick. And he seems to have done copious research on the leagues of the time.

On the other hand, the who fantasy angle is pretty much left dormant. There's a zombie riot while the team is in Denver, witch doctor/juju men sometimes try to jinx the side during games and there's a funny turn with a bigfoot who likes pancakes, but they're very tangential to the plot. Nor does he capitalize on the fascinating nature of the original House of David. [see The Righteous Remnant : The House of David by Robert S. Fogarty] We hardly learn anything about the beliefs of the House of Daniel. He could as easily have made this a straightforward historical baseball novel without losing anything in the process.

That said, the baseball book within is really terrific and every fan of the game and the author will enjoy it.


Grade: (A-)


See also:

Sports (Baseball)
Harry Turtledove Links:

    -AUTHOR SITE: Harry Turtledove (SF Site)
    -AUTHOR PAGE: Harry Turtledove (MacMillan)
    -WIKIPEDIA: Harry Turtledove
    -BOOK SITE: The Chronicle of Theophanes Anni mundi 6095-6305 (A.D. 602-813) Edited and translated by Harry Turtledove (University of Pennsylvania Press)
    -BOOK SITE: THe House of Daniel by Harry Turtledove (MacMillan)
    -BOOK TRAILER: The House of Daniel by Harry Turtledove (Youtube)
    -GOOGLE BOOK: The House of Daniel
    -WIKIPEDIA : Guns of the South
    -FAQ: Harry Turtledove : Frequently Asked Questions (Steven Silver)
    -PROFILE: Harry's War of the Worlds: Harry Turtledove's 'alternate histories' have a noble lineage, with echoes in works as popular as this summer's movie blockbuster 'Independence Day' (Jerusalem Report)
    -ESSAY: How The House of Daniel Happened (Harry Turtledove)
I’d known for years that he was the same kind of obsessive baseball fan I am. One of his stories is about stickball, the great New York kids’ game. And his essay, “My Last Heroes,” is a paean to Warren Spahn and Georges Brassens. I don’t play the guitar or have quite enough French to appreciate Brassens the way Peter does, but Warren Spahn I get. He was still rolling along, still racking up twenty wins a year, when I became a fan, ten years after Peter did.

So I asked him about “My Last Heroes,” and that got us started. Being older than I am, and growing up on the East Coast, he got to see so many of the wonderful ballparks I’ve just read about: the real Yankee Stadium, Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds, Forbes Field in Pittsburgh (I have been to Fenway Park, by Crom!). My own first baseball hero was Steve Bilko, lumbering first baseman on the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League. He was an indifferent big-league, but boy, did he tear up the PCL from 1955 to 1957. He played in L.A.’s Wrigley Field, a small ballyard ideally suited to him, and, with the closest major-league teams half a continent away before 1958, the PCL was a very big deal out West. It was a wonderful evening for me, and I hope for him, too, and it left me with baseball on the brain.

I had so much baseball on the brain, in fact, that I thought, I need to write something about this. I came up with a protagonist, a semipro ballplayer down on his luck, during the 1930s, when the whole country was down on its luck. If he got in trouble with a local tough guy, how could he take it on the lam? I thought of the real House of David, the church that supported a touring semipro baseball team. If I transposed my hero into a world not quite like ours, a world where magic worked, and if I transposed the real House of David into a fictional House of Daniel fixated on that book in the Old Testament (and you can fixate on Daniel—it’s almost as out there as Revelations), maybe my guy could find a way to hook on with them. Maybe. And that’s how The House of Daniel came to be. Thank you, Peter!

    -SHORT STORY: The House That George Built (Harry Turtledove, Jun 23, 2009, Tor)
    -INTERVIEW: Harry Turtledove Interview (Dag R. · Jun 19th, 2015, SF World)
    -Interview: Harry Turtledove (Matt Mitrovich March 24, 2015, Amazing Stories)
    -ESSAY: Why I Write: Harry Turtledove (Harry Turtledove, Apr 11, 2011, Publishers Weekly)
    -ESSAY: Turtledove on Rails, or, Some Thoughts on Alternative Histories (James C. Bennett, November 13, 2005)
-ARTICLE: Scifi author spoils his entire book series for terminally ill fan (Cyriaque Lamar, 2/23/12 , i09)
    -REVIEW: of The House of Daniel by Harry Turtledove (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of House of Daniel (Steven Silver)
    -REVIEW: of Hose of Daniel (S. Jardine, Arched Doorway)
    -REVIEW: of House of Daniel (Book Wraiths)
    -REVIEW: of House of Daniel (Article 94)
    -REVIEW: of House of Daniel (Maine Edge)
    -REVIEW: of Guns of the South (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Guns of the South (Chris Nuttall, Alternate History Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Guns of the South (Jo Walton,
    -REVIEW: of Guns of the South (Keith Harris History)
    -REVIEW: of Guns of the South (Joseph Kaminski)
    -REVIEW: of Last Orders by Harry Turtledove (Kirkus Reviews)
    -REVIEW: of
-REVIEW: of Joe Steele by Harry Turtledove (Alternate History Week)

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