Johnny Get Your Gun by John Ball

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Johnny Get Your Gun (also known as Death for a Playmate) is the third in the Virgil Tibbs mystery series that began with In the Heat of the Night. In this story, a nine-year-old boy, lonely after a family move, shoots an older child who stole something from him, thus igniting the militant blacks and racist whites of 1960s Pasadena into a black-white conflict involving riots, brutalities, a chase through Disneyland, and a heart-warming as well as heart-breaking scene toward the end of the book that takes place in a baseball park of the California Angles. Here you will find childhood gone awry, racism that ought shock but in context does not (we know it too well), and political conflicts that add fuel to the fire. This is a first rate suspense novel.


John Ball wrote over thirty novels during his career including mysteries, war novels, adventure stories, but his reputation as a novelist is based on his first work--the 1965, In the Heat of the Night. While under considerable pressure from his publisher to make a change, Ball insisted on keeping the leading character in his novel a black man. Ball made the right decision and the book garnered him much praise for progressive thinking and a keen understanding of racial prejudice. Ball wrote other books that featured the hero of In the Heat of the Night, detective Virgil Tibbs, including The Cool Cottontail(1966), and Johnny Get Your Gun(1969). Later in life, Ball worked as a part-time police offer in Los Angeles and also trained in the martial arts. He died in 1988.


John Ball broke new ground with his book In The Heat of the Night, his 1965 novel that introduced the determined detective Virgil Tibbs. Ball's novel was controversial for it established a black man as a protagonist and Ball refused to change it, despite pressure from the publishing community. Ball would succeed and his book went on to become a film and television series, winning five Oscars including Best Picture and Best Actor for actor Sidney Poitier. Virgil Tibbs features in other books in the series, using his wits and physical martial arts skills as he successfully fights against crime, racism, and more.

About John Ball

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Published August 9, 2011 by RosettaBooks. 191 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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John Ball's best since the MWA-award winning In the Heat of the Night sentimentalizes and polemicizes in spots but his heart's in the right place even if he rubs your nose in the message.

Sep 15 1969 | Read Full Review of Johnny Get Your Gun

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