“Underdog” Now Set for July 1

Kim Conley Underdog
(Photo – Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (March 26, 2019) – The release date for “Underdog: Kim Conley & the Making of an Unexpected Olympian” has been bumped to July 1, 2019, from its original scheduled April 1, 2019 date. The move facilitates a longer-than-expected production time as the book goes through its final stages prior to its printing and Amazon release. 

For any media questions, or for information on stocking the book, please contact: admin@fieldhouseasheville.com.

Books: From Boxing Ring to Battlefield

(Image – Rowman & Littlefield)

Native Texan Lew Jenkins was many things during a life that spanned from 1916 to 1981 and in the aggregate, they don’t readily yield a label, description, or #hashtag. Most often they stand in sharp contrast.

He was one of boxing history’s hardest punchers and for a short period during the 1940s was the lightweight champion of the world. He also didn’t train properly, was a drunkard, a reckless daredevil, and a poor husband during his first marriage.

Overlay those descriptions with those of a soldier who served with distinction in World War II and was a decorated war hero during the Korean War. Then top it with images of a caring father and husband later in life who ultimately drew his greatest strength from the overwhelming desire to serve alongside common men in their direst moments.

Then you have some small glimpse into Jenkins. 

It is likely no coincidence then that a biography of the fighter was left unwritten for decades, and it is a credit to author and boxing historian Gene Pantalone that he takes on the daunting task in his entertaining and even-handed “From Boxing Ring to Battlefield: The Life of War Hero Lew Jenkins.”   

Pantalone is a first-rate researcher, enabling him to depict scenes that could not vary more wildly in content from Jenkins’ early fights in backwater Texas venues to lethal battles in Korea’s Haean-Myon Valley near today’s Demilitarized Zone. He describes the emotion and technique of a 1940s New York City title match with the same skill as the even more challenging nuances of 1950s land-based warfare.

The book is concisely written, as Jenkins’ life undoubtedly provided more than ample material to lead an unskilled author into the narrative equivalent of a roadside ditch. In truth, it provided far more ditches than it did level road. 

Pantalone unflinchingly stays the course and illuminates a life that is only to be believed in the reading. – TF

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New Book Announcement: “Underdog”

Kim Conley Underdog October31

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (October 31, 2018) – I’m excited to announce that on April 1, 2019, my next book “Underdog – Kim Conley & the Making of an Unexpected Olympian” will be released. (Click here for updated release information)

From a stunning finish at the 2012 US Olympic Trials that propelled her into the London Games, to an odds-defying return trip to the 2016 Rio Olympics, Kim’s story is an authentic, inspiring compass for runners and non-runners alike. It’s one in which odds are defied, deeds exceed words, and a relentless work ethic is ultimately rewarded. 

Nationally, Kim’s accomplishments span the continent from a record-setting win at New York City’s storied Millrose Games in 2014, to USATF Championships in Sacramento (10,000m) and Houston (half-marathon). Hers is an American success story forged in California and taken across the country and beyond.

I’m honored to be able to bring it to print and in the upcoming weeks look for exciting details about the foreword, presale, and where and when you can purchase the book! – Tom Flynn

Books: Endurance – Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage

Ernest Shackleton looks out from the deck of the doomed Endurance (Photo / LOC)

I’ve read much of Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 failed attempt to traverse Antarctica, but never “Endurance – Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage” by Alfred Lansing. After recently listening to a nuanced telling by narrator Simon Prebble, I’m thankful that I finally ventured into what is widely regarded as the definitive account of the expedition.

For those who check in on Fieldhouse on occasion, you’ll remember that we interviewed the author of “The Lost Men” in 2014. The topic of that book was the often overlooked Ross Sea Party, the group tasked with placing stores of food on the far side of Antarctica for Shackleton’s party to consume as part of the latter group’s effort to become the first in history to cross the continent.

As you work through Lansing’s book, especially if you are encountering the details of the story for the first time, the expedition’s turns away from disaster read more like fiction than history. The crew of 28 and their ship, the Endurance, are stopped hundreds of miles short of their intended destination on Antarctica. From there, their subsequent travails prove far more challenging than even their ambitious original plans might have.

