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The Starting Five: 1950s New York City Comes Alive in Gritty New Sports Novel

Written by HJ Pascal, this coming-of-age tale is complex and multi-layered, offering a stirring portrait of a young man on the cusp of adulthood, and a sport that collides with his life in more ways than one.


East Stroudsburg, PA -- (SBWIRE) -- 03/20/2014 -- HJ Pascal knows a thing or two about basketball.

In the 1950s, Pascal attended St John’s University on a full scholarship and played Division 1 basketball during his time at school. This experience forms the backbone of Pascal’s hard-hitting and fast-paced debut, ‘The Starting Five’.

The novel follows Vic Sasso, a brash young basketball hero who becomes traumatized by the fatal stabbing of a fellow player. Through his own PTSD, his tumultuous relationship with a young co-ed and the sweaty excitement of the basketball court, Sasso attempts to reconcile his own vision of the game with the often devastating impact it has on his life.

“This is a sports nation,” says Pascal. “We’re all gripped by the college basketball season – and I’m certainly no exception! When you are involved in basketball at that level, it informs every facet of your life. Sasso is in the thrall of the sport, and also struggling with his own demons and emotions. Of course it’s stressful for him, but it’s also at the heart of who he is.”

Brimming with honesty and as electrifying as the game of basketball itself, ‘The Starting Five’ is like a courtside seat to the best game that readers could ever imagine.


The book opens in a N.Y.C. park during a heated basketball game. Vic Sasso, a Brooklyn-born basketball hero, attends St. John’s University on a full basketball scholarship, watches conflicted about the rage of the players. The game turns deadly when a player fatally slashes an opponent. Vic attempts to help, but his feeble efforts fail. As a result of the death, Vic suffers through what is now labeled, PTSD. Vic’s father, an ex-pug, blames him for being in the park. His mother nurtures him, while his younger brother fears him. Two NYPD cops question only to eventually aid him with his conflicts.

Throughout the book, Vic recalls phrases from his coaches that explain the game. They come in the form of instructions that liven up the reader’s understanding and interest in key aspects of the game of basketball.

The plot takes on a nasty turn when Vic thirsting to play on the starting five sells his game for money and position. At this point, he falls in love with a beautiful coed, who helps him solve his sexual dilemma only to find them submerged in a test of their character.

The final scenes are packed with emotion, life-changing decision-making, reversals, twist and turns, homicides, surprises, tests of character that show transformations in the character’s personalities that help to resolve their complex problems with pathos and humanity.

Since its release, ‘The Starting Five’ has earned a five star rating on Amazon and glowing reviews.

“This is a first-class book by a first-time author! Whether you grew up in the 1950s or not, you will quickly be drawn into this compelling coming-of-age story about the choices we make that determine who we are and what lines we're willing to cross. Kudos to Pascal for creating a vivid portrait of a young basketball player, as sensitive as he is talented, navigating his way through youthful yearnings and adult corruption,” wrote Will B.

Calling it “a great read!” Edward Hogan wrote: “This book has it all: sports, romance, violence. But it's not a shallow novel; it also gives penetrating insights into the protagonist's character.”

“Shocked and amazed at how incredibly flowing and gripping your book is!” wrote Rosemary Lane.

‘The Starting Five’ is available now: http://amzn.to/1eLAovw

About Dr. Pascal
Dr. Pascal was born in N.Y.C. and attended St. John’s University on a full scholarship playing basketball there in the 50’s. Later he achieved a doctoral degree from the University of Miami in Fla. while teaching locally. In the 70’s he attended medical school at the Universidad Autonoma in Juarez, Mexico. After receiving his degree he practice psychiatry for thirty years in the Pocono Mountains in Pa. Married with children, he’s retired.