**Named one of the three best books by a local author in the last 12 months in Creative Loafing's Best of the Bay 2021.**
"Baseball and the blues, two American originals, come together in this striking -- no pun intended -- tale of faith and perseverance. Like baseball and the blues, CURVEBALL AT THE CROSSROADS is enticing and seductive, a story that will stay with you long after the last pitch."
Jay Busbee, author, "Earnhardt Nation"; writer, Yahoo! Sports
"'Curveball at the Crossroads' reeled me in on page one, and I couldn't put it down. It's a book that makes you ask: What would YOU do for a second chance, to rediscover a lost talent? It's a question that hangs over every page of this book - and one you'll be thinking about long after you finish it."
Jayson Stark, author, Baseball writer at The Athletic, Winner of 2019 Baseball Writers Association of America Career Excellence Award
“There are few writers who can make baseball as compelling as Michael Lortz, and this book is a swing for the fences.”
Ben Montgomery, author, "A Shot in The Moonlight", "Grandma Gatewood's Walk"; writer, Axios Tampa Bay
"Michael Lortz combines a touch of “The Natural” with a little “Damn Yankees” in “Curveball at the Crossroads”, a fun read for any true baseball fan."
Bill Chastain, sportswriter and author
"Some of JaMark’s feats are simply unfathomable, but Lortz pulls it all together in a crisp, believable story. There are several currents flowing in this book, but they inevitably swirl around JaMark. ... The final sentences will really get you thinking.
I have a theory, but I will keep it to myself. Even if I am wrong, I am correct in saying that Curveball at the Crossroads was a fine debut."
Bob D'Angelo, sportswriter and editor
"Enjoyable version of the classic deal with the devil story. The baseball world is well-drawn without being too insider. Some absurdist elements mix well with the drama and make for a fun read overall - worth spending the time on this one."
Brian Spaeth, author, "Flight of a Super Airplane", "Prelude to a Super Airplane"; writer, "Who Shot Mamba?"
"The deal-with-the-devil is a favorite story motif. This book puts it in a baseball context. This is a fun read with vivid scenarios which could easily be adapted to video. Loved it."
Patro Mabili, radio host, WMNF 88.5 FM (Tampa, FL)
"I went in without expectations and found a new twist on the old "deal with the devil at the crossroads" that was much more fun than I expected. As someone interested in vintage Americana, including baseball, blues music and especially America's unique modern mythology, Lortz's book appealed to be on multiple levels. But none of it would have landed for me without such clear, clever and entertaining storytelling - the style reminded me a bit of Christopher Moore. A fast read that relies on good solid storytelling; a modern fable that swings for the fences and delivers. Go read it already."
Joshua Ginsburg, author, "Secret Tampa Bay: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure"
"The story of JaMark Reliford is an engrossing tale that one doesn’t need to be a baseball fan to enjoy, but those who love the sport will want to read this if they enjoy baseball fiction."
Lance Smith, The Guy Who Reviews Sports Books
"Narrator Torian Brackett gives star treatment to each character in this story of a faustian bargain. Seventeen-year-old JaMark Reliford is poised for big league baseball--until he blows out his arm. After leaving home, depressed, drinking, and smoking, he meets a tall man in a zoot suit. The tempting voice that Brackett gives the devil entices JaMark with promises of baseball glory in return for his soul. Soon he meets Betsy, the love of his life--and another standout performance by Brackett--and moves to the Major League. But these successes are marred by his heartbreaking worry about the future of his soul, coupled with terrifying visits from the devil. Audio is a must for the subtle humor that shines through JaMark's anxiety."
SGB, Audiofile Magazine
""Curveball at the Crossroads" appears to be a baseball book, but is a lot more with a character driven story, set against the backdrop of a good and evil universe. JaMark Reliford is on his way to a possible career in the major leagues until an earth-shattering injury topples all of his plans. A while later he is offered by a man wearing black pants, shirt and top hat at a fork in the road, a way in to the game. The agreement has terms to be met or there will be consequences. For a while JaMark is on top of the world but something changes and the bargain takes a new turn. "Curveball at the Crossroads" is a wonderful first novel that is a multi-layered story that moves along at a brisk pace to its final pages with writing and a story that is guaranteed to please."
Gary Roen, senior book reviewer, Midwest Book Review
"Baseball and the Blues. Are there any greater American creations? Nay, I say, and first-time author Michael Lortz has merged these two cultural pillars with his excellent new novel, “Curveball at the Crossroads.”
