New York Timesbestselling sportswriter John Feinstein exposes the real “March Madness”—behind the scenes at the Final Four basketball tournament.
When Stevie wins a writing contest for aspiring sports journalists, his prize is a press pass to the Final Four in New Orleans. While exploring the Superdome, he overhears a plot to throw the championship game. With the help of fellow contest winner Susan Carol, Stevie has just 48 hours to figure out who is blackmailing one of the star players . . . and why.
John Feinstein has been praised as “the best writer of sports books in America today” (The Boston Globe), and he proves it again in this fast-paced novel.
“A page-turning thriller and a basketball junkie’s bonanza.” —USA Today
From the Hardcover edition.
“Last Shot is a brisk novel set in the madness of the NCAA’s Final Four. Exceptionally knowledgeable about the college basketball world, Feinstein has a fine time lampooning broadcaster Dick Vitale and the bureaucrats who populate the NCAA itself. The blackmailing plot that unfolds over the course of Final Four weekend threatens a student-athlete who isn’t a student, implicates an ethics professor with no ethics, and otherwise introduces to young readers the sleaze beneath the glitter of college basketball’s biggest show. Remarkably, Feinstein pokes holes in the illusions without diminishing the excitement of the games themselves as seen through the eyes of two eighth-grade reporters. He writes as if he’s having a fine time at the keyboard, and the result will entertain not only young readers, but the oldsters looking over their shoulders as well.” —Boston Globe
“Score! That’s exactly what author John Feinstein does with this mystery.”—Dallas Morning News
“You’ll feel as if you have a courtside seat at the SuperDome. Last Shot is Feinstein’s first entry into fiction for young people, and it’s an impressive one. The story is intriguing, the dialogue snappy and the finale exciting.” —Bookpage
From the Hardcover edition.
JOHN FEINSTEIN is the author of many bestselling sports books, including A Season on the Brink and A Good Walk Spoiled. Feinstein worked for the Washington Post as both a political and sports reporter for more than ten years and continues to contribute articles. He is a regular commentator for National Public Radio and Sporting News Radio and an essayist for CBS Sports. He lives with his wife, son, and daughter in Bethesda, MD, and Shelter Island, NY.
Excerpt from chapter 5 of Last Shot by John Feinstein
“Nothing here,” Susan Carol said. “I guess we–” She stopped in mid-sentence. “Hey, look who’s here.”
She pointed across the dark, open area to the outside door. Stevie could see a group of young men in purple-and-white sweats coming through the doorway. “Straight down this hall to the end and turn right gentlemen,” someone they couldn’t see was saying. “Your locker room is the first one you come to on your right.”
“As if they can’t read the signs,” Stevie said.
“He must have forgotten that they’re student-athletes,” Susan Carol said.
Stevie laughed. He hated to admit it, but she was kind of funny.
“Well,” she said. “Should we head–”
She stopped in mid-sentence again. Stevie turned and saw one final purple-and-white suited player walk through the doorway, peering around as if to make sure no one was there. Stevie recognized the floppy blond hair right away. It was Chip Graber. Right behind him was a man in a charcoal gray suit who was also looking around in a suspicious way. Instinctively, Stevie took Susan Carol’s arm and stepped back so they were hidden behind some rolled up Astroturf.
Graber and the charcoal suit finally seemed satisfied they were alone, then walked towards the loading dock until they were almost directly below Stevie and Susan Carol–who were both frozen with surprise and curiosity.
“Okay, Chip, we’ve got about two minutes to get this straight before the press conference,” the suit said. “You can’t get cold feet now.”
“I never had warm feet,” Chip Graber answered in a stage whisper, still plenty loud enough for Stevie and Susan Carol to hear. “What if I won’t do it?”
“Then the team gets stripped of all its wins and your father gets fired. We’ve been through this. . . .”
There was a long silence. Stevie wondered if perhaps the conversation had ended, but there were no signs of movement below. Susan Carol started to open her mouth to say something, but he put a finger to his lips to indicate she should stay silent.
Just when Stevie thought he was wrong, he heard Graber’s voice again. “This is unbelievable.”
“Hey, Chip, the world’s a cold place sometimes. Cooperate and you’ll be a millionaire in a couple of months. Your dad will get a big contract extension for making the Final Four. Quit whining, do what you need to do, and we’ll all walk away happy.”
“But what if we lose Saturday? There’s no guarantee we’ll win that game. Why does it have to be Monday?”
“That’s not something you need to worry about. You just play your butt off against St. Joe’s and choke against Duke. We’ll take care of the rest.”
“I’ll get you for this. All of you.”
“Please. You don’t even know who we are. And if you try anything with me, the roof will fall in on you and your dad. Now let’s go. You’ve got a press conference.”
This time they could hear footsteps walking away. Stevie and Susan Carol stood stock still for a moment looking at one another.
“What did we just hear?” she asked finally.
“Well, unless I’m crazy, we just heard the best player in the country being blackmailed to throw the championship game.”
“Yeah, that’s what I heard too. But he has to win tomorrow. Isn’t that weird? I don’t know very much about gambling, but if someone is trying to make a lot of money by betting against Minnesota State, why wait until Monday?”
“That’s what Graber asked. There’s got to be a reason why it has to be Monday. And he said he had to lose to Duke on Monday. How’s he know Duke will win tomorrow?”
For the first time since they had met that morning, Stevie thought Susan Carol looked lost. “What do we do?” she asked.
Stevie shook his head. “I don’t know. Tell someone?”
“But who?” she asked. “Who’d believe us?”
“Good question,” he said. “I barely believe us. Man, I wanted a story no one else had, but this is insane. Let’s get out of here. It’s spooky.”
She didn’t argue.
As they opened the doors that led back to the hallway and the bright lights hit Stevie’s eyes, he felt like he was leaving a movie. But there was no leaving. Now he and Susan Carol were part of the movie.
From the Hardcover edition.
Too short for a career in basketball, 13-year-old Stevie turns to sports writing and wins a chance to cover the NCAA Final Four games. His adolescent insecurities are heightened when the other winner turns out to be the tall, pretty, and seemingly perfect Susan Carol. But the budding journalists unwittingly uncover a dangerous conspiracy to fix the games, and Stevie is forced to overcome his fears as the two race to stop the conspirators. Sports journalist Feinstein writes with an authenticity born of experience. His narration is particularly sensitive in conveying Stevie's inner turmoil. For fans of basketball and mysteries, this is a slam dunk. E.S. © AudioFile 2005, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine