What: "Return to Summers Run"
Author: James Cotton
Buy it: on amazon.com for about $15
The night the Keystone All-Stars Little League team from Clinton County snatched the Mid-Atlantic trophy to advance toward the Little League World Series in 2011, author James Cotton had just finished writing the same story – but about his fictional team, the Pickett Township Panthers, also based in Pennsylvania.
"I just couldn't believe the coincidence," he said of his newest novel, "Return to Summers Run." "I was waiting for that Clinton County game to be played, too, but it was delayed. I thought it'd be nice for a Pennsylvania team to advance. The night it was played I was writing that very chapter where I knew my own little team was going to win, and here the actual team from Clinton County won. I thought gosh, life really does imitate art."
"Return to Summers Run" may focus on baseball, but its key player is Claude Kinkade, a farm boy adjusting to life after his father is considered MIA when he doesn't return from the Gulf War. Claude becomes involved with a local baseball team made up of boys from his Pennsylvania township and discovers much about himself and life in the process.
The 71-year-old author, who grew up in Crawford County but now resides in Stevensville, Mont., takes a different approach to the coming-of-age novel.
"A novel like this usually requires some traumatic event that throws the character into a tailspin, sending him or her reeling off course and requiring dramatic, heroic measures to get back on course and survive or triumph," Cotton said. "My character has already been through that event, and now we see him dealing with the aftermath of losing his father."
Cotton gives Kinkade a dual perspective. The story is told solely through him, but at different ages, at 12, then 20 years down the line.
"I wanted to make sure the reader could see both Claude's reactions to his immediate surroundings and then his reflection on what happened and what he took away from it," Cotton said.
The tactic wasn't difficult.
"I raised four boys, so I took a lot of what I observed from them and their friends and put it into Claude's younger perspective."
"Return to Summers Run" isn't the first of Kinkade's adventures. "Summers Run: An American Boyhood" was published in October 2009. Cotton plans a third novel, titled "The Boys of Summers Run."
So, will the Pickett Township Panthers and our hero capture that ultimate trophy in South Williamsport? We won't give it away, but here's a hint: Cotton refers to "Return to Summers Run" as a feel-good novel.