Mysterious Book Report Hangman’s GameHangman’s Game by Bill Syken

Thomas Donne/Minotaur Books, $25.99, 320 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-06715-9

Kids everywhere dream of playing professional sports and being on a championship team. I remember for example—back in the late ‘50s when we were all playing Little League baseball in the upstate New York hamlet of Grahamsville—that we had regular, and dead serious, discussions about whether we’d rather play for the Yankees or the Brooklyn Dodgers. (The consensus was always the Yankees, by a mile! We’re talkin’ Mickey Mantle, Moose Skowron, Whitey Ford, Gil McDougald, Yogi Berra and the most legendary manager of all time . . . Casey Stengel.) Of course it never happened for any of us. We came of age and that beautiful, magical, golden moment of childhood when we believed—truly believed in our heart of hearts, that we could be anything we imagined—evaporated forever. For some few though, a tiny fraction of less than one percent, the dream becomes a reality. They make it all the way to the top . . . and play on a professional sports team.

Hangman’s Game, by Bill Syken is about one of those few; blessed by fortune with the talent, size and strength as well as the determination, perseverance and luck to be able to live the dream and play professional sports. His name is Nick Gallow. He’s twenty-seven years old and he’s the punter for the Philadelphia Sentinels football team. He’s a five year veteran with a modest—by NFL standards—annual salary of $900,000, and he’s under constant pressure to perform, lest some younger, better and cheaper kicker get his job. Nick is so insecure, he’s living in a temporary apartment . . . the kind business travelers stay at when on two or three week assignments. Place kickers and punters after all, are the most easily replaced players on the team, coming and going with such regularity that the marquee athletes often don’t even know their names. It’s a situation that’s especially bad on a losing team—like the Sentinels. Then, hope arrives as the team drafts and signs the number one linebacker prospect in the annual college crop. His name is Samuel Sault and he’s touted as one of the best linebackers to ever play the game. His contract is for $64 million, with $30 million guaranteed. Samuel is however, a small town boy who’s not comfortable with the intense public scrutiny he’s getting, nor the bright lights and big city atmosphere. Because Nick’s agent is also handling Samuel, he arranges a dinner for the three of them, hoping that the veteran kicker can help the rookie superstar adjust to his new glamorous life. The effort is wasted when a confrontation develops and all three of their lives are changed forever.

Hangman’s Game is a fun, fast paced sports themed read that’s the next best thing to actually making the team! Syken draws on his years of experience writing and editing for Sports Illustrated magazine and uses his inside knowledge to make this one a debut effort that leaves us looking forward to the next Nick Gallow mystery.


John Dwaine McKenna