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  • One Good Punch
  • Written by Rich Wallace
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780375890734
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One Good Punch

Written by Rich WallaceAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Rich Wallace


List Price: $5.99


On Sale: November 13, 2007
Pages: 128 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89073-4
Published by : Knopf Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books
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ASK ANYBODY AROUND East Scranton High School: Michael Kerrigan is almost too good to be true. Dedicated athlete, captain of the track team, editorial assistant (obituary writer) at the Scranton Observer, he's never been in trouble, and he doesn't associate with troublemakers. This is the most important track season of his life - and he's ready.

That is, until the police find four joints in his locker. Soon Mike's seemingly perfect world is threatened, and with pressure coming from his parents, his childhood best friend, and his sort-of girlfriend, Mike is faced with a choice - a choice that will determine the kind of athlete, friend, and man he becomes.

From the Hardcover edition.


Coal-Mine Fires Continue to Smolder

People keep dying, so my phone never stops ringing. I've made notes in the computer for fourteen obituaries tonight, and I haven't written up a single one. Most I've ever done in a shift is fifteen, and it's only 9:23, so there's plenty more to come."Scranton Observer. . . . Yeah, we got time. . . . He was a high school valedictorian, and then he worked in the mines? . . . Which Legion post? . . . In Jessup? . . . Mercy Hospital; family by his side. Okay. Talk to you later."I've been doing this job for five months now, and this is the busiest night I've ever had. Officially, I'm an editorial assistant, which used to be called a copy boy and generally means gofer.I'm a backup phone-answerer for the news department, but mostly I talk to the funeral directors and get information for the next day's obituaries--the dead person's name, age, where they were born, where they lived, surviving relatives, employment history, etc. Also the stuff that makes these things interesting--their hobbies, organizations they belonged to, their World War II-era nicknames (already today I've had Babe, Pops, Hammer, and Dingle). Then I write it up into readable paragraphs for the morning paper, doing it as fast as I can."Scranton Observer. . . . c-z-y-k? . . . Okay, so 'after a dignified and courageous struggle.' . . . Life member of VFW Post 4921. Where's that again? . . . Lone Pine Hunting Club. . . . Where'd he work? . . . Yeah, call me back with the survivors. No problem."I'm on a first-name basis with all of the local funeral directors, who call us in the evenings to get their latest clients featured in the paper. I work Friday, Saturday, and Monday nights, which sucks when you're a high school senior--I miss all the parties--but it's undeniably good experience for what I want to do with my life. These were the only shifts available."Scranton Observer. . . . Yes, Mr. Powell, this is Mike. . . . I haven't written it yet, but I've got my notes right here. . . . Scranton Eagles Memorial Classic at South Side Lanes, 1946. You say he rolled a 282, not 280. . . . Fixed it. Anything else? . . . I've got his brothers Fred in Minooka and Johnny in Dunmore, and a sister Kitty in Green Ridge. And predeceased by a brother Buddy in 1997. . . .""Yeah, of course we can mention the dogs. . . . Lucy and E-t-h-e-l. They both Labs? . . . Sweet. They gotta be missing him. They let dogs go to funerals, don't they? . . . Oh yeah, I'm running like eight miles a day. I jump on a treadmill at the Y when it's icy, but it's been dry lately. We start working out for real on Wednesday. Can't wait. . . . Thanks. Come see a race if you get a chance."There are a lot of very old people around this city. Well, obviously there are fewer all the time. But you learn a lot about their lives taking down the information for their final appearance in the newspaper.You can get a real history lesson reading the obit section every day--all the factories and mills that shut down way before I was born; the huge number of different churches and organizations people belong to (just in the last ten minutes, for example: the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Polish Women's Alliance, the Red Hat Society, the Olyphant Billiards Association).Good people--lots of war veterans, lots of faithful parishioners, lots of beloved grandparents. They die at home or in the hospital or a senior center, of old age or cancer or who knows what. The worst cases are when a kid dies in a car accident. Nobody I know yet, but I had to write one a few months ago when two guys from that football team went over the railing on Route 81 in a pickup truck.You read the obits and you learn about the city's history. But they also get you worrying about its future."Scranton Observer. . . . Don't call me here, Joey. . . . Because I'm working. . . . What kind of emergency? . . . Look in your backpack. I gotta go. . . . Because the phones ring constantly. People die around here every fifteen seconds. . . . Old people mostly. . . . I gotta go, man. . . . The other phone is ringing. Get lost.""Scranton Observer. . . . That's me. . . . Sure. One second. . . . Okay--spell that last name. . . . Lifelong resident? . . . So we'll say that he lived briefly in Carbondale before returning to Scranton in 1953. . . . Know when he retired? . . . Okay. Can you hold on a second?""Scranton Observer. . . . Hi, Mr. Rasmussen. . . . No problem. Can I call you right back? . . . Okay.""Thanks for holding. I think I knew this guy. Did he umpire Little League games in East Scranton? . . . Right. Right, the gold teeth. Great guy. . . . You can call me back with that. . . . The Friday night deadline is eleven, but we got time. . . . You know where he served? . . . So you're going to want the American flag symbol with this one? . . . You bringing in a photo? . . . No problem. Call me back. We got plenty of time."It's no wonder the city's population drops with every census. We're still burying former coal miners and textile workers--remnants of long-gone industries. One night last week--both within twenty minutes--I wrote obits for two ladies that were over a hundred years old. Both had lived their entire lives in Scranton.Who replaces them? Probably not me.I'm out of here in a few months, off to college and then who knows where? If this city had more to offer, I'd probably come back, but as things stand, I can't see it.Scranton started dying years ago--fading into urban blight. Not collapsing, just losing its gleam. Most of the textile factories closed way back, and although coal-mine fires still smolder under parts of the city, none of the wealth and employment of that industry remain either. I sometimes picture myself at age thirty, unemployed, sitting on the porch of my parents' house in the evening, drinking a can of beer. It isn't a difficult leap to make--a third of the houses in our neighborhood have someone like that hanging around.

