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Monday, August 13, 2012

Last of the Seals by Greg Messel (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Greg Messel, author of Last of the Seals!

Author Guest Post

The Real Last Of The Seals
By Greg Messel

The San Francisco Seals were a minor league baseball team in San Francisco, California from 1903 to 1957. They played in the Pacific Coast League, which is one level below Major League Baseball.

In 1958, San Francisco was going to be a major league city. The arrival of the Giants would displace the Seals. The Seals would be moved to Phoenix and become a farm team of the Giants. The Seals players would be scattered. The San Francisco Giants would dislodge the Seals from their beloved stadium. The Giants played in Seals Stadium in 1958 and 1959 while Candlestick Park was being built.

Among the joys I experienced in writing the Last of the Seals was becoming involved with a man named Bill Soto-Castellanos. 

When he was a teenager, Bill was hired as the batboy and clubhouse attendant for the San Francisco Seals in the early 1950s. Young Bill was with the Seals every day. He was at Seals Stadium for the last game ever in San Francisco. Bill told me that he even spent the winter of 1956-57 living in the bowels of Seals Stadium.

Bill kindly reviewed some of the chapters in Last of the Seals to make sure that I accurately captured the events of 1957. Not just the events but the feeling of the times. 

I was delighted to hear Bill tell me that I couldn't have picked a better time to write the story of Last of the Seals. Bill recalled that San Francisco in 1957 was a clean, beautiful and exciting place. 

We talked about the old baseball players. He was the visiting team's clubhouse attendant. As such he got to meet many players who would go on to major league fame after they passed through Seals Stadium. 

Among them was Joe DiMaggio, who was a local San Francisco icon. Joe, his brothers and family lived in San Francisco. Joe even lived with his famous wife, Marilyn Monroe, for a time in San Francisco. 

On March 23, 1951, Bill got an assignment he would never forget when the world famous New York Yankees came to town to play an exhibition game against the Seals. Yankee shortstop Gil McDougald had promised an autographed baseball to a local friend. 

McDougald asked Bill to take a baseball to get it signed by as many Yankees as possible. Bill began to work his way down the row of players sitting in the dugout. At the end of the row was Joe DiMaggio. Bill handed Joe the baseball but said nothing. 

Joe DiMaggio then looked at Bill and said, "young man, you can get a whole lot more cooperation out of us if you learn to say please."

Bill sheepishly replied "Yes sir." After this encounter with DiMaggio, Bill said he tried to improve his manners. This and many other great stories of the bygone era are captured in Bill's great book, 16th and Bryant: My Life & Education with the San Francisco Seals.

What an experience that was for me as I was writing Last of the Seals. Getting to know Bill and gain his insights, made my fictional characters leap from the page and become more real.

Bill Soto-Castellanos is the real "Last of the Seals."

There's a scene in my book when the former Seals player and the main character in Last of the Seals, Sam Slater, goes to Seals Stadium to clean out his locker for the last time. 

Sam is at first reluctant to take many keepsakes of his years with the Seals. Then he is given a piece of advice by the clubhouse manager who is urging him to keep his old baseball jerseys as a remembrance of his time as a player. 

The clubhouse manager says in Chapter21, "There's a tendency to just want to close the door and move on now. It's natural. It hurts too much to lose what we've had. But Sammy, some day you're going to have a son who won't know that his daddy was a Seal. That little boy won't know about the special things his dad was able to do. Your son needs to see that his daddy was part of a magical time. You could show him this stuff and let him feel a little of the magic."

My book was my attempt to connect to that time long, long ago. I'm thankful that I got to rub shoulders with Bill Soto-Castellanos and "feel a little of the magic."

About The Author:

Greg Messel has written four novels and three unpublished memoirs. He published his premiere novel Sunbreaks in 2009, followed by Expiation in 2010 and The Illusion of Certainty in 2011. Last of the Seals is the first in a series of mysteries which are set in 1957 San Francisco. The second book in the series Deadly Plunge will be published around Christmas of 2012. Greg grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and has had a newspaper career as a columnist, sportswriter and news editor. He won a Wyoming Press Association Award as a columnist while working for a daily newspaper in Wyoming. Greg also spent many years in the corporate world as a Financial Manager. He now devotes his energies to writing at his home in Edmonds, Washington on the Puget Sound just north of Seattle, where he lives with his wife, Carol.

Greg Messel's Last of the Seals Virtual Book Tour Page On Pump Up Your Book!

Last of the Seals Book Trailer

Book Review

Last of the Seals by Greg Messel
Published By: Sunbreaks Publishing
Release Date: April 23, 2012
Format: Paperback - 392 pages / Kindle - 1019 KB / Nook
ISBN: 0985485906
Genre: Mystery - Suspense - Thriller / Romance

BUY THE BOOK: Last of the Seal

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours.