"People who know me know I love the Blues — it’s my favorite musical genre, especially Delta Blues — making Michael’s book a must-read for me and anyone else whose passions include the Blues and baseball."
Ryan Whirty, writer/historian at The Negro Leagues Up Close; Society of American Baseball Research
"Curveball at the Crossroads is a quick read that blends a familiar Faustian story arc with sports fiction. Detailed accounts of JaMark’s games and stats will transport baseball fans to the scene, but all readers will be compelled by first-time author Michael Lortz’s character-driven plot. Lortz uses dramatic stakes for his characters and a dry sense of humor to keep the reader entertained. He pays close attention to developing his characters, with adjectives and other descriptors woven within each moment of dialogue. The brief chapters and simple language keep the story moving toward the final swing. This page-turner adds a supernatural aspect to the idea of flash-in-the-pan athletes and keeps the reader wanting to know more."
Grace Morrison, reviewer, NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture
"Mr. Lortz has released his first novel, with hopefully many more to come, and it is already finding A+ reviews… for good reason."
"Lortz brings his key characters to life, the humble, conflicted Reliford, the conniving and crafty devil and a slew of others that provide meaning and substance. His chapters are short (66 of them), which works perfectly for those of us with ADHD. They end vividly in well-crafted cliffhangers that make Crossroads difficult to put down because you want to see what happens next, which should be the point of any well-written book."
Chris Humphreys, SportsChump.net
"Such a great story! I love the concept, the characters feel very real and relatable, and the classic "Make a deal with the devil" storyline is given a fresh, intriguing spin in this baseball-centric tale of a young, super promising talent who loses it all in one unfortunate injury, but gets the opportunity to become the biggest thing in baseball from the Devil at the Crossroads. Every deal, however, has a price. I was fully invested in the main character's journey since page 1."
Vale Anoa'i, artist, author, "Growing Up Wrestling", "The View From The Third Eye", and "My Awakening"
"I knew the devil went down to Georgia; but I was surprised to see him in the Mississippi Delta as well. It’s written so well that I can’t help but feel all the emotions JaMark goes through. Lortz puts you in the pitcher’s mound, the locker room, and JaMark’s very soul. I thoroughly enjoyed how the viewpoint went back and forth from the narrator to the baseball commentators. This book reminds me of all that’s good about baseball. And how redemption is real. Lortz had me engrossed so I needed to know what happened next. It’s technical enough for the baseball geeks, yet light and fun. It’s a joy to meet these characters. Lortz stepped on the hill and pitched a perfect game."
Fred Shrum, author, "Tourist Trap: Oba Chandler and the Murder of the Rogers Family", "Psalms of the Street Sweeper"
"This book was awesome. I enjoyed the way the author wove history, culture, and more into the story line. I found myself hooked and was not able to put the book down. Hoping there's a sequel because I fell in love with the main character's journey! Definitely recommend to anyone who is a sports lover!"
TJ Pittinger, manager: Big3Rollup podcast, host: Peek2Pitt podcast, Double Fries No Slaw podcast, and Bourbon on a Budget podcast
"A fresh take on a familiar tale. This book is excellent for baseball junkies to pick up in the off-season. Its detailed chapters on baseball situations will place you on the mound, mid season. The off field story is deeply detailed and loaded with interesting references to pick up on. Any baseball fan would enjoy this. It will make you wonder if your favorite player ever looked for a little extra help."
Dave Druda, Operations Manager, ESPN 106.3 & 760 Deportes West Palm Beach
"Enjoyable book about a young baseball pitcher who makes a Faustian deal with the devil. Author Lortz does a good job creating several memorable side characters and shows promise for future work."
John Porter, co-host, Time for the Blues radio show, 89.1 WCVN, 90.1 WMVE, 93.1 and 107.3 VPM-Music (Richmond, VA)
"I am normally not a big fiction guy, but I really did enjoy reading your story. It took a surprising turn late I was not expecting!"
Jason Collette, columnist for Rotowire, podcaster at Fangraphs.com
"A fun and entertaining blend of baseball and fiction. It is a quick and engrossing read that blends sports and fable to create a unique take on making a deal with the Devil. It is very relatable if you're familiar with flash-in-the-pan sports stars who disappear almost as quickly as the burst onto the scene. Except this tale includes a supernatural twist that may make you wonder why those real life stars vanished."
