7: The Mickey Mantle Novel – by Peter Golenbock

After it was dropped by its original publisher, many thought this fictional portrait of Mickey Mantle wouldn’t make it to store shelves. But thankfully it has!

Golenbock takes on the task of writing a biography of The Mick with creative license – placing Mantle in heaven and in need of a way to unburden himself from the mistakes he made during his life. Mantle enlists the help of former sportswriter Lenny Shecter – the co-author of Jim Bouton’s Ball Four – to help lay it all out.

What results is a fictional conversation between Mantle and Shecter that is based in conversations the author had with Mantle, his teammates, friends, and acquaintances, and paints a picture of the untold personal life of Mickey Mantle – which bounces between eccentric, hilarious, and often times painful to imagine.

It’s easy to see why this book got snuffed by its original publisher. If I’m the Mantle family or someone who is fearful of lawsuits, I can’t say I’m in support of this book seeing the light of day. Mantle maintained a fairly private life, and while you can debate the merits of that, there is a certain comfort knowing that your dirty laundry isn’t in the public awareness.

Along the same lines – Golenbock essentially throws out a whole bunch of “what-ifs” that the public – at least at this point in time – doesn’t know how seriously to take them. The book is rooted in a real person who played a real game during a real time in history, but the information that colors in the lines comes from interviews and recaps of events that happened some 40-50 years ago. As any writer who has done interviews with former players can tell you, their memories are often sketchy and skew the results in their favor.

Be warned – this is an R-rated book – lots of adult language and situations. But it is also a fascinating attempt at telling the story of one of baseball greatest players. I think you’ll find that the pages almost turn themselves. Reading 7 is kind of like going to the movies — allow yourself to become engaged and immersed in the book, but when the lights come up and the final page has turned, realize that it’s still a work of fiction.

What do you think about 7: The Mickey Mantel Novel by Peter Golenbock? Join the discussion and post your comments!

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