Baseball Mystery Writer Rounds the Bases

TROY SOOS'S last name rhymes with Seuss, but his books come a lot closer to the real world than the doctor's do. His baseball murder mysteries seem plausible, almost more so than the far-fetched way in which he's arrived in his dream job and literary niche.

Sitting in his home office, Mr. Soos explains the events that have taken him from working in a physics lab to crafting books like ''Murder at Fenway Park,'' which came out in 1994. Kensington Publishing Corp. signed him to do two other books (''Murder at Ebbets Field,'' published in April and ''Murder at Wrigley Field,'' out next April).

''I never intended to be a writer; I was always a voracious reader,'' he recollects in a room neatly lined with baseball books.

On the top floor of a ubiquitous Boston tripledecker, he gains inspiration in the near-quiet of an urban residential neighborhood, north of Boston. This is where the evil deeds emerge in Soos's imagination, where a player is bludgeoned to death in ''Fenway'' and a team owner is poisoned in ''Ebbets.''

During five years as a postgraduate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he enjoyed doing technical pieces for physics journals and decided that once out of school he would try his hand at creative writing.

''I'd always been a mystery fan,'' he says, ''A mystery has a structure to it, and I knew this [format] would keep me from trying to write the great American novel and meandering all over the place.''

For several years Soos worked days doing thermal physics research and nights concocting baseball mysteries. He acquired a literary agent and, with a completed manuscript in hand, struck a deal with Kensington. In February he quit his regular job, confident that his mystery writing career will pay the bills.

As a baseball history buff and member of the Society for American Baseball Research, Soos concluded that an old-time ballplayer - a utility infielder - would make an ideal sleuth. The mysteries, therefore, are told through the eyes of Mickey Rawlings. Soos produces his trusty baseball glove, a Rawlings, to show the roots of that name. It accompanies the author to park-league games, where he is an avid slow-pitch softball player.

A high school baseball pitcher, Soos attended a professional umpiring school in Florida before college, an experience that gave him ''another perspective'' on the game. One highlight of his work, he says, occurred at an old-timers game in the 1970s. ''I met the oldest living former [major-league] ballplayer, Jack Martin,'' he says. Not coincidentally, Martin played in 1912, the year ''Murder at Fenway Park'' takes place.

Soos was born in New Jersey, two weeks after the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1957. He sets his stories in the early part of this century, using a mix of real and fictitious characters and incorporating many authentic historical details. Each book, he says, begins with a month or two of intensive research. Sometimes this takes him to the archives of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Other times he digs into the Boston Public Library or his own resource material

Impressed by his initial three-book hitting streak, Kensington has extended Soos's contract to include three more titles. ''Hunting a Detroit Tiger,'' set in 1920, is in the works, and Soos says the on-deck circle could get crowded. He and his editor have talked about a 40- or 50-book series that would end with a mystery centered on the 1957 New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers. That, in essence, would bring Soos, who considers himself the lone purveyor of historical baseball murder mysteries, full circle.

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