En route to the continent, the Endurance is beset by pack ice and ultimately crushed under its pressure. To tell much beyond that is to reveal too much of a story that needs to be read to be believed. If you have the ability to listen to Prebble’s version, all the better, as his considerable narrative skill makes the gripping story even more engrossing.

Lansing’s work was first published in 1959 and has stood the test of time, despite more details of the trip becoming available and benefitting subsequent authors. His descriptions of the coalescing of the expedition’s diverse personalities to achieve a single goal – survival – reads especially well. He skillfully describes the readily apparent physical dangers the group faced – drowning, starvation, lethal cold – and does a very studied job of outlining the equally deadly psychological perils of Antarctic travel.

His thorough research of prior expeditions to frozen climes and the disastrous results of their failing strength and psyches provides a perfect backdrop against which to appreciate the heroic efforts of Shackleton and his men. – TF

Books: Signing (2/18) at Barnes & Noble Before JHU vs. Loyola Lacrosse Game

The Loyola Greyhounds battle Johns Hopkins this Saturday (Photo / Tom Flynn)
Baltimore – For those in to see the Hopkins vs. Loyola game this Saturday (2/18), I’ll be at Barnes & Noble signing copies of Men’s Lacrosse in Maryland from 10-2 pm. Please stop by and say hello. 
The annual game between the two Baltimore rivals was played for years on the first weekend of May. When Hopkins joined the BIG-10 in 2015, the game took a one-year hiatus. In 2016, the game returned but in a new February time slot. The Greyhounds won, 9-8, and have captured the last three contests between the two.

The Blue Jays are out of the gate at 2-0 in 2017 with wins over Navy and UMBC, while Loyola lost their opener to Virginia and are 0-1. 

Books: Free Copy of Men’s Lacrosse in Maryland

(Photo Courtesy / The History Press/Tom Flynn)


Baltimore 
– To celebrate the 2017 season getting underway, I wanted to run a small contest to add subscribers and give away a copy of Men’s Lacrosse in Maryland. The book came out at this time last year, and sales to date have been strong.

If you enjoy men’s lacrosse and you’d like a shot at a free copy of the book, enter your email in the sidebar at right for a free e-subscription to Fieldhouse Journal. Every 20th entrant will win. Good luck & thank you! – TF

Books: Luckiest Man – The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig

Baseball great Lou Gehrig ( public domain)

I recently finished listening to Jonathan Eig’s Luckiest Man – The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig on Audible* while, fittingly, driving back and forth from New York. The front end of the title refers to the tragic irony of the famous quote from Gehrig as being “the luckiest man on the face of the earth” as he was dying from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at the age of 36. ALS, now commonly referred to as ‘Lou Gehrig’s Disease,’ is a debilitating ailment that fuels the death of neurons controlling its victim’s voluntary muscles.

Gehrig was stricken with the disease while in the golden years of his career as a standout in the Yankees’ lineup. During his playing days, he methodically compiled a 2,130 consecutive game streak that ended in 1939, two years prior to his death, and would stand as a record for 56 years. His longevity was surpassed by his spectacular talent  the numbers that Gehrig put up in the prime of his career remain among the best in baseball history. In 1931, to use one example of many, he drove in 181 runs. It came in the midst of a run of 13 straight years of more than 100 RBIs. During his shortened career he also belted 493 home runs in an era when the ball was still widely considered ‘dead,’ outfield fences outdistanced their modern counterparts, and steroids had not yet been invented.

Both his endurance and talent were eclipsed by his character – one that often stands in such contrast to modern mores as to seem fictional. Despite traveling on the road on extended barnstorming tours with the famously flamboyant Babe Ruth, Gehrig to all appearances flew as straight an arrow through his career as any player of consequence in the 20th century. He used the money from his first significant contract to purchase his own home, and then promptly moved his parents in. He was so humble when interviewed that until very late in his career interviewing Gehrig was often deemed not worth the effort – especially with the ever-quotable Ruth just feet away. Sadly, it was the jarring onset of ALS that compelled many to first see the Yankee slugger as the treasure that he was.

