Did a writer of Kevin Baker‘s renown really need a gig like this? After all, he’s already has 10 novels under his belt, beginning with his Sometimes You See It Coming, a contemporary version of Ty Cobb’s tumultuous life, published 20 years ago. And just this past September, Baker released The Big Crowd.
This doesn’t even consider his non-fiction work, both in book-form and essays (he’s currently working on a book about New York City baseball). So it’s accurate to say that Baker has a lot on his plate.
But when Reggie Jackson decided to come out with a(nother) memoir, he sought out someone whom he believed would do his story justice. So rather engage from among the “usual suspects” — old reliable sports journalists like Phil Pepe, Bill Madden, Wayne Coffey, Peter Golenbock, or Marty Appel — Jackson chose Baker to work with him on Becoming Mr. October.
While the reader might have some problems with the book for its narcissism — Jackson wanted to “clear the air” following his unfavorable portrayal in the mini-series based on Jonathan Mahler’s Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning — you certainly can’t fault Baker. After all, his job in this case is to tell the story as the subject sees it.
I had the opportunity to speak with Baker about the differences between the writer’s responsibility for telling his own story versus someone else’s.