Image via WikipediaState Champions
By W. Jack Savage
Although the title and the blurb highlight that this book is about high school sports, I think it is important to say that, in my opinion, this is definitely an adult book. It is filled with violence, stories of sexual abuse and escapades, as well as much about the gambling surrounding sports, even at the high school level. Not being an avid sports fan and a non-gambler, I admit I was surprised at the story line which, I assumed, had to have some basis of reality upon which it was created. That said...
Jack Savage has an ability to create amazing lead characters. Readers become so involved in watching the life of that character unfold, that you soon find yourself caught up not only in his total life but the world surrounding him. In State Champions, Bill Henry becomes a hero...
Bill has an extensive sports background which you will learn about only by meeting people who talk about it on the way. He's insecure in one very important area of his personal life, and that is reflected in many of his choices made along the way. Bill is a husband and father with two young daughters. The daughters do not biologically belong to him or his wife.
Alice was married at the time Bill met her. She had met her husband through some unusual circumstances, but had dated and married him in good faith, enjoying the opportunity to become mother to his two daughters. Before long, however, her husband was murdered. Bill was a prosecutor with the Justice Department at that time and upset by all that happened in relation to placing Alice and the children in witness protection, Bill resigned and took on the job himself. Along the way, they married and, for the first time, Bill had a wonderful family. However, he refused to change his name and the family moved, but not very far away from where they had been located.
Bill became a high school teacher and was asked to be assistant coach. You will enjoy what happened as all of a sudden Bill is the head coach and his team is in the finals for the state championship, which they won.
Haskiell was a strange small town. For the last ten years, sports had developed into the "best gambling" pot around. The former coach had lived well beyond his means, which Bill had noticed. But it was only when the team, under his direction, won the championship that he came to know the extent of corruption. So, while becoming a beloved coach to that high school team, Bill also dusted off his love of justice and started to speak out, investigate, and, needless to say, ruffle many feathers.
Perhaps a man who is capable of being a hero just has to do what he has to do...
Because by being spotlighted through the high school tournaments, he had also spotlighted the present residence of he and his family as those protected by the Justice Department. With those town individuals who were upset with the gambling results, together with those of the crime family looking to recapture the money owed to them by Alice's former husband, Bill and Alice are thrown into turmoil beyond anything they could have imagined.
While all the time, Bill coaches and trains and prepares his second team to "play to win" the next year's championship.
Intimate relationships between Bill and Alice and others become openly known and discussed in that small town. Envy, jealousy and sex soon become just another factor in the underlying tension developing and expanding. An explosion was sure to happen! But it sure wasn't what readers will expect! I didn't like some of Alice's decisions, but even that proved to make the overall story stronger and more realistic. Sometimes we just do what we want and need to do, no matter what...
I made an exception to my rule for typographical errors; there are many and you should be aware of this. The story, in my opinion, allows readers to become so involved that these small errors soon are not as distracting. From this proofreading fanatic, that's saying something in itself. This story is so much a part of today's world that you will be appalled that it exists, as the hero finds out what is happening and openly ridicules and fights against it. Speaking out against sports scholarships which fail to ensure a scholastic degree is just one issue that our hero attacks when he gets the spotlight opportunity. Life at its worst makes a quiet hero stronger... Highly recommended.
Via Facebook Reviewers Roundup