Book Description:

The year is 1957 in San Francisco. Sam Slater is a lifetime minor league baseball player for the San Francisco Seals. The Seals have just one more season left as San Francisco is about to become a major league city. The Giants are coming to town in 1958 and the Seals will be displaced. Sam has come to the end of his baseball career and is going to join the private detective agency of his best friend. When his friend is brutally murdered, Sam must go it alone and try to find out why. Along the way he is swept off of his feet by a beautiful Elvis-obsessed TWA stewardess named Amelia Ryan. Sam and Amelia try to unravel the mystery together. Sam’s best friend, Jimmy inadvertently saw something he shouldn’t have. Sam and Amelia have pictures in their possession that have crime families in San Francisco and Chicago very worried. Then a young woman Sam has been searching for is found dead on the beach. Suddenly, Sam and Amelia find themselves in danger. On dark and foggy San Francisco nights, trouble is lurking just around the next corner.

Book Excerpt:

                                                CHAPTER 1


September 4, 1957

Those who loved Jimmy Jankow would say he had a “big personality.” The people who didn’t like Jimmy would say he was brash and arrogant. His “personality” was an endearing quality to his friends and an obnoxious trait to those who didn’t count themselves as his friend. Jimmy always seemed very confident in his actions.

His best friends, Sam Slater and Vince Marino, tended to follow Jimmy’s lead. Sam was a baseball player for the Seals and Vince was a veteran San Francisco cop.

Jimmy had always attracted a lot of attention from the ladies. With his wavy blonde hair, blue eyes and muscular build, he could prove to be irresistible. It was just after the war that Sam declared that Jimmy had become “domesticated.”

That’s when Jimmy fell under the spell of Rita Angelos, the eye-popping daughter of Greek immigrants. She had thick long black hair, large brown eyes, and just as “big” of a personality as Jimmy.

The Embarcadero is the main roadway which skirts along the edge of San Francisco Bay. It is lined with piers and is a major area for shipping. Embarcadero means “the place to embark.” It has certainly filled that function in San Francisco.

After the completion of the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge around 1936, there was a rapid decline in ferry traffic. The famed Ferry Building and the neighborhood began to deteriorate.

However, during World War II, San Francisco’s waterfront became a military logistics center as troops, equipment and supplies left the Port in support of the Pacific theater. San Francisco began growing in leaps and bounds. Almost every pier and wharf was involved in military activities, with troop ships and naval vessels tied up all along the Embarcadero.

Jimmy left in 1943 for England to fight in Europe in the middle of World War II. While in England, he had met two San Francisco natives, Sam and Vince, who became his best friends.

Now in 1957, Jimmy was a successful private investigator. As Sam’s baseball career was winding down, Jimmy was planning to take him on as a full partner. Jimmy had been busy preparing an office space for Sam. A carpenter had just finished the remodeling job and Jimmy couldn’t wait to show it to Sam. The frosted door pane on the new office even had been painted with the name “Sam Slater.”

Jimmy pulled his 1955 Mercury coupe to the curb near Pier 23 on the Embarcadero.

It was a flashy car and it perfectly fit Jimmy’s personality. The two-toned Merc was turquoise and white and had chrome everywhere.

A beautiful late summer day was ending in San Francisco as Jimmy scooped a folder of pictures off of the front seat of the Merc. He had to deliver the end product to his client, who was very paranoid about secrecy.

Fred Langenfeld had grown very suspicious of his wife’s activities throughout the summer. The more Jimmy got to know Langenfeld, the more he suspected that he was suspicious of everyone’s activities.

Earlier in the decade, Langenfeld had been a law clerk in Washington D.C., where he was involved in the McCarthy hearings and the anti-communist scare. Jimmy had met Langenfeld through a law firm that had, on occasion, used his private investigation skills.

Langenfeld hired Jimmy to follow his wife and find out where she spent her afternoons. Jimmy had been doing this for most of August. She was not hard to catch. Langenfeld had good reason to be paranoid.

Now Jimmy was going to deliver a series of photos to confirm all of Langenfeld’s worst fears. Jimmy had snapped the photos at lunch spots throughout the city, a motel, and at Golden Gate Park, where he found Mrs. Langenfeld crawling all over a young guy who had been her constant companion. Jimmy had been tailing them and it was easy pickings.

Particularly damning was a series of pictures of Mrs. Langenfeld publicly displaying her intense passion for her new lover while they sat on a park bench near a pond in the park.

Jimmy felt this was like shooting fish in a barrel. It didn’t tax his investigative skills. Mrs. Langenfeld turned out to be the most indiscreet woman in San Francisco. All you needed was a camera.