Steven P. Ericson, PhD, Geographer of beer, culture, sports, and urban environments
"For someone who loves baseball, I have never read a baseball book. Curveball at the Crossroads by Michael Lortz has changed all that. The story is a new spin on blues folklore - JaMark Reliford was poised to be the next great major league pitcher until he was injured during his last high school game. With his life on a downward spiral, he meets the devil at the crossroads and pays the ultimate price to play baseball again.
Lortz writes with a lot of humor that had me laughing throughout the book. Add in a bunch of crazy and lovable characters and you have a memorable tale about believing in yourself, never giving up, and cherishing what really matters most in life. I also loved that interspersed between the story are chapters written from an announcer’s point of view. It really makes you feel like you are actually in the stands.
The book is a fun fast read for baseball fans and non-fans alike. There’s a lot of facts and descriptions about the game so even if you have just a passing interest in the sport, you’ll never feel lost."
Instagram book reviewer @Bookscatsbaseaball
"Curveball at the Crossroads is A Big Hit!!
Curveball at the Crossroads is a literary foray into the world of Major League pitcher JaMark Reliford who adopted the sport while growing up in extreme poverty in the Mississippi Delta town of Rosedale. After he was abandoned at an early age by his mother and father who both left due to peculiar circumstances, his only hope and way out of poverty was introduced to him through the Great American Past-time by his Uncle Rufus. Although Rufus influenced JaMark to pursue his athletic career, the young pitcher ironically spends most of the novel keeping his life coach out of trouble. Similar to Reliford’s parents, Rufus appears in and out of his life for strange reasons. (i.e. agricultural sabotage whatever that means, lol) Although Rufus deserves kudos for motivating JaMark to pursue a baseball career, this association does little to save him from an offer from a strange old man in a zoot suit which eventually costs him a heavy price, his soul! Melbourne-born Michael Lortz does an excellent job in weaving the tale of JaMark Reliford’s rise and fall which likens those tales of the supernatural like Faust or even the popular Marvel Comic and film Dr. Strange. Lortz’s love for American’s favorite past-time is definitely apparent in his comparing the inner-workings of baseball to chess. The young military man who currently resides in the Tampa Bay Area shares the complexity of the mentality of the pitcher position throughout this rise and fall novel. The wordsmith successfully captures the challenges faced in the pitcher role in 66 chapters which are quick-moving at a length of between 2-4 pages each. “it really can get intense as a pitcher, especially in the majors,” explained the Florida State Seminole who once tried out for the current World Champion Atlanta Braves. Although the work will have its readers enduring a plethora of emotions throughout, Lortz balances out this temptatious battle with true-to-life supporting characters who re-affirm Reliford’s ethical compass. I highly recommend readers seeking escapism through literature to cop Curveball at the Crossroads whether you have a vast knowledge of the game or even if you just enjoy a feel-good tale about Good vs Evil. I found it hard to put down this Masterpiece."
Dr. Augustus Jordan III, English and Humanities Professor at Clark Atlanta University
"Just finished this wonderful baseball fiction novel. I found this one to be a real page turner, I didn't want to put it down. W.P. Kinsella wishes his books were this good. I was definitely hooked within the first few chapters. This book follows JaMark, a young HS pitching prospect who after blowing out his arm falls on hard times. He meets the devil and agrees to sell his soul in exchange for another shot at his dream. As you could expect that choice is one he will soon regret. The author does an amazing job of weaving this story, his writing style has lots of character. The writing is steeped with tongue & cheek humor and hilarious ironic situations. For example, uncle Rufus was busted selling moonshine out of the back of a sunroof factory, the owner didn't know as he was left in dark. This intelligent humor, mixed with the masterful story telling makes this book a must read in my opinion. I highly recommend this book to everyone in the group. If you've enjoyed Kinsella, you'll love this book."
Justin Charlton, Facebook Baseball Books Group
"Curveball at the Crossroads was a great piece of fiction that is being played through America's past time. The story moves at a decent pace and definitely becomes an instant page-turner for the reader to move throughout the story. Reading about JaMark Reliford make a comeback story from "rock bottom" all the way from his journey through the minor-league system and eventually making it to The Show is something that definitely educates the reader to understand how baseball is endured for every player. The influence of literary devices used to make this a cherished favorite for baseball fans everywhere to pass down to generations in order to preserve, "America's past time." Other elements of the story give homage to blues music and the influence of Doctor Faustus in another form of an American tale. Writer Michael Lortz captures all of those elements and lets the reader's imagination run wild in a baseball adventure that is sure not to be missed."
