“An ace of a novel, an ace of a writer.” —Tom Franklin, author of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
Red Dirt is the story of Jaxie Skinner, an unlikely professional tennis player from a blue-collar family in the sticks of rural Georgia who takes up the game at the age of three when his father scrapes a court out of the red clay behind their farmhouse. He is a natural, rising to the top of junior tennis, and at eighteen has great success at the French Open. He falls as quickly as he rose, however, when troubles back home and injuries arise. He quits the game for years, but then mounts a comeback, struggling for almost a decade in the unglamorous, low-paying minor leagues of tennis, often living out of his van, before getting one last big shot. A fascinating study of tennis, its demands and tactics, as well as a look at the insular and often selfish character required to reach the pinnacle of the sport, Red Dirt is the Rocky of tennis novels.
PRAISE FOR RED DIRT
“Starnes spins a tale with the pace and power of a Rafael Nadal forehand.”
Jay Jennings, editor of Tennis and the Meaning of Life: A Literary Anthology of the Game
“Alright, literate tennis fans, it’s time to put down the remote and set aside those stat sheets and take an alternately amusing and inspiring trip from the top of the pro tennis barrel to the bottom—and back again. Joe Samuel Starnes’s book radiates an aficionado’s understanding of not just how the game is played (on and off the court) but what it takes to triumph in the hyper-competitive pro game.” —Peter Bodo, Tennis magazine senior writer, ESPN columnist, and co-author of Pete Sampras’s autobiography, A Champion’s Mind
“Red Dirt is solid pleasure. Starnes knows what it is to compete, to hope to be made whole by competition, to overcome not just your opponent but your own unquiet. This is a tennis novel, but any athlete—no, any reader—will learn a lot and enjoy the learning.” —John Casey, author of Spartina, winner of the National Book Award
“Red Dirt isn’t just a terrific sports novel; it’s a terrific novel, period. Jaxie Skinner is a complex and compelling character, and Starnes gives him a clear, fresh, lively voice.” —Michael Griffith, author of Spikes