If Rudyard Kipling were alive and writing today in Falmouth, and if he picked up Falmouth author Brian Engles’s new book “Wildball,” he might offer the following: “Oh, Arts is Arts and Sports is Sports, and never the twain shall meet,” paying homage to the poignant and important theme of this literary offering from this pensive and multi-talented Falmouthite.
Brian’s first book, much like the varied and interesting life he leads, covers many themes and topics. He is a musician, an author, a barista, and a young man with tremendous promise, unafraid to suggest and stimulate discussion on timely issues that warrant examination. Set against the backdrop of summer baseball on Cape Cod, “Wildball” explores what Brian describes as “the idea that being a man is defined by toughness, physical strength, and lack of emotion—which can get amplified in sports environments.”
He further explained, “Kids shouldn’t be afraid to be both athletic and artistic,” noting that he hopes the book is a launching point to show young people that they can be both creative and athletic, crossing what can sometimes be difficult boundaries for young men. As a writer who was active in music and theater as a young man and sometimes paid the price, I can identify with the topic, and profoundly appreciate his willingness to explore it.
A synopsis in Brian’s own words tells the tale of his coming-of-age tale. “Set in seaside Nailer’s Cove, ‘Wildball’ is the story of Shane Monoghan—one of the best collegiate shortstops in the Nation. While playing summer ball in the prestigious Cove League, Shane fights for his position both on the field and off. Balancing a complicated host family and his brother’s redeployment to Iraq, Shane learns that his high school coach Mike Calloway, the man responsible for developing him as a player and bullying him relentlessly, just passed away.
“Unable to process his anger at Calloway, Shane finds comfort and distraction in mentoring a local kid, Noah Kinton, while stepping into the role of Team Captain for the Brigs. But when a former teammate asks for Shane’s support in coming forward about Calloway’s abuse, Shane’s life begins to unravel.
“This coming-of-age tale examines the consequences and catharsis of honesty as Shane risks his future in the game by reconciling a past he can no longer outrun.”
That author notes that, with so much discussion on bullying and abuse, the time was right to write and release this work. The backdrop of the Cove League, the fictional equivalent of our own iconic Cape League, was important to Brian as well, as he is a lover of baseball and lifelong fan of his, and our, hometown team, the Falmouth Commodores. He made a point to note that the antagonistic coach in the book was not a Cape League coach. “The Cape League has this sort of wonder. It’s timeless,” he explained, speaking with affection for a local institution that is one of the few things that “forces us to be present” and allows for a welcome distraction from the inundation of information in our everyday lives.
Brian also gave kudos to his hometown for the support he received throughout this creative process. He offered thanks to hometown favorite author Ted Murphy, whose own coming-of-age novels have been enjoyed worldwide; recognized the dad- and-daughter team of Rich and Elizabeth Sherman for their assistance with publicity; and praised attorney Jonathan Polloni, who helped him wade through the maze of a publishing contract. “It’s been an ‘it takes a village’ kind of ordeal,” explained Falmouth’s newest successful scribe, reinforcing the community spirit and support that define this special place.
On April 29 at 5 PM, the rest of Brian’s beloved Falmouth will have the opportunity to share in this accomplishment, as his official launch party will be held at the Coffee Obsession on Queen’s Buyway, not only Brian’s place of employment, but a spot where owner Hugh Birmingham displays unwavering support of Falmouth’s artistic community. It’s certainly a fitting location for the launch of a project that reminds us all that it’s okay to be an artist and it’s okay to be artistic. Pre-purchase of the book is available at www.barnesandnoble.com.
Brian revealed to me that his own experiences—particularly some intense bullying while he interned at some production companies in Hollywood—informed and inspired his work. His courage in not only tackling a difficult issue but in drawing a parallel to his own pain is both laudable and notable. He credits his Falmouth community for helping him tell his tale, but it is we who should be thanking him for doing it.