Matt Estopare, host The EstoBro TV Podcast
"This is a great read. A fun, quick read.... Michael Lortz is a tremendous talent. He is an uncut gem ... a gem in the rough."
"Fun read. The story is led by 2 great characters that keep you moving all the way to the end. Love the baseball in the story."
Eric Prae, co-owner, HP Training Center (Tampa, FL). Volleyball coach. Former stand-up comic.
"Just finished Michael Lortz Curveball at the Crossroads. Honestly one of the most interesting books I've ever read! I had a basic interest in baseball, but the author explains the inner workings of baseball very easily through the story. I love the way Lortz writes, with puns and run-on sentences that make way more sense to the story than being short and to-the-point. Part of the story takes place in Buffalo NY and Lortz describes it exactly as I remember it. No spoilers, but the ending is good in that it actually ties up the story. I have read too many books that make me want to throw them into a shredder or wood chipper. This book deserves to be on display and enjoyed by all."
Hardkore Ferrari, pro wrestling personality, podcaster
"What a fantastic story! I’m actually not a baseball fan, but with the combination of great writing and an amazing performance by Torian Brackett, I found myself fixed on every word and constantly wondering “what’s next for JaMark?!”
I highly recommend you check out this audiobook! I enjoyed this story very much!!!"
Aubrey Keys, Audible.com listener
"Very good book overall. Parts of the book made me think of Tony Saunders, Robert Johnson, Field of Dreams, and even the legend of Toe Nash. For me the book kinda bogged down in the middle but the last 60 pages flew by as loose ends were tied up. Highly recommended for readers of baseball fiction and Tampa Bay fans!"
"Really enjoyed the humor and details woven throughout. The author’s deep love of the sport and homage to Delta legends is clear. There’s some great world building through some of the locations and minor characters (would love to read a companion novella about Uncle Rufus!)"
"Audio Version is a MUST for Baseball Fans
I purchased and listened to the audiobook of Curveball at the Crossroads and really enjoyed it. For baseball fans, it's definitely the way to experience this story as it makes the play-by-play game sections of the book really come to life. It's like listening to an actual game. It's clear the author knows the ins and outs of baseball and its culture. The main character's journey has elements to it that anyone can relate to, whether it's considering how far one will go for success or the importance of supportive family/friends. I found the ending to be completely satisfying and liked that you really didn't know what was going to happen until you got there. I recommend giving it a read/listen."
"Loved it! Robert Johnson is one of my favorite singers and I love how sports and music are woven together in this fantastic book. Always enjoy reading something original. This one did not disappoint. Can’t wait to read his next one."
"This was a great read. I’m a huge baseball fan and grew playing as a kid. I sent it to my dad for Father’s Day and he burned through it. Story kind of relates to my family in a couple ways. Great soulful and cultural read."
"I loved it ... the pacing was incredible and it really put everything into perspective. One of the few baseball novels I’ve read that really transcended the sport."
"This book was worth the read! If you like baseball, any sport for that matter, or just a good book, pick this one up! Well written, easy to follow. Gave goosebumps at the end."
"I bought this at a book signing event. The author is a very pleasant person and I really enjoyed his work. A good read for anyone. Even if you're not into baseball."
"What a great story line, and interesting characters, Kept me turning pages to find out what next? Great baseball references and music too! Reminded me of some of Stephen Kings writings but without the gore, just with the unknown and characters! Looking forward to another read..."
"A very enjoyable read, even for this non-baseball enthusiast. I enjoyed the character development of JaMark and of Inga, specifically. It’s a fun read about a dream dissolved, a choice made in desperation and all its repercussions."
"This book kept my attention throughout ... I will admit that I actually had to look up some of the sports 'jargon' so I could fully understand some areas, as I am not versed in all aspect of baseball aside from `Safe, Homerun, and SWING BATTER'. Overall great read, I truly appreciated the spin on the devil, where he could be viewed as either an evil or just mischievous entity. Top marks, look forward to another Lortz book!!"
"Great book. Fun read. Great main characters and a solid story. Also a great narration by the reader. Defiantly worth your time"
"I liked it. It was good."
The Author's Dad