So-so ball book from master US writer

Book: Playing for Pizza

Book: Playing for Pizza

Author: John Grisham

Publishers: Random House

Reviewer: Don Makatile

If you have read and enjoyed John Grisham before, allow room for a slight disappointment this time around.

This book will not deny you sleep a la The Firm. It will not open the tear ducts the same way A Time To Kill did. Unlike The Pelican Brief, expect no A-list Hollywood actor to jump with alacrity at the prospect of playing Rick Dockery, the central character in this so-so book.

In fact, if any Mr Moneybags is going to make a movie - and I can bet you my bottom dollar it is not going to be Scorsese - it will merely be because the subject is American football.

One particularly gifted scribe once observed that BMW was such a sought-after marque that even if the German car makers were to put their badge on a wheelbarrow, the units would still fly off the showroom floor.

Like a Jimmy Choo handbag that has even animal rights activists drooling with envy, any kak that carries the Grisham name is sure to sell.

The setting is Parma, Italy, a city Grisham visited while researching another book. This is when he discovered that American football was played and enjoyed here. So he writes authoritatively about Parma. That's why Otello at Teatro Regio is so poignant, so real.

Dockery disgraces himself playing for the Cleveland Browns and his faux pas costs the club the game. The fans are unforgiving, hounding him out of the city and the league.

Everybody thinks his career is over. Even his agent barely finds enough strength to get him another team. So when an Italian club shows interest, Arnie, the agent, quickly bundles Dockery off to the land of pizza, away from the vicious Americans who think the player is a goat to be killed on sight.

The Parma Panthers, like their competition, are Italians who play for the love of the game, for pizza. There are no big stadiums, no cheerleaders and no fat endorsements.

Dockery initially lies low, but finds himself falling in love with the city and the lifestyle. He even finds love in Livvy, an American exchange student who loathes the idea of returning home to her divorcing parents and the sad life they wish to drag her into.

As a plot, very predictable, isn't it?

The book screams that Grisham is "the number one bestselling author". On reputation maybe, not through this offering.