Interview: Pat Delohery Author of Season of Upsets: Farm boys, city kids, Hoosier basketball and the dawn of the 1950s

Winner of the Pete Delohery Award for Best Sports-Related Book

We created the Pete Delohery Award in honor of the late indie author of the boxing-themed novel Lamb to the Slaughter. We’re proud to honor Pete’s creativity and passion for writing with this award. We talked to his wife Pat Delohery about Pete and his writing.

“Rummaging through my parents’ attic as a kid, I found the photograph featured on the front cover of Season of Upsets. My uncle—who died young in a farm accident—is in it. To me, that picture said that anything was possible. I carried it around for thirty years and always wanted to know more about the people and the circumstances that led up to the moment that photo had been taken. When I finally dug into the details, I discovered a story more amazing than anybody could have imagined and knew that somebody had to capture it.” —MAW 

Shelf Unbound: Tell us a little bit about Pete Delohery. 

Pat Delohery: Pete Delohery was born in Washington, D.C. in 1942. He received a B.S. and a M.S. in Civil Engineering from Virginia Tech; taught at Virginia Tech; was Town Engineer of Blacksburg, Virginia (home of Virginia Tech) and an engineering consultant in Atlanta, Georgia. Even though he was successful in engineering, his passion was always writing. Pete’s writing style immediately involves you in the story and the life of all his characters.

Shelf Unbound: And how about his novel Lamb to the Slaughter

Delohery: Lamb to the Slaughter is a novel about love and courage, sin and redemption. “Iron” Mike McGann, 32 years old, is facing the twilight of his prizefighting career. Desperate for his future, he has refused to honor his promise to his wife to quit the ring and start a family. In despair, his wife, Madge, is leaving him.

Rufus “Hurricane” Hilliard, Mike’s next opponent, is the most menacing presence in prizefighting. He has won all 22 of his fights by knockout and is said to be a former enforcer for something called The Black Mafia. But behind Rufus Hilliard’s menacing ring presence lives a man nobody knows, a complex man who despises his own image.

Unexpectedly left alone before his bout with McGann, Rufus “Hurricane” Hilliard is forced to confront the past that haunts him and the future he dreads. Charles “Charliehorse” O’Connell, Rufus’s cornerman, has been terrorized by a mob kingpin to sabotage him. O’Connell, who is an alcoholic and a compulsive gambler, blames himself for the ring deaths of two prizefighters. Trapped in a moral crisis, O’Connell must finally confront his “Cardinal Sin.” Rufus “Hurricane” Hilliard vs “Iron” Mike McGann, just another fight shown on The Continuous Sports Network, but by the time it is over the lives of these and many others will be forever different.

Shelf Unbound: How did the idea for the book come to him? How long did it take him to write it? What was his writing routine? 

Delohery: Pete was very interested in boxing. We attended matches and/or watched boxing on TV. He also was very interested in people and how they handled problems. The two combined to create Lamb to the Slaughter, where three men connected by a championship match were all at a major crossroad in their lives. The novel is about love and courage, sin and redemption.

Pete took a sabbatical for one year and wrote two novels as well as short stories. The second novel was Lamb to the Slaughter. He would write all morning and work out with weights three days a week. Sometimes he would write after dinner and on the weekends.

Shelf Unbound: You have devoted yourself to promoting Pete’s book following his death in 2011. What does promoting his book mean to you? 

Delohery: Pete dedicated one year of his life to create this novel. There was a near miss but the novel was not published. One of my last promises to Pete was that I would get his novel published. The publication, translation of the novel into Spanish, and promotion reflect my belief in his novel and his dream.

Read an Excerpt:

Featured in Dec/Jan 2016 Issue: 2015 Indie Best Award Winners

In 1891 James Naismith invented a new game to manage a “class of incorrigibles.” Three years later the first-known scheduled basketball game in Indiana was played in the town of Crawfordsville when its YMCA team beat the Lafayette team. From there, Indiana changed forever and the game spread to industrial cities, hay lofts, border towns, and everywhere in between. The people of Indiana didn’t think of it as a game, but a part of life. And Hoosiers lived it. 

In 1910 a dispute erupted. The towns of Crawfordsville and Lebanon both declared their high school team the state champion of Indiana basketball. Both teams had assembled great records—Crawfordsville finished the season 13-1 and Lebanon finished 20-2. Crawfordsville’s only loss came against Lebanon and one of Lebanon’s two losses occurred in Crawfordsville. To settle the dispute, Lebanon proposed a third game on a neutral court to determine the true state champion once and for all. But Crawfordsville balked and pointed to their invitation to a Midwest tournament at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as evidence of its superiority. The dispute was never settled. 

The following year, the Indiana University Booster Club organized a state basketball tournament. The Club invited the high school basketball team with the best record from each U.S. Congressional district to participate. Conveniently, Crawfordsville and Lebanon were in separate Congressional districts and as fate would have it, they met in the championship game of that first state basketball tournament in 1911. When the official time keeper signaled the end of the game, the score said it all: Crawfordsville—24, Lebanon—17. 

From Season of Upsets by Matthew A. Werner, Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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