Brian Shawver author of The Cuban Prospect

Dennis Birch never made it to major-league baseball. Now he scours the Mexican minors, verifying the bona fides of local phenoms. A last chance for baseball immortality comes his way when he's assigned to smuggle a promising Cuban pitcher across the Caribbean to the Florida Keys. His major-league employer puts him in touch with Charles Dancer, its unofficial representative in rural Cuba. Dancer, who seems to model himself physically and ethically after Sydney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon, fills Birch in on a poorly formed plan to smuggle Ramon Diego Sagasta out of Cuba and into the U.S., where fame and riches await him.

Unfortunately, Birch and Sagasta are stymied at every turn by bandits, corrupt officials, and their own foolishness. Even as he forges ahead, Birch comes to understand that greatness, even reflected, is not a quality to which he can aspire. First-novelist Shawver writes with sad passion about small lives swirling aimlessly in search of external verification when perhaps an inward glance is all that's needed.

Everyone who has read The Cuban Prospect thinks of Richard Ford and Thomas McGuane. This brilliant, funny, and tough novel is a debut of startling power and clarity-a novel as much about the workings of the human psyche as it is about baseball. A novel of last-ditch hopes, destiny's curve balls, and quiet redemption, The Cuban Prospect gloriously projects a harrowing, yet affirming vision.

Brian Shawver earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop and was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Award. This is his first novel.

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