NFL Novel Should Shake up Fans and Pundits Alike. The Author Wants a Deal.
By Dave Stolz
Lifelong NYC resident Cameron Z. Miller wanted to be a writer before they even knew how to write — “I was your classic toddler scribbling on paper.” And, when Cam was a teenager, “I threatened classmates that I would write some exposé about them.” Thankfully for Miller’s classmates, Cam never followed through with those threats — instead, Cam turned their attention towards writing fiction.
In Miller’s unpublished novel, Delay of Game, the Super Bowl MVP is dead, and an expat Interpol agent takes his place. “The spy doesn’t want the job, but global interests are involved that have nothing to do with the NFL. And then his team introduces him to the skullduggery in the league!”
Miller was watching football one night, “a disaster of a night game,” when the idea struck for Delay of Game. Miller was frustrated by biased refereeing, biased commentators, ugly penalties — both physical and verbal — and, “After years of fandom, I suddenly hated the Football Industrial Complex and everything it stood for. This included the team I was rooting for, except for about six players on it. This situation couldn’t stand. So I decided to write a football novel to fix things.”
Delay of Game is unlike other sports-related thrillers because, “No one else has done football and spies. Terrorists, yes. Mafia, yes. But I’ve cornered the spy market for now.” According to Miller, the story features a “built-in nostalgia factor — a sixteen-game season, a twelve-team playoff field, packed stadiums, rosters of oversized personalities.” Cam added, “You wish your team had these players.”
Delay of Game focuses on a bevy of complex issues, such as players’ rights and autonomy, health and safety, race, identity, and sexuality — relevant topics that often overshadow team rosters and win-loss predictions.
Miller started the process of writing this novel by “narrating my ideas and dialogue on tape — very old-school. The dialogue came out authentic and 90% of the ideas made the first draft. At night I’d be on Twitter, reading trolls and haters for pearls of idiocy to toss into the story. There are tapes of me narrating during playoff games, the Super Bowl, and the NBA All-Star weekend. Then a whole lot of transcribing, adding scenes, editing, polishing. The basic story took about six months and the good-to-go version took the rest of the year.”
Cam was confident this was a great concept for a novel, when a few months into working on the story, “some hot trade rumors dropped. I was on a long cab ride and half the people I knew were calling me, saying, ‘All the insiders are reading your book!” Then the driver started chiming in. Life has been imitating art ever since, but I like the book better.”
Miller has received a lot of encouraging feedback from friends and family who have read the book. Included in this group is Dave Zirin, sports editor for The Nation and author of ten sports-related books himself. According to Zirin, Miller has “a damn good story that deserves to see print.”
Miller is currently in the process of courting publishers — “I’m counting on an astute reader in the book biz to knock on my door with an offer” — and hopes to see the release of Delay of Game sometime soon. “My big dream is for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to read it.”
Before writing Delay of Game, Miller wrote I, Kidney, which portrays an Italian-American family dealing with kidney disease and mental illness. It was a special piece of writing to Miller because of its intricate family dynamics. When discussing it, Cam guaranteed “laughter in the face of tragedy, and plenty of info about dialysis and transplant.”
Miller is also currently looking for a home for an additional novel — “I’ve got a snarky little novel about a snarky professor, called Prof.”
While in quarantine, Cam started a new project called Schmaltz in the City. Unlike Miller’s previous work, Schmaltz in the City will not be a novel, but instead a series of vignettes about deli food, old eating joints, and Jewish foodie nostalgia. Miller added, “It’s like Seinfeld, if they all grew up on the Concourse in the ‘60s.” The next step for this project is finding “a collaborator with connections.”
Cam has been greatly influenced by writers such as Joseph Heller and Zadie Smith. “Catch-22 gave me permission to name characters what I wanted and exaggerate creepy people and their cruddy deeds — stuff I was already doing as a rookie writer. White Teeth renewed these permissions (and others) for a veteran writer in a new, crazier century.” But real-life events have always been the catalyst for Miller’s fiction, and Delay of Game is no exception.
Thankfully for us (and those classmates), Cameron Z. Miller didn’t have to become an exposé writer to expose us to underexplored worlds and situations. Now that so many pundits and even politicians are weighing in on the role of football in the American psyche, Delay of Game just might have found its target.
Contact Cam at Contact@CatsReviewMovies.com.