Eig takes a studied look at Gehrig away from the field and does an outstanding job sifting through the developmental moments of his early life that later shaped his career and his final, valiant struggle with ALS. – TF

*note: the audio version includes the narrative talent of the late Ed Herrmann augmenting the text.

Books: Running For My Life By Lopez Lomong

Lopez Lomong’s Running For My Life (photo – T. Nelson)

I recently reread Lopez Lomong‘s harrowing yet inspiring autobiography, Running For My Life. Lomong escaped the killing fields of South Sudan during the Second Sudanese Civil War only to spend the remainder of his childhood in the squalor of a refugee camp in Kenya. He was first kidnapped and taken from his family at the age of six while celebrating an outdoor church service. He was abducted by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and warehoused in a prison along with other captured boys (‘The Lost Boys of Sudan’) who lived  and frequently died from the brutal conditions at the camp.

Life in the refugee camp was an improvement over prison, but it was still unfathomable in its unsanitary conditions and its famine-level provisions. While there he managed to briefly break free of the camp to the home of a nearby farmer, where Lomong and several of his fellow refugees were able to watch Michael Johnson‘s exploits at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. It was there that Lomong made the decision to one day become an Olympian and follow the steps of the record-breaking American sprinter.

Without giving too much of the compelling story away, he eventually was resettled in the US through an opportunity provided by Catholic Charities. From there, his relentless work ethic coupled with unflagging modesty and determination led him to a stellar high school career in Tully, New York. He ultimately arrived on the campus of Northern Arizona University and qualified for the US Olympic team. He represented the nation at the 2008 Beijing Games in the 1500m and represented his adopted nation’s athletes when he was named the flag-bearer for the US contingent at the opening ceremonies. – TF

Books: The Boys in the Boat

(Image / Penguin Books)


Seattle – I recently finished The Boys in the Boat, the outstanding work of non-fiction by Daniel James Brown.

In the book, set in the late 1920s to mid-1930s, Brown uses Joe Rantz, a member of several University of Washington crew teams of that era, as his narrative focal point for conveying the story of one boat’s miraculous efforts on the waterways around Seattle and well beyond. Brown explains the deep meaning of the simple word ‘boat’ in the recollection of Rantz, and to many rowers, present and past.

The Boys in the Boat is immediately engaging, as Brown came to know Rantz in the latter’s dying days and through a series of meetings with the former rower gathered the story.

Rantz’s childhood starts out with difficulty and plummets downward. His mother passes away while Joe is a child and as a teen his father – along with his second wife and the remainder of the family – depart their hometown of Sequim, Washington, leaving Joe behind. It’s an unthinkable move by his father and stepmother but Joe persists on his own, in a half-built farmhouse, on a “stump farm”       land previously lumbered and left riddled with the stumps of trees. It’s in this grim setting that Rantz soldiers on and graduates from high school.

From there life gets only slightly easier as Joe has to work both dangerous and difficult summer jobs to remain a student at the University of Washington. Throughout, he wonders where his father and family are, and also if he will make the rowing team, one of the nation’s best.

The more I tell of the story, the more of an unbelievable one I’ll give away, so I will limit it there and say that Rantz and his peers continue to strive toward excellence in the rowing shell. Their ultimate goal becomes a spot in the 1936 Olympics.

Brown’s writing style is perfect, as are his detours from a straight chronological thread. At times Brown leaves Rantz and his crew behind to tell of the ominous rise of Nazi Germany that is a significant component of the 1936 games, held in Berlin. He also takes diversions into the life of George Yeomans Pocock, the English racing shell builder who relocated to Seattle and had such a prominent hand in the fortunes of Rantz and his crew. Brown chose to feature a quote from Pocock at the beginning of each chapter, and their placement throughout the narrative gives it added depth.

I listened to the book during long drives along I-81 through the Shenandoah Valley, and the narrator, the late Edward Herrmann, delivers his last and perhaps best performance of many audiobook efforts. Between the storyline, Brown’s writing talents, and – in the case of the audio book – Herrmann’s storytelling ability, The Boys in the Boat proved one of the most enjoyable books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. – TF