Brave in Season

Jon Volkmer


A Novel of Race, Railroads, and Baseball —  Set in 1950 in the rural Midwest, and inspired by real events, this gripping novel explores what happens when an African American railroad repair...

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A Novel of Race, Railroads, and Baseball — 

Set in 1950 in the rural Midwest, and inspired by real events, this gripping novel explores what happens when an African American railroad repair crew is dropped into a tiny, tight-knit farm community. Will frictions build to an all-too familiar American tragedy, or can tensions be overcome in that uniquely American way, with balls and bats and a field of green?

Seventeen-year-old Carlin Littman has big dreams, much bigger than will fit into sleepy Julian, Nebraska, population 172. She has set her sights on college, Chicago, and beyond. The arrival of the rail workers, known as gandy dancers, is an interesting distraction in the bored summer days where her only job is looking after her little brother, Timmy. When she befriends Sam Washington, the awkward, bookish gandy a year younger than she, neither of them have any idea what they have set in motion.

Many decades later, Tim returns to Nebraska, attempting to recover the lost history through interviews with the few surviving seniors who might remember. These encounters provide the basis for a story that lies somewhere between myth and memory. A story where the mutual respect between the oldest gandy, Jerome, and the store owner, Dave, offers townsfolk an alternative to stereotype and prejudice. A story where the new rail line is being built over the route of the underground railroad, challenging a new generation of farm families to live up to that heritage. A story where an unlikely pick-up game propels players on both sides to epic performances.

Race, railroads, and baseball are iconic themes that come together in this moving story of the American heartland.


"Summoning a large and vivid cast of characters, Jon Volkmer takes us back to the Midwest of the postwar years and to events that rattle a small town, forcing it to confront its demons. Brave in Season captures a historical moment that soon will lie beyond living memory, evoking a mythic small-town romance of baseball and then drawing from it a gripping parable of racial oppression. Is it possible for a writer to be heartfelt, funny and warm while also providing a stark portrayal of American racism? That’s the magic trick Jon Volkmer has pulled off with Brave in Season.  Imagine Field of Dreams meets To Kill a Mockingbird, and you’ll have some sense of what lies in store for you in this deeply rewarding novel."—Rand Richards Cooper, author of The Last to Go

“A richly textured and engaging narrative that tells a multilayered story. This book needed to be written, and deserves to be read.”JB Manheim, Author of The Deadball Files series

John Volkmer on the Sunbury Press Books Show ...

by Jon Volkmer
Page Count: 270
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Publish Date: August 29, 2023
Imprint: Milford House
Genre: Sports

FICTION / African American & Black / Historical
FICTION / Historical / 20th Century / Post-World War II
FICTION / Sports
FICTION / Small Town & Rural

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Brave in Season: A Novel of Race, Railroads, and Baseball

Whenever an author creates a historical perspective regarding the American way of life, whether in a fictional or a nonfictional context, that individual at times turns to baseball as a beautiful backdrop for the story. In his book, "Brave in Season: A Novel of Race, Railroads, and Baseball," author Jon Volkmer skillfully utilizes the great diamond game to bring everything home in this excellent and important novel that examines small town America in 1950. Mr. Volkmer’s story takes place in this country’s rural heartland, in the town of Julian, Nebraska. The author proficiently and knowledgeably weaves together the critical relationship that exists between the farming community and railroad industry.

Julian is the next stop for the African American railroad gandy crew, tasked with updating the tracks before moving up the line to their next job. While crew members interact with Julian’s citizens throughout the novel, a combination of acceptance, extreme prejudice, and soft bigotry emerges at various stages of the story. Mr. Volkmer vibrantly cultivates a multitude of characters that shine forth in this literary masterpiece. Heroes such as female strong-willed teenager Carlin Littmann and young railroad worker Sam Washington, who share a love for poetry, offer hope to the reader for a better future.

Ronald T. Waldo – Baseball Historian and Author of "Days of Reckoning: Players Punching Their Ticket Out of Pittsburgh During the Barney Dreyfuss Era."


Wonderful story that explores important history while speaking to current challenges. Small town life in rural America is depicted with both honesty and reverence, and we are reminded of the uncommon courage required in the face of prejudice. Volkmer’s research and personal connection to the story enrich this wonderful story.