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Strohm’s book a good read

Two weeks ago a package appeared on my desk containing a book. As a writer, it’s not typical to get books in the mail. However, as soon as I flipped the book around to see the cover I stopped at the sight of the author’s name: Craig Strohm.

Somewhat confused I turned to Brian Hamilton, my sports editor, and he confirmed that yes, Craig Strohm, former Nevada Union girls basketball coaching legend, is also a published author. In fact, the book I held in my hand, “Paybacks”, was the second novel he’d written – the first being “Comeback.”

A day or two later I saw Strohm at an NU basketball game and told him how excited I was to check out his book, that it was on the top of my reading list. I had only read the back of the book by then and knew it had something to do with coaching.



That weekend, I wandered into my bedroom and saw “Paybacks” lying next to my bed and decided to read a few chapters. Nearly three hours later, I finally put the book down, smiling when I noticed that the book had taken me hostage for the afternoon and into the evening.

I’m not sure why I was so surprised that the book sucked me in – usually my favorite books consist of sports subjects or murder mysteries, so a book that combined both should have – obviously – been a book I enjoyed.




Maybe, however, my surprise had to do more with my inability to see Strohm as an author instead of just a great coach, a fellow Wisconsin cheesehead and a great guy to call when in need of some killer quotes or a historical perspective on girls basketball.

After reading the book, Strohm and I chatted and he told me that many of his students have a hard time taking him seriously as an author. But after they read his books, students often come to class with a new respect for their world history teacher.

I will admit I haven’t gotten ahold of his first book, “Comeback,” but after reading “Paybacks,” you better believe I will.

“Paybacks” is a story centered around a high school boys basketball coach struggling with some dangerous addictions and a will to win at all costs.

Strohm calls his first book an inspirational novel and this new book an adult dime story mystery. The message of “Paybacks” is not as spiritual as his first book, but truly is enjoyable and lessons can be gleaned from the characters in “Paybacks” just like in “Comeback.”

His use of newspaper type clippings to end each chapter propels readers to continue reading, offering them no spot that is dull enough to put the book down for too long.

The setting, while it seems a bit similar to the Nevada County area, is what Strohm refers to as “Wisconfornia.” References to Strohm’s home state of Wisconsin, even his alma mater the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, are apparent throughout the book as are references to people in his life like NU English teacher Louise McFadden.

“When you write fiction, you are naturally using an image mixed with your own experience,” Strohm said. “It’s kind of like a self-invasion of privacy.”

I asked Strohm if there is any coach Strohm in his main character Coach Turner. He laughed and said that there were some similarities, namely the way coach Turner seems to be at the end of his career and how he begins to run out of steam. There is a part in the book where coach Turner wonders maybe if he had opened the door to the furnace too often.

Much of the book was written during Strohm’s last two seasons of coaching. (He retired after the 2003-2004 season.)

Bottom line is that “Paybacks” is a fun read and a place to lose yourself for a few hours. And it’s fun to picture Strohm pouring over his keyboard piecing together the story as you read.

And if you find that you enjoy “Paybacks,” never fear – book number three “Flashbacks,” a tongue in cheek black humor kind of story, is in the making.

But until then, get yourself a copy of Paybacks – it will be afternoon well spent.

Stacy Hicklin is a sportswriter for The Union. She may be reached via e-mail at stacyh@theunion.com or by phone at 477-4244.


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