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Monday, August 4, 2008

Recommended Reading: "The Back Nine" by Billy Mott

These turtles don't live at a golf course. Those that do undoubtedly root for players' golf balls to soar over water hazards.
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Recommended Reading: The Back Nine by Billy Mott (2007 Alfred A. Knopf).

The Back Nine is pure entertainment. The novel's author, Billy Mott, is both an actor and a caddy. Mott puts his links knowledge to great use by telling an exciting story centered around the game.

The story's main character is Charlie McLeod. Charlie travels to California, as far away as he can get from Pittsburgh, and his failed marriage and lost dreams. He picks-up work as a caddy at a private club.

Charlie, who had been out of the golf game for years, finds himself drawn to it again. The golf story builds from here, culminating in an exciting, high stakes match. Along the way interesting characters show-up as caddies, criminals, and guys looking to play an angle or to get just one more chance to score. If life is an 18-hole golf course, then these characters are on 'the back nine'. And golf, it turns out, is a great vehicle for Mott to display the recalibration that goes on in life as talent meets better talent, opportunities appear and vanish, ambition grows and wanes.

The novel's golf scenes are its best. Less successful are the explanations of the interior life of various characters, including the events that propelled Charlie into his journey to California. But it nonetheless works sufficiently to build in the reader an investment in Charlie's success or failure.

Not every novelist is Anne Tyler, and not every golfer is Tiger Woods. Whether it's writing novels or playing in sports, we can appreciate the talent of those at the top of the game while participating comfortably at our own level. In The Back Nine, Billy Mott's writing game is, to extend the golf analogy, strong enough for him to feel comfortable playing at any course. 'Shot', Billy.