From the Hardcover edition.
Rich Wallace

About Rich Wallace

Rich Wallace - One Good Punch
“When you’ve faced that moment and given everything you have, you let yourself realize that . . . your success or failure is not ultimately based on whether you triumphed, but in how you faced up to the challenge.”—Rich Wallace

Rich Wallace is the author of several books set in Sturbridge, Pennsylvania, including Wrestling Sturbridge, an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults; Shots on Goal; Losing Is Not an Option; and Playing Without the Ball.


I’ve heard it said that most people who write for kids have a fixed point in their childhood where their most significant memories lie. A piece of them has remained that age, has continued to see the world through the eyes of that child. It’s where their emotions run hottest, where their impressions are most vivid.

For me that place is the high school years, the years of Ben in Wrestling Sturbridge and Bones in Shots on Goal. It’s the moments of absolute torture waiting for the girl to answer the telephone, or of gut-twisting anticipation just before a race. It’s the white-hot fury in the rush toward the finish line, the rare but deserved feeling of confidence when you step to the line for a game-winning free throw, and the satisfying range of emotions after a loss or a draw or a triumph.

I was successful as an athlete in high school and college and beyond, but what I feed off now are the alone times: the training, the psyching up, the self-definition. The way Ben prepares himself in the locker room before going to the mat with Al, coming to the realization that “I’ve been waiting a long time to walk out there in a match that means everything—my whole career. Al’s, too. I earned it and I want it.”

Or Bones, before the championship soccer game: “My eyes are wide; I can feel my heart pumping. Coach calls us over and I walk toward the sideline. I am confident and ready and scared.”

These guys have reached pivotal moments in their lives, not just as athletes, but as people. They’ve reached places where they’ve wanted to be, but it’s terrifying just the same to be there. Because you can’t duck out; you can’t say it doesn’t really matter what happens. Because it does.

And afterward, when you’ve faced that moment and given everything you have, you let yourself realize that it wasn’t the winning that mattered, or the losing. That your success or failure is not ultimately based on whether you triumphed, but in how you faced up to the challenge.

I wonder sometimes if I’ll ever move away from my teenage years, in either direction, and write about little kids or adults. There’s this fiery orb of matter centered on the years from fifteen to eighteen, and I don’t think it will expire in my lifetime. So the likelihood is that any future novel I write will draw most of its heat from that period.

I kept intense diaries during my teenage years, packing them with the ups and downs of my daily existence. I captured the boredom and frustrations of life in a small town, the angst and embarrassments of my first dealings with girls, the desire and growing confidence that came with gradual success as an athlete, and the enormous fun of hanging with a group of funny, frustrated, kinesthetic guys. I turn to those diaries sometimes when I need to relive an emotion for a scene in a novel. And I find the same guy I am now—a lot more naive, a lot more ego-driven, but essentially the same individual.

I hope I never lose him. One way I keep him alive is by letting him write these novels of mine. I hope he finds like-minded readers, and that he can help them face their own moments of definition.

Rich Wallace has worked as a sportswriter and news editor, and as the coordinating editor of Highlights for Children magazine. He’s coached his sons’ youth sports teams year-round, including soccer, basketball, and track and field.


“It’s a riveting story . . . Wallace weighs his words carefully, making every one count in this excellent, understated first novel.”—Starred, Booklist

“There are only a few contemporary writers who can hit the mark with teenage boys, and Rich Wallace, with his first novel, seems likely to join that group. . . . You don’t need to know or like wrestling to become quickly engaged with this story.”—Chicago Tribune

“The sports angle makes this a great ‘guy’s’ book, while the gripping narrative and feisty heroine will appeal to young women, too. A real winner.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly



As quick and tight as a taut jab.”—Kirkus Reviews

From the Paperback edition.

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