Mark Winegardner grew up among the Dum Dum suckers and Etch A Sketch toys of Bryan, Ohio, where he learned to love road trips from his RV-dealing father, baseball from his sports fan granddad, and reading from a friendly Williams County librarian. Who would have known, when he was booted from his Little League team and rejected from five creative-writing programs, that he would one day direct a creative writing department, publish several books about baseball, and win the nomination to write one of the most talked-about books of the new millennium, The Godfather Returns.
Mark Winegardner was never good at baseball, but Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, a contributor to the New York Times Book Review, said his Veracruz Blues was “the best baseball novel that I have read.” Winegardner grew up in rural northwest Ohio, but even Cleveland natives couldn’t criticize his perceptions of their city in Crooked River Burning. Winegardner has no history with the Mafia—he’s not even Italian—but his Godfather Returns is gripping and winning, a “real book by a real writer,” one full of “elegant, ironic insight,” says Sarah Vowell.
Some say Winegardner developed wanderlust, traveling the country with his parents as a boy. But perhaps it’s not wandering to distant places that this Ohio writer craves. Perhaps his forte is in wandering into the lives of people and time periods foreign to him and his readers, and making them into lives and times to which we all can relate. Mark Winegardner is young and his career is just picking up current. One wonders where this crooked river will take him next.