By Meladi Brewer
GREENVILLE — An Indiana native has written a captivating coming of age story centered in Greenville, Ohio.
Author Christopher “Jeff” Neff wrote Chuck’n the Deuce, a novel about a young man named Charles who left Greenville four years ago as a hometown hero to play baseball at Ball State. After a successful senior year, he returns home with no draft offers and depression.
As Charles works to put his life back together, he stumbles across a boy named Mick Whitlock who asks him to be his trainer. The town loser (Whitlock) and the enervate (Adams) stumble at times helplessly into one great summer of baseball and Rock ‘n’ Roll. All the while trying to figure out life, love, and the American dream. This coming of age tale is a work of realistic fiction that takes place in the late 1990s.
“Fans of the late 90s teen angst genre or of written works like The Field of Dreams or Last Days of Summer should love this book,” Neff said.
Neff was inspired to write this novel after a hard year in lockdown. He decided to not let the state of the world get to him, and he rose to the occasion.
“After the lockdown, for me it was an emotionally dark place to be in, and it is one of those things where you find who you are in those moments,” Neff said.
He decided to show the world what he was made of and not let those times break him. Instead Neff said “let me do something that I haven’t done before and is going to be a challenge.” Through this mindset, Neff created Chuck’n the Deuce, a story based in the town of Greenville.
Neff used his personal experiences to help guide the story. His love for baseball was a lead component in the plot line leading to the book’s fruition.
“The one main character, Ray Hathaway, was a real life person, and he was a Greenville native,” Neff said. “He makes some cameos in a story, and in my mind, he is a legendary character.”
Neff said Hathaway was a Greenville native who fought in World War II, came back, pitched a couple games for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and then he became a minor league player manager. Hathaway is not a main character, but he does help develop and inspire the main characters.
Not only did Neff’s love for baseball influence his writing, but his now three-year-old daughter had a hand in the writing process as well. In the “Fourth of July” chapter, Charles goes on a date with his love interest and stops and picks up his grandpa who is a retired pastor. In the scene the pastor goes to get some food and comes back with an extravagant milkshake. When asked what the milkshake tastes like, the pastor expresses, “It tastes like America.”
“The line he says actually comes from my daughter who was two at the time, and this is why it’s my favorite line. My daughter was drinking a Neapolitan milkshake, and when I asked her `what flavor is that”, she drank it and said, ‘it tastes like America,’” Neff said. “I was like ‘OMG, you are two-years-old and brilliant!”
Chuck’n the Deuce is more than a baseball story. Readers do not have to be a baseball fan to enjoy this work of fiction. An Amazon book review said “the story has such a wide range of emotions: love, laughter, sorrow. The characters were captivating. Charles and Mick are just so likable. The themes of the novel are intriguing, and the author’s descriptions of small town life are spot on.”
“I hope I do Greenville well,” Neff said. “For me it would be a dream if somebody read the book and said ‘Hey, I want to go to Jim’s or eat at Maid-Rite. I want them to want to go see the baseball field, swim at Wayne Lakes, and go into Eikenberry’s because the character says it’s the best in town all the time,” Neff said.
Neff hopes the publicity could be helpful to the town. He said he also wants those who read it to be able to laugh and think to themselves maybe life isn’t so difficult and things can be figured out.
“I want to surprise Greenville. To say, I’m this guy who has never been there, I don’t know you, I feel like I know you, but here is this love letter to this town I have never been to, and I hope you guys like it,” Neff said.
Those wishing to purchase the book can find it on Amazon by searching Chuck’n the Deuce, or by searching Christopher J. Neff. In order to contact the author, the contact information can be found on the inside of the cover of the book, or you can email [email protected]
To contact Daily Advocate Reporter Meladi Brewer, email [email protected]