Gary Lepper’s crime novel “A Deadly Game” (Phosphene Publishing Company) pits a collision of fantasy baseball and real life crime. A police detective, David Kenmuir, investigates the inexplicable injuries (and two deaths) of baseball players across the country.
This is not a typical story and it’s not based on any books or movies. “There was no inspiration. I didn’t turn to anything,” Lepper said. “One of the points of this book is I don’t think there’s ever been a mystery novel based on fantasy baseball. It’s unique.”
The idea started about 15 years ago, while on a golf trip. While killing time, Lepper sketched out a plot and wrote down some ideas. He stopped while working on his “real job” as a trial lawyer but would work on the novel during occasional breaks. Being the owner of his own business did have its upside. “I’d go in the bathroom, look in the mirror and call a meeting,” Lepper said. “The vote was always unanimous.”
As he cut back on the job a few years ago, he spent more time on the novel. Despite a lot of hard work, there was still a long way to go. “I’ve written a lot as a trial lawyer,” said Lepper, who is also the author of ‘A Bibliographical Introduction to Seventy-five Modern American Authors’. “But dialogue? None. The first person I showed was an agent who read the draft. She said ‘you’re dialogue is excretable’. Well, I better learn how to write dialogue.”
Lepper went to a local instructor who taught a class on the subject.
Lepper is a fantasy baseball commissioner and nine-time winner of the Walnut Creek Bush (fantasy badeball) League. His experiences helped with this book. “I certainly wouldn’t have been able to write it of I hadn’t played fantasy baseball,” Lepper said.
It specifically helped with the creation of the villain. “I wouldn’t know what his strategy and impulses were unless I was aware of the variations and strategies in fantasy baseball,” Lepper said.
The curse of players drafted by Lepper is that an inordinate amount of them would be injured. Years ago, Lepper’s AL team was known as the Walking Wounded and his NL team was the MASH Unit. It got to the point where his friends wouldn’t allow him to draft Cal Ripken Jr. in 1995 because it was the year Ripken was set to become The Iron Man, and they didn’t want him to be jinxed.
Lepper became a baseball fan as a five year-old in Los Angeles, at a time when the Dodgers still played in Brooklyn. “When I was kid, the closest you could get to baseball was St. Louis,” Lepper said. “There was one black and white game on TV a week. There was a mystique about baseball. It really was the great American game.”
His uncle, Burt Kenmuir (name look familiar) played at the same high school as Ted Williams, Bob Lemon, and Ray Boone, and was in the Boston Braves organization.
Lepper, a collector of first edition novels and baseball cards (with the Pee Wee Reese card from the 1953 Bowman set being his favorite), got involved in fantasy baseball after two law firms merged together and the employees weren’t close. “I started teams as a device to bring oriole together,” Lepper said. “Now there was something in common to talk about.”
Now they can talk about the first mystery novel about fantasy baseball.