Written by Joe Scotchie: firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 30 March 2012 00:00
In 2010, Massapequa resident Frank Nappi had a hit with his novel, The Legend of Mickey Tussler, the story of an autistic youth who ended up starring for a minor league team in Milwaukee during the 1940s. The novel was successful enough to be the basis of a 2011 television movie, A Mile in His Shoes, one starring Dean Cain and Luke Schroder, son of Ricky Schroder, who played Mickey.
In April, Skyhorse Publishing is bringing out the sequel, Sophomore Campaign, which details Mickey’s second season in pro ball and his continuing struggles in the rough and tumble world of minor league baseball.
The author’s own work with special needs students has given him a unique perspective into creating such a gripping character as Mickey Tussler. In the novel, Nappi deals with such themes as cruelty and loss, but with the proper realism and humanism that is the mark of any successful novel.
“The inspiration for the story is two-fold; it lies in the amalgamation of my passion and love for baseball and the truly remarkable nature of some of the special needs kids with whom I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with here at Oceanside High School,” Frank told The Massapequan Observer.
“The writing of the sequel was oddly easy in that the first book concluded in such a way that the characters were sort of beckoning for more time to allow their collective story to unfold,” he continued. “Every writer knows when a story has run its course. Thankfully, the saga of Mickey Tussler and the other ancillary characters is not over just yet!
“My hope is that this novel, like the first, will not only entertain readers who love baseball and a good story but also facilitate a greater awareness of special needs individuals, thereby engendering understanding, tolerance, and ultimately acceptance.
“I am presently working on a third installment of the series,” he concluded. “[I am getting] lots of wonderful feedback from readers of all ages.”
The Mickey Tussler novels, with a protagonist who achieves the dream of the average American boy, have been cited as giving readers an honest and accurate portrayal of young people and their attempt to overcome such handicaps as autism.
“The Legend of Mickey Tussler speaks powerfully, brilliantly to anyone who...loves a special person who is dealing with the rigors and challenges related to autism,” said a spokesman for Autism Speaks the nation’s largest autism advocacy organization. Such former and current baseball stars as Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, former New York Mets great Darryl Strawberry and current New York Yankee superstar, Alex Rodriguez, also praised the novel.
Frank Nappi has taught high school English and creative writing for more than 20 years, currently at Oceanside High School. The Mickey Tussler novels are not his first ventures into fiction. Frank’s 2006 debut novel, Echoes From the Infantry, received national attention, including The Military Writers Society of America’s Silver Medal for Outstanding Fiction.
In addition, A Mile In His Shoes is now available on DVD. With April as both Autism Awareness Month and the traditional beginning of the baseball season, Frank is looking forward to more success in the world of creativity.