Books: Champion

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AMERICAN GIRL—John R. Tunis—Brewer & Warren ($2).

If a sports writer should let himself go, he ought to be able to write a good novel about his macrocosmic world. Few have; but Sports-Writer Tunis proves it can be done. Though he plays tennis and has appeared in tournaments, Author Tunis is no match for Racketeer William Tatem Tilden II on the court; but he has taken the same theme which recently lured Tilden into writing a novel (TIME, June 23) and has defeated him in straight love sets.

Florence Farley was a bright but not too stalwart little girl, only daughter of a mill superintendent in a small New England town. To give her something to do and keep her outdoors, her father painted, a target on the garage door, showed Florence how to practice hitting a tennis ball at it. She soon became so expert that when she got a chance to play on a real court against a live opponent she aquitted herself like an embryo champion. When her club sent her to the national junior championships (all expenses paid) she earned her keep by bringing home the cup. More, she attracted the favorable attention of one of the moguls of the U. S. L. T. A. Her rise was inevitable and steady. An ageing Helen Wills fell before her nimble racket, and she was champion. She was popular: she had a nice smile, she was attractive, she had pretty legs. Said a bystander at one of her matches: "Most good players haven't nice legs, have they? Betty's [Nuthall] are thick, and Eileen's [Bennett] are sort of funny, and Helen's [Wills] are wonky. But Florence has just lovely legs."

Florence soon found that tennis racket had more than one meaning. And she made the most of her many opportunities: "writing" for newspaper syndicates, endorsing cosmetics, giving concerts. In London she would come to dinner for a flat sum. When her father's business failed it did not matter; Florence was now the family moneymaker. But she found the business of being a champion took more than brawn, more than brains; in self defense she had become a cold-eyed, hard-shelled racketeer. When the man she loved but thought she could not afford to marry finally saw what she had become, Florence realized at last she was hopelessly in love with him. Too late, she was wedded to her business.

Author John R. Tunis, 41, is a Harvard man (1911), studied at Harvard Law School. Onetime reporter, he is now billed as a sports "critic." He is on the staff of the New York Evening Post. Like most successful sportwriters, harping on and exposing professionalism is his forte. He has also written: $port$, Heroics and Hysterics.

American Girl is the August choice of the Book League.