Skip to main content

A Perfect Shot


A Perfect Shot

It was love at first sight --- make that first page --- for me with A PERFECT SHOT. How could I resist a book that mentions Isaly’s, the gone but not forgotten ice cream and sandwich parlor chain of my misbegotten youth? Robin Yocum’s recent novels --- A WELCOME MURDER, A BRILLIANT DEATH and now this one --- mine the fertile, dark, gritty vein of the Ohio Valley, where the eastern part of the Buckeye State butts up against West Virginia. Yocum captures with pitch-perfect clarity the mid- to late-20th-century angst of adolescence and adulthood in small-town rural and industrial cities, where departures are more the norm than arrivals.

The mystery that is articulated at the beginning of A PERFECT SHOT and that quietly haunts and resonates throughout until the very end is: What happened to the Duke of Mingo Junction? It seems that the Duke has abruptly disappeared from the small town where he has been known for over 20 years as a hero. Rumors abound as the story opens and Yocum rolls out his colorful and true-to-life cast of characters. Chief among them is Nicholas “Duke” Ducheski, who, even in his early 40s, continues to trade off the fame afforded to him. Such is the result of his performance in the magical final minute of a state championship basketball game. On behalf of his high school team, he single-handedly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, sealing the deal with the perfect, once-in-a-lifetime shot that gives this worthy novel its name.

"One wonders how much of what Yocum puts forth between these pages is fiction, and how much is truth disguised as a tale. Regardless, A PERFECT SHOT is just that, served up well."

Duke had intended to use this accomplishment to springboard his way out of Mingo Junction and a dead-end future as a mill worker. But fate and circumstance intervened, and some two decades later in the early 1990s, he finds himself, well, in a dead-end job as a mill worker, though he is still regarded as a hometown hero who rarely, if ever, has to pay for a drink. The adulation Duke receives from the citizens of Mingo Junction is such that jukeboxes in the local taverns include a recording of the broadcast of the final minutes of the game. However, Duke dreams of a way of trading the drudgery of his factory job for his own restaurant and bar where he can leverage his large fish in a little pond status as a drawing card, with the possibility of leaving his angry and bitter wife for his compassionate and comely girlfriend.

Duke begins to achieve his restaurant success, but the business attracts the attention of the local mob, whose enforcer, “Little Tony” DeMarco, is his brother-in-law. DeMarco puts the squeeze on Duke, forcing him to facilitate illegal gambling in his establishment even as he knows that it will inevitably result in the restaurant’s demise and quite possibly his own as well. Duke formulates a plan, one that could cost him his life and, if successful, will require him to give up almost everything. Which way does it go? You’ll have to read nearly each and every perfect page to find out.

There is a question that lingers and haunts at the end of the book. One wonders how much of what Yocum puts forth between these pages is fiction, and how much is truth disguised as a tale. Regardless, A PERFECT SHOT is just that, served up well.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on April 27, 2018

A Perfect Shot
by Robin Yocum

  • Publication Date: April 17, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 315 pages
  • Publisher: Seventh Street Books
  • ISBN-10: 1633884171
  • ISBN-13: 9781633884175