by James Ross
I had the opportunity to read and review the pre-release form of James Ross’ Pabby’s Score. The published version may be different.
In Pabby’s Score, author James Ross returns his fans to Prairie Winds and the eclectic cast of characters who inhabit that mythical course’s clubhouse.
This time around, though, Ross has not written a golf novel, per se, but rather a novel set in and around a golf course. The plot encompasses not a single round of golf (that we observe). Instead, it’s hard boiled fiction that includes crooked lawyers, corrupt politicians (but I repeat myself), insurance fraud, murder, gambling, secret societies, Indian rituals, autism, Alzheimers’ child abuse, internet porn and dating, infidelity, incest and biker gangs. Think Mickey Spillane, James Ellroy or Elmore Leonard (all of whom I enjoy). At times it all seems a bit much, but Ross manages to pull it back together in the end.
Given the subject matters, Pabby’s Score is no lighthearted stroll from tee to green. It’s serious, edgy, grim, and at times wince-inducing. Ross pulls no punches. Pabby’s Score was hard for me to read at some points (a function of the content, not the writing). If books carried a movie rating, this one would be an R—or maybe an NC-17.
Still, in the end, Ross rewards the reader by doing what he does best—creating memorable, well realized characters. In some ways, this novel is as much character study as thriller. By the end, the characters are real enough to occupy a corner of your own clubhouse. And if you have read any of Ross’ previous novels, the recurring characters will make you feel as though it is a bit of a homecoming.
I don’t know if I can recommend this novel for the general golf audience. There’s just a little too much “edge” and not very much golf. But if you’re a fan of Ross’ earlier novels—which are very much golf stories—I think you’ll like this one.