Review of Troon McAllister’s latest novel, Scratch
by Brian Egeston
There’s a hullabaloo in the golf industry...well there’s sure to be one after readers get their hands on Troon McAllister’s latest novel, Scratch (Rugged Land Press ISBN 1-50971-006-1). If the Martha Burke vs. Hooty Johnson fight—or The Flusta in Augusta—doesn’t provide enough sparks on golf’s barren landscape, here’s a book worthy of having its own Teflon grill.
Troon McAllister (A pseudonym for Lee Grunfeld) rose to fame, or perhaps infamy, with the releases of his first golf novel, The Green. It introduced the fictitious Eddie Caminetti, a golf hustler who scammed his way onto the United States Ryder Cup team. Eddie proved to be such an affable character, such a hero, that he has assembled a cult following of readers and also has a real-life golf tournament named in his honor.
After taking on the Europeans in The Green, taming greedy affluence in The Foursome, Eddie has tackled corporate shenanigans in this latest tale. Eddie Caminetti has become sort of an HMO—Hustler’s Management Organization.
Also making a guest appearance is Albert Auberlain(aka Fat Albert) the plump inner-city kid Eddie took on as a caddie during the Ryder Cup Match. Albert has undergone a Tiger Training Transformation and finagled his way onto the PGA tour. When his golf swing goes awry, as all golf swings eventually do, Albert solicits the ever-available support of Eddie. The man who pulled him from the East L.A. ghetto and taught him how to play golf sending the boy from 0 to millions of dollars in less than 6.2 years. The answer to Fat Albert’s problem is Eddie’s latest hustle.
Dr. Norman Standish--a world renown physicist with nothing better to do than surf the net, solve unsolvable math problems, and make keen observations—approaches Eddie about an invention of sorts. With financial backing from one of the several millionaires Eddie’s hustled then befriended, they start a corporation to produce Scratch, a revolutionary golf ball used first on the PGA tour by none other than Fat Albert.
Response to the Scratch ball is unprecedented. It sells faster than Cisco stock, and has a higher demand than Viagra. Shipments are hijacked, the balls have a black market value and not to mention they’re the most expensive golf balls on Earth. People line up to buy Scratch balls like Rolling Stones concert tickets. But where there is success in the open market, there is envy, and where there is envy, there is corporate war.
A rival golf equipment manufacturer, conveniently named Medalist, tries to thwart the overwhelming success of Eddie’s company. Armed with a stable of lawyers, purchased testimonies, and media stunts, Medalist is ready for battle. However, the mega-monopoly quickly learns that they are not dealing with an average company. They’re dealing with Eddie Caminetti, a hustler’s hustler. A man who would give the devil two strokes a side and play him using his own pitch fork. A man who would challenge God to a four-halo nassau in order to get through the pearly gates. Tommy Trevillian, the Medalist CEO, quickly discovers that the normal rules of business don’t apply at Eddie’s HMO and it will take more than corporate power to bring down the multi-million dollar Scratch empire.
Troon McAllister, a former business manager, is one of those people who meanders through life until stumbling across their true gift. In McAllister’s case, it is writing. Scratch is filled with dialogue so believable, it seems to take on a voice of it’s own. Masterfully developed characters are as wonderful as their quirky names like Leif Hoogenband, Eddie’ co-counsel, or Wayne Chemincouver--an insipid freeloader whose hobby is sending in product complaints hoping companies will send him free truckloads of the products that he’s complaining about.
With the latest addition to the Caminetti collection, McAllister is skillfully approaching the grand slam of golf fiction in this story that blends a good balance of golf course narrative, dialogue, and scenes away from the course. None more superbly hilarious than a court case scene involving a Georgia judge with antics that teeter on a line between judicial misconduct and standup comedy.
The author peppers his finely tuned story with amusing and visual similes such as:
“...Learning golf from the guys he was with was like trying to learn the theory of flight by watching a pigeon that had just been hit by a truck...” Page 2
Rather than pursue one huge climatic plot, McAllister effectively incorporates the use of mini-plots, keeping readers engaged at every turn. The author manages to take a totally unbelievable story and transform it into a completely plausible read. Perhaps flawed only by what, at times, reads as an inconsistent shift in point of view, the book still manages to surpass all expectations. A few readers may be disappointed that so much time is spent away from golf near the conclusion, but the author’s balance makes up for the lapse in the finale.
True to form, it would not be a Troon McAllister work if it did not contain abrasive epiphanies showing ways in which golf imitates life. Between the lines of this sidesplitting comedy and the breathtaking drama, is a tongue-in-cheek, fist–in-eye, blatant satire exposing a dark side of the golf world. There are Wizard of Oz moments when the man behind the curtain, or golf equipment behind the curtain, is unveiled as no more than blind faith bestowed upon promises dressed in the truth’s clothing. Some facets of the book, while humorous and anecdotal, are painful testimonies that what we chase can never be captured.
No one in the golf world is safe from the wrath of Troon McAllister’s pen. He pokes fun at golf analysts, tour professionals, equipment makers, golf pros, golf coverage production staff, weekend hackers, tour wannabes, and even tournament sponsors. In Chapter 9, McAllister takes a jab at the onslaught of pro golf-tournaments turned corporate billboards by labeling a match: The Verizon Aetna Hairstlyles-by-Steffen Bob’s Quickie-Lube(formerly the Enron Worldcom Tyco Byron Nelson) Classic.
It is the reviewer’s opinion that a wonderfully crafted tale such as this will do one of two things.
1. Make people think twice about what they believe.
2. Make golfers rush to Ball-Mart and buy the cheapest, rattiest golf ball on the shelf.
In a remarkable display of plot braiding, the author sends Caminetti on a quest to answer the question, Why are people so obsessed with golf? Many characters within the story give passionate answers, but none palatable to Eddie’s taste. In that same vein, one might ask, Why are readers so fond of Troon McAllister’s golf novels? And to that there is no definitive answer, but only the guarantee that readers will enjoy Scratch-McAllister’s finest accomplishment. If not, to paraphrase Eddie Caminetti, “You think I’m lyin’, think I misled you about this book in some way, you don’t have to pay. This here reviewer’ll buy it back from ya.”
Brian Egeston is a writer living in Atlanta. You can visit his website at: brianwrites.com