Allen Schatz’s Game 7: Dead Ball and the death of the mid-list

So I recently had the pleasure to read Allen Schatz’s first novel in his Marshall Connors series,  Game 7: Dead Ball, an independently published novel, and I can tell you that I recommend it pretty highly.

I read a pdf version of the novel, and the first thing I really noticed was the aesthetics of the book. Schatz put some time and thought into the design and proofreading of the book. Often when I think of indie books, I think of them the way they were 10 or 20 years ago: rife with typos and/or editing mistakes. That’s not the case with several indie authors I’ve been reading lately (Kait Nolan, M.B. Mulhall, et al).

That said, the novel is an entertaining mystery/suspense novel with a professional baseball umpire as its protagonist. It’s a unique setup, and the story is engaging. The cast of characters is entertaining, and Schatz has a great eye for detail and does a good job of wringing the tense moments dry.

Schatz was repped by an agent at one point, but was dropped when the agent couldn’t find a home for his work. That’s a shame, too, because the Marshall Connors series is good. It’s a shame, too, because Schatz is the kind of author who would have been given an opportunity to grow and learn his craft, to be coached by talented and dedicated editors.

In other words, he would have been a solid mid-list author at one of the Big Six publishers.

But since the publishing world is consistently and constantly changing — and because the mid-list is essentially dead in the water — Schatz has done what other writers like J.A. Konrath have done: embraced independent publishing.

Writers like Schatz deserve a commercial publishing contract — not only for the good work they’re doing now, but because it’s clear they can do even more, given time and editorial instruction. Unfortunately that doesn’t happen anymore. Mid-list authors all over are either disappearing or having to reinvent themselves in order to have a shot at getting published.

Schatz has all the tools to be a very good author. In this particular book, he tells a tightly plotted story. Read carefully and you can see how the thing is built, brick upon brick, into something sturdy. Breeze through it like most readers, and it will appear simply to be one thing, created whole. It takes real talent to build a mystery/suspense novel so seamlessly.

But I stand by my earlier statement: Schatz is the kind of author who would benefit from an old-school editor-and-writer relationship to tighten his writing. It’s something he’s going to learn anyway, because of the professionalism he obviously brings to his work. But working closely with a good editor would speed that process.

There are, however, some issues. The details Schatz brings out can often be beautiful. Sometimes, though, they can bog the story down. It’s never enough to make you stop reading, but it’s enough in some instances to make the reader skip ahead.

And skipping ahead is the last thing any writer wants a reader to do.

Schatz has written two more volumes of the Marshall Connors series, and I look forward to reading both of them — not only because I like the setup and characters, but also because I’m looking forward to seeing how Schatz pushes himself and grows into being an even stronger author.

I highly recommend reading Game 7: Dead Ball. Pick it up at Amazon in paperback or e-book.

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