When people say “they don’t write ‘em like that anymore,” people are referring to writers like Gay Talese. THE SILENT SEASON OF A HERO (Walker, $16) is a mandatory collection of essays for any sports-lover with a sense of history. “The Silent Season of a Hero,” “Ali in Havana,” and “The Loneliest Guy in Boxing” are alone worth the price of this book. Story after story shows Talese’s gifts: his muscular style, with never a word wasted; the angles of approach to a narrative that other writers could never see; the vivid details that put us momentarily inside the story, looking out. Luckily for us, Talese wrote ’em like that, and he still does.
Stefan Fatsis' tale of trial by fire in the modern NFL is a must read for anyone wants to know what Mike Shanahan can do for this year's Washington Redskins. Fatsis exhibits his soft touch and hard kick as he spends the offseason as the oldest rookie on the Denver Broncos. His story gives hope to the dormant athlete in all of us and silences our internal Monday Morning Quarterback (if only until Tuesday).
Generally regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in history, Sugar Ray Robinson came of age as a man and a boxer in the ’40s and ’50s. He’s best known for the six legendary brawls he fought with Jake Lamotta, but his cultural significance extends beyond athletics. His story is also the story of post-war Harlem featuring the likes of Lena Horne, Langston Hughes, and Miles Davis. At the height of his career, Robinson owned a Harlem night club that was frequently the hottest spot in town. Will Haygood, who writes for the Washington Post, brings not only the inimitable Robinson to life in Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson (Knopf, $27.95), but also fixes him within the electric milieu that is Harlem. After penning bios of Adam Clayton Powell and Sammy Davis, Jr., Haygood rounds out his picture of African-American icons of the mid-twentieth century with this life of Sugar Ray.