After eight years as an Atlanta Falcon, Tim Green knows his football. Having earned a law degree, he knows his way around that end of the business, too. He's witnessed criminal behavior in the NFL and, as a Fox Sports commentator, he's still plugged into the heart and soul of the game. Now Green author of The Dark Side of the Game brings his guns to bear on several of the NFL's unspoken bugaboos race, religion, and righteous rage. The result is an uneven but highly entertaining novel which dares to pluck aside the locker room curtain. Less a thriller than a morality play, Double Reverse follows Clark Cromwell, a born-again player on the LA expansion team Juggernauts (slyly styled after the Cowboys), as he falls in love with Annie, seemingly the girl of his dreams. Meanwhile dealing with a substantially reduced post-injury contract, he is shocked when Annie turns out quite different than expected. Enter Trane Jones and his flamboyant, videocamera-wielding agent Conrad Dobbins. Jones is the bad boy of the NFL, signed to a bloated contract with money shaved from Clark's renegotiated salary. Dobbins is behind a huge but shady stock manipulation deal with the piratical CEO of Zeus Shoes. The beautiful lawyer/agent Madison McCall (previously in Green's Outlaws) helps Clark with his contract, but ends up owing the Juggernauts' owner a favor a favor which comes due when Trane Jones's new girlfriend is murdered with his golf club. Strangely, the victim is Annie, Clark's old girlfriend. The case takes on O.

J. Simpson overtones, and Madison soon finds suspicion shifting along with motive. That you might be able to figure out the identity of the culprit isn't the point the point is that peek behind the curtain. While locker room dialogue often degenerates into familiar sports cliches, it's clear Green knows his stuff. By dealing specifically with race and the new religious trend, Green explores vital issues, but he avoids lobbing the hardballs. Still, the most fun is to be had trying to spot the real names behind some of the characters. Green is at his best when describing the bone-crunching, spine-rattling full contact of the NFL, in which players ignore pain that would cripple normal people. He wears his opinion of the morality factor in professional football openly on his sleeve, flavoring this non-traditional thriller with painful realism.

William D. Gagliani is the author of Icewall in Robert Bloch's Psycho and Other Stories.

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