July 2, 2010

The Penalty Killing by Michael McKinley

Michael McKinley is a noted journalist and documentary film maker who is highly regarded in the hockey world. If there is one trait that best sums up the Oxford educated McKinley it is he likes to undertake new and different projects. For example, he has produced middle eastern religious documentaries for CNN while also producing episodes of South Park.

Hockey fans of course know McKinley for the TV/DVD documentary Hockey: A People's History and it's accompanying book, as well as one of my all favorites Putting A Roof On Winter. Now he's pushing the hockey literary boundaries with his first novel, The Penalty Killing: A Martin Carter Mystery.

Buy the book - Amazon.ca - Chapters - Amazon.com

Hockey, unlike baseball, has not really transcended into the world of fiction which is why McKinley's leap into the genre is so noteworthy. True, hockey mysteries have been tackled for the Young Adult market thanks to Roy MacGregor and the fantastic The Screech Owls series. But this is a great test of an unconquered market.

McKinley accomplishes the leap wonderfully. Listen to this glowing review from Quill & Quire:
McKinley’s prose is punchy. Many light touches, from the motley array of nicknames to Carter’s nose sporting a “hat trick” of breaks, bring the author’s chosen milieu to life. You can smell the stink of the locker room and hear the shouts of the fans. As a character, Martin Carter strikes just the right balance of abrasiveness and charm. However, the supporting characters not deeply entrenched within the sports world feel more thinly drawn. Still, after a soft middle, which finds amateur sleuth Carter fumbling through both his ad hoc investigation and a romantic subplot, The Penalty Killing returns to New York and builds toward a riotous ending.

What's the novel about? Here's McKinley's own description courtesy of an earlier interview with HockeyBookReviews.com:
(It) is a crime novel about a former great player names Martin Carter who suffered a nasty head injury, couldn’t play anymore, and was given a job by his team, the New York St. Patricks. When we meet him, he gets framed for a murder, and has to solve it to save his life.
You can read the first chapter on www.michaelmckinley.com. You can also hear McKinley talk about the book in great detail with CBC's Shelagh Rogers for the radio show The Next Chapter.

The story is a hard hitting twister of intense action and is getting literary acclaim from well outside of the hockey world. Because McKinley, of whom I am a tremendous fan, went outside of the hockey realm with this project I feel it is necessary that I, too, need to go outside my comfort zone and do something I never do - I'm definitely putting the novel The Penalty Killing on my summer reading list.


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