Bullies, Baseball, and Reliance, Ill.

Three books look back on the East Bay Rats, the Oakland A’s, and 1870s frontier life.


Bullies: A Friendship by Alex Abramovich (2016, Henry Holt & Company, 256 pp., $26)

Here’s everything you wanted to know about the East Bay Rats. Well, maybe not everything, but author Alex Abramovich spins a good yarn about the famed motorcycle club with the bad-ass reputation. He grew up in Long Island with Trevor Latham, a bully who would one day found and become the president of the East Bay Rats. Abramovich tracks down his former elementary school nemesis and immerses himself in Oakland subculture, particularly East Bay Fight Night, to write a story for Gentleman’s Quarterly, a la Hunter S. Thompson. East Bay residents are sure to enjoy all the local references, from the Ruby Room and the East Bay Express to Hoodslam and Occupy in this memoir.


Finley Ball: How Two Outsiders turned the Oakland A’s Into a Dynasty and Changed the Game Forever by Nancy Finley (2016, Regenery History, 272 pp., $27.99

Just in time for baseball season: a book on the history of Carl and Charlie Finley, the larger-than-life cousin duo that bought the Kansas City A’s and moved the team to Oakland. The author is the daughter of the lesser-known and “unseen hand,” Carl Finley, who helped populate the team with the likes of greats Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, and Vida Blue, from the mid ’70s to 1981. Together, the former insurance salesman and high school principal built the franchise into what Sports Illustrated called the “Team of the Century.” The author writes about the era, including the high jinks, scandals, and general craziness of the time.


Reliance, Illinois by Mary Volmer (2016, Soho Press, 368 pp., $27)

The setting is 1874 in small-town Illinois where the primary character, Madelyn, lands with her mother who has accepted a written marriage proposal without letting her suitor know of the existence of her 13-year-old daughter. Marred by an ugly facial birthmark, the clever girl befriends a leading female in the community who figures prominently in the young woman’s maturation. Madelyn falls for a war vet photographer in this Americana coming-of-age tale. The author is a Grass Valley native who earned her MFA in creative writing from Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, where she teaches. This is her second novel; her first was Crown of Dust.

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