Sneaking around spying on someone’s spouse wasn’t the most pleasant part of his job, however, it paid well.

The difficult part of following someone’s unfaithful husband or wife was delivering the bad news to the suspicious spouse. Jimmy always thought that you shouldn’t ask a question if you’re not prepared to hear the answer.

Langenfeld wanted Jimmy to meet him on his boat, which was docked at Pier 23 to ensure privacy. Jimmy wanted to get this over with, collect his pay, and then get home to his wife, son, and new baby. As Jimmy walked down the pier, he looked carefully in the dusky light for the docking location of the “Frisco Fred.”

What a jerk!

Who names their boat “Frisco Fred?” Not a native San Franciscan, that’s for sure. One way to really piss off a San Franciscan, is to call their beloved city “Frisco.”

As Jimmy walked slowly down the marina dock looking for the boat, he sensed someone coming up quickly behind him. He spun around to see a large, beefy man with his hat pulled down just above his eyebrows, concealing his face.

Jimmy immediately sensed the threat and his defenses went on full alert. He thought the man was charging at him for a physical assault, but the thug stopped short and then got in Jimmy’s face.

“I’m gonna need those pictures,” he snarled.

“Who the hell are you?”

“Someone you don’t want to tell no!” he growled and then repeated his warning. “Hand them over.”

“Look, I don’t want any trouble pal but there’s no way…” Jimmy never finished the sentence. In a split second, the burly man stuck a knife into Jimmy’s chest.

Jimmy staggered backwards, completely shocked at the sudden assault. He dropped the pictures and fell onto the dock gasping for air and instinctively trying to remove the knife.

The assailant took his foot and rolled the mortally wounded Jimmy off the edge of the pier and into the water. The man looked around to see if the splash had attracted any attention. It had not.

He then reached down and grabbed Jimmy’s pictures with his gloved hand and quickly disappeared into a dark blue Buick that was waiting at the curb.

My Book Review:

Baseball, two murder mysteries and a romance ... can you ask for anything more in a book?

The year is 1957 ... the last season for the minor league baseball team the San Francisco Seals. Major League Baseball is coming to San Francisco in 1958 with the New York Giants moving west, unfortunately displacing the Seals. Longtime Seals pitcher Sam Slater is playing his last season in the minor leagues, he might have had a chance to play in the majors if he hadn't fought in World War II. After the baseball season ends, he will join his Army buddy, Jimmy Jankow, as a partner in his private investigative firm.

When Jimmy is brutally murdered for inadvertently seeing something he shouldn't have, Sam is left to pick up the pieces and investigate Jimmy's murder and the murder of a client's daughter. While getting his bearings and beginning his investigations into both murders, Sam comes to the aid of a beautiful TWA stewardess, Amelia Ryan, who was being accosted by two drunks on the street. A mutual attraction leads to the beginning of a relationship for Sam and Amelia. While asking Sam about his investigative agency, Amelia's inquisitive nature into the murder investigations leads her to join Sam in finding the murderers.

Will Sam and Amelia find the murderers and bring them to justice? Will their investigation into the murders get them into danger? Will Sam and Amelia's budding romance turn into a permanent relationship?

Last of the Seals is an entertaining whodunit story that masterfully weaves together three subplots into a cohesive story consisting of baseball, murder mysteries and romance. The book begins with a richly detailed history of the minor league baseball team the San Francisco Seals. As a baseball fan, I found the history of the San Francisco Seals to be fascinating and the inclusion of the pictures were a great bonus. This segment of the book will appeal to all baseball fans, there is nothing better than to learn about another piece of baseball lore. The author then effortlessly leads the reader into the tale of the San Francisco Seals pitcher turned private eye Sam Slater. This intriguing  page turner has it all: baseball, murders, the mob, socialites, and a beautiful romantic love interest for our protagonist. As Sam and Amelia embark on the journey to solve the murder cases, there is enough action, suspense, thrills and chills, twists and turns to keep the reader sitting on the edge of their seats.

The author has created an interesting cast of characters that are realistic and engaging. I loved Sam's character, I really enjoyed reading about him being a war hero, a pitcher in the minor league and his progression to becoming a private eye. I loved how Sam and Amelia's romance blossomed, they seemed to be a perfect match for each other. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention how much I enjoyed their working together to investigate and solve the murder cases. The interactions and dialogues are engaging and keep the reader's interest while making this story an intriguing and enjoyable read.

Last of the Seals is the first book in a series of mysteries. I look forward to reading more about the adventures that await Sam and Amelia. Fans of baseball, mysteries and romance, this is one book that you will want to add to your TBR list, you won't be disappointed!


1 comment:

  1. Hi Teena! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Baseball and mysteries, great stuff! :)