THE SPOILER by Domenic Stansberry (The Atlantic Monthly Press: $14.95; 288 pp.). Making a living as a free-lance reporter in Holyoke, Mass., Frank Lofton is haunted by letters from the wife he deserted and by memories of the career he might have ruined. His lackadaisical coverage of the local minor league baseball team leads him to a mysterious woman, arson, murder, and possible political corruption--the sort of story that makes a great expose. And the sort of story Lofton has been accused of having covered up once before--for a payoff.
"The Spoiler" is imbued with a grungy reality: a losing team, a losing town, a loser hero. Everyone is a spoiler, someone who ruins good things, a batter who breaks a pitcher's no-hitter without changing the outcome of the game.
A pall of inevitability hangs over the story like some polluted cloud, intentions collide unintentionally, plans go astray and are reformed in smoldering darkness. And a solitary human being tries to come to terms with himself.
Newcomer Stansberry's book is itself--in a way--a spoiler, refusing to be typical of its genre. Written in the tradition of Graham Greene, "The Spoiler" is less a thriller than a moving chronicle of humanity--disquietingly black and totally absorbing.