Fiction and poems about ordinary people who do extraordinary things
With hardscrabble histories from the coal fights of the ‘30s through the ‘50s, Ray and Margaret Odle found each other in the autumn of life and then found a niche together investigating murder. With “neither fear nor favor” for the unions that hire them they sort out the issues on the shop floor—not to mention in the management suite and the boardroom—and let the chips fall where they may.
It’s 1966 at the Louisville Slugger baseball bat factory where two workers have been murdered in gruesome fashion. Called to investigate, Ray and Margaret face threats by long-time enemy thugs from the coal wars and nothing is as it seems— “strike” means you’re in not out, “sundown” means neighborhoods where black-owned houses are bombed, and “slope of the grain” has a deadly angle that goes way beyond radio’s familiar crack of the bat.
The Baltimore Orioles and the Atlanta Braves are in the running for the World Series, as Mel Allen and Red Barber tell it, while the killer is running foul at Slugger. It will take all of the brains, guts and plain old mountain-tough determination of Ray and Margaret to track him down—unless the killer knocks them out of the park first!
What Readers Are Saying About Slugger:
from Max Yeh, Literature Professor: A classic whodunit plot allows Barrett opportunity to host a gallery of portraits of black and white workers and their families in Louisville, Kentucky, their faces, stories and hardship as they become entangled in the struggle to better their lives. This book is a pleasure to read as detectives Ray and Margaret Odle think and analyze their way through the maze of corporate and personal greed, mob-runned betting systems, personal and institutional racism, union organizing, management union-busting tactics, and the inter-connections between jobs, housing, and power.
from Barbara, a retired teacher: Great book! It’s very well written, with tight prose and a great plot. I enjoyed the insight into labor union and management relations with the baseball tie in. The characters were well developed and some of their experiences with racism, prejudice, alcoholism, gambling and poverty made me tear up. The story is fiction, but steeped in history, and the author clearly has lived it or done the research to keep it authentic.
from James Turner, Historian: I’m a big fan of historical detective stories and this book fits my head like a glove. Combining 1960s labor movement intrigue on top of baseball scandal the book doesn’t fit in any pigeonholes. The characters are well-drawn with lots of compassion and loyalty plus vile, and venal bad guys, the kind you love to hate. Southern racism in the 1960s makes the climate extra dangerous but blacks and whites learn to trust each other and cover each other’s back. Slugger is not your ordinary historical detective story. It’s not your ordinary anything. But it’s a damn good read.
Get your copy of Slugger at Amazon in Kindle or paperback format right away and read about Appalachian mountain people, working folks and scheming power hitters of all kinds that don’t fit J.D. Vance’s stereotypes!
Chuck Barrett’s op-ed columns appeared regularly in the Las Cruces, New Mexico, Sun-News from 2015 to 2018 on a wide range of issues. His story, “Marching to Canaan Land,” was a finalist in the 2009 New Letters Literary Awards short story division.
Chuck’s publications include, “The Hustler,” in Rural Heritage magazine, several nonfiction articles on criminal justice in Cities magazine and in the journal Katellagete, as did “One Meaning of Prison in America,” a chapter in the book And the Criminals With Him. Chuck’s poetry has appeared in small journals as well, and was featured in a 2016 exhibition with the artist, Melody Sears, called, “Duologue, a Conversation Between Poetry and Pastel,” at the Tombaugh Gallery in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Slugger is Chuck’s first published novel. There are more Odle Agency novels in the works plus a novela about prison escapes soon to be released…stay tuned! Keep an eye out for the poetry pages on this website…look there for new poems!
My working life has consisted of activism in civil rights, prison reform and alternatives, farm worker organizing and working with indigenous small farmers in Mexico over a span of some 55 years. I continue today volunteering as a visitor to long-term federal prisoners and doing education in the fair trade movement.
I play trombone in a concert band, enjoy cycling and the beauty of life in the Sonoran desert with my artist spouse, Melody Sears, and my Golden Retriever, Sunny, in Tucson, Arizona.