Monday, December 06, 2010

"The Gun Also Rises" by Jeffrey Cohen

From: Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, January/February 2011

In 1999, trying to find out who gave his six-year-old son Ethan a water gun (with which he squirted a classmate) causing him to face a two-day suspension, suburban New Jersey husband, father, and freelance reporter Aaron Tucker gets a call to cover the death of Ramon Escobar, closer for the minor league Edison Kilowatts.

Escobar apparently died when his teammates piled on top of him celebrating a win. However, Tucker's various sources say it's unlikely the weight simply crushed him. Tucker overhears two of Escobar's Latino teammates talking, but their only words in English are "cream" and "clear".

By setting his story ten years in the past, Cohen cleverly draws attention to three of today's hottest topics. In 1999, pro baseball hardly acknowledged the problem of performance-enhancing drugs, team celebrations were thought harmless fun, and Ethan's disability had yet to be diagnosed as Asperger's syndrome. Tucker's editor at the fanboy magazine Infield isn't interested in the hard news story of a drug-related death. He wants a puff piece lamenting the loss of a talent so young.

Lucky for readers, Tucker keeps digging, and with the help of his multilingual best friend, gets to the bottom of Escobar's death. I enjoyed this story's humor and heart, but also Tucker's level-headed approach to questioning people. Realizing what will set them off, he tries to disarm them and get the answers he needs.