Local authors Roger Arsht and Caitlin Hawker coming to Dolly’s Bookstore
December 24, 2013
Roger Arsht was teaching creative writing at Park City High School two years ago when an idea for a novel sprouted in his mind.
"I began writing this fictional story about corruption in professional sports," Arsht said during an interview with The Park Record. "I had pretty much roughed out the book, but felt that something was missing."
So he called a former student named Caitlin Hawker, who was studying history and English at the University of Utah.
"Caitlin was a student of mine a few years prior and I sought her out because I remembered that when she was a student, she was a brave writer who didn’t pull any punches. And this has proven to be a very productive collaboration."
Their new book, "A Slam Dunk," which is a mystery set in the world of professional basketball, is available now at Dolly’s Bookstore, 510 Main St., and online at their blog page, noirwriting.blogspot.com .
The authors will be at Dolly’s on Saturday, Dec. 28, for a book signing from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m.
Hawker’s input was just the element the book needed, Arsht said.
"I remember when I would give assignments to her class and her writing would always horrify me," he said with a laugh. "Sometimes I would have to hold the page at arms length to read what was on her mind."
Hawker, who graduated Park City High School in 2006, said she is drawn to the darker elements of life.
"I like black comedy and I do write a lot of science fiction," she said. "When Roger approached me with his idea of a sports book, I was working at the school bookstore, not really doing anything with my life."
Hawker was at first taken aback.
"At that point, I hadn’t written anything about sports, but did watch them because my family is made of fanatical football fans," she said. "Then he told about what he wanted to do in the book and that he needed some dark elements to make it more intense. And that was interesting to me."
"Slam Dunk" is basically the same story Arsht began, but the characters have more depth and the situations are more detailed.
The main character, Detective Joe James, is trying to solve the murder of Leah James. She was an assistant marketing director for a pro basketball team, and in love with the team’s star player.
"It is a fictional story, but came from some real scenarios that happen in the sports world," Arsht said. "I mean, I watch sports all the time and sometimes something will happen during a game that will make you wonder what is really going on.
"For example, a quarterback will be absolutely dialed in for most of the game and all of a sudden he will throw a pass that will be intercepted by a defensive back and there will be no receiver in that area for miles," Arsht said. "When things like that happen, I start wondering if there isn’t some type of conspiracy in the works."
As Arsht analyzed and picked at those scenarios, his story took root while he watched a basketball game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns in 2010.
"The final piece of the puzzle came when Andrew Bogut, who used to play for the University of Utah, was playing for the Bucks and went in for a layup," Arsht said. "On that particular play, Amar’e Stoudemire, who was playing for the Suns, essentially takes out Bogut’s legs."
Bogut fell backwards and broke his wrist, elbow and forearm.
"I have no evidence that Stoudemire did this on purpose, but the thought that came to my mind after watching the slow motion replays was what if Bogut was messing with the line of the game and Stoudemire made a decision to protect the way the game was supposed to go?" Arsht said. "That’s when I knew I had to write this book."
When Hawker read the first manuscript, she felt the scenarios could all be plausible.
"I thought there was something there and felt people would be interested in it, because these situations are so believable," she said.
After the two started collaborating, the sports world began feeding them more ideas.
"The news was filled with Lance Armstrong, Eric Hernandez and Richie Incognito," Arsht said. "It just went on and on."
The underlying theme of the book shows how fans conveniently forget that some of their favorite athletes are, in fact, criminals.
"We see a number of these guys do terrible things in their private lives, but once they put on a team uniform, everyone goes, ‘Oh, now they’re the good guys,’" Arsht said. "That’s not logical, but it happens all the time."
Hawker said the book should serve as a reminder that no matter how popular someone is, no one is above the law.
"These super sports stars are still people and as people they need to be held accountable for the bad things they do," she said. "Unfortunately, in today’s pop culture, famous people aren’t held accountable for the most part."
The blame for that rests on the public, Arsht said.
"We empower and make narcissists out of these athletes," he said. "We go and buy tickets and jerseys and such, and by doing that, we, in a sense, fund their crimes."
Local authors Roger Arsht and Caitlin Scopes will sign their new book "A Slam Dunk" on Wednesday, Dec. 28, at Dolly’s Bookstore, 510 Main St., from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. Admission is free. For more information visit http://www.dollysbookstore.com.