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Historical novel out in 2024

Suspension Bridge, Niagara Falls

Late in the summer of 1864, a young woman with a troubled past reluctantly returns to Niagara Falls and the border with British Canada. Her assignment? Somehow keep rebel spies John Yates Beall and Bennet Burley from seizing the lone Union gunship remaining on the Great Lakes.


If Beall and Burley can commandeer the U.S.S. Michigan, they plan to bombard Cleveland and Buffalo on the eve of upcoming presidential election. This will certainly end Abraham Lincoln's chances of a second term. To a desperate attempt to stop them, Secretary of State William Seward turns to inexperienced agents like Rory Chase, his daughter Fanny's best friend.

Soon time runs out for Rory and the Union operatives. Can they stymie the Confederates before the Michigan falls into rebel hands? In a climactic scene atop the Suspension Bridge spanning the Niagara River, during a raging blizzard, Rory has a final chance to redeem herself.


Based upon true events, REBEL FALLS tells a forgotten chapter of the epic struggle. A time when the clash wasn't between armies and generals, but spies and unlikely allies. A place of extreme beauty where the Civil War briefly hung in the balance.


A hardcover Spring 2024 release from Three Hills, the trade imprint for Cornell University Press, REBEL FALLS has garnered advance praise. "This is history that goes down smoothly," writes Burt Solomon, author of THE MURDER OF WILLIE LINCOLN. "You feel like you're there."


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Indie Book finalist

ESCAPE FROM CASTRO'S CUBA was named a finalist in the 2022 New Generation Indie Book Award competition in the Action/Adventure (Fiction) category.

This is a case where I didn't even know the novel was in the running as the good folks at Nebraska Press entered it on my behalf. Thanks, gang.

ESCAPE is the sequel to CASTRO'S CURVEBALL, which was completed during my time in the Johns Hopkins Writing Program. (It was my thesis project.)

Nebraska Press now has ESCAPE and CURVEBALL available in print and ebook. I narrated the audiobook for ESCAPE.


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'Ghosts of Cuba'

Thanks to Greg Rienzi for the terrific review of ESCAPE FROM CASTRO'S CUBA in the Winter issue of the Johns Hopkins magazine. He detailed my inspiration for the new novel. How I couldn't get Cuba out of my mind after my fourth trip to the island in early 2017. One of the amazing characters I met on this visit was our 80-year-old landlady, who first came to Havana as a member of Castro's revolutionary army. 

Greg's piece closes with a quote from Billy Bryan, protagnoist of the new novel and its prequel, CASTRO'S CURVEBALL: "Cuba is beautiful, but has a dark heart."

True, so true.

In addition, here's an online chat Greg and I had about ESCAPE for the JHU Hub -- https://hub.jhu.edu/magazine/2021/winter/escape-castros-cuba-wendel/ 

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ESCAPE is CASEY Finalist

ESCAPE FROM CASTRO'S CUBA is a finalist for the CASEY Award, given annually to  the 'best' baseball book published this calendar year.

What surprised me the most about the news is that ESCAPE is the only novel among the finalists and, frankly, works of fiction rarely make the cut for the CASEY.

It is a stacked field of CASEY finalists, with Joe Posnanski's THE BASEBALL 100, Lonnie Wheeler's bio about 'Cool Papa' Bell and Dave Jordan's collaboration with slugger Dave Parker also in the running. Of the nine finalists, three are from University of Nebraska Press, which underscores the fine work editor Rob Taylor is doing there.

With ESCAPE being the only novel in play, I sort of feel like I've already won. And I'm not just saying that. As you know, getting traction for a piece of fiction is an uphill fight, so it makes your day when you hear that you're in the running for something like a CASEY.

Thanks to Mike Shannon and the folks at Spitball magazine for the honor.

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The '68 Series turned when the Tigers' Freehan stood his ground

Lou Brock (left) and Bill Freehan in the pivotal play of the 1968 World Series.

Jon Warden told me about Bill Freehan's death earlier today. And that, in and of itself, is a touch ironic. Even cruel.

For you see, Jon was the only player on either team -- the Detroit Tigers or St. Louis Cardinals -- not to take the field during the epic 1968 Fall Classic. 

Bill Freehan, of course, was involved in the key play of that epic seven-game series, which I wrote about in SUMMER OF '68: THE SEASON THAT CHANGED BASEBALL, AND AMERICA, FOREVER.

He's the one who took the throw from outfielder Willie Horton and stood his ground to tag the Cardinals' Lou Brock at the plate. In a bang-bang play, home-plate umpire Doug Harvey called Brock out and then the ump gestured to the baserunner's spike marks in the dirt, seemingly inches in front of the plate.

On such plays a series, even the fortunes of a team can shift. Heading into Game Five, St. Louis held a 3-1 series lead, one victory away from securing its third championship in five years. With Brock, Bob Gibson, Orlando Cepeda and other stars, the Cardinals were considered by many to be the best ballclub in baseball at the time.

In comparison, the Detroit Tigers were still battling for respect. They had lost the pennant on the final weekend the season before and until this play at the plate many of them weren't sure they could win in all. At least not in 1968. Until this point, the Tigers were just trying to keep the Cardinals' baserunners, notably the legendary Brock, from making them look like fools.

But once Brock was called out (and there's still debate about that in St. Louis), the Tigers battled back to take Game Five and then Game Six, and they did the improbable, border-line impossible. They defeated Gibson in the seventh and deciding contest.

The summer before there had been riots in Detroit. The worst such demonstrations in America since the Civil War. A year later, when the Tigers somehow won it all, there was celebrations on many of those same city blocks.

"The '84 Tigers like to talk about their 35-5 start (to the season)," Warden once told me. "That's nothing. When we won, we saved the city."


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ESCAPE off and running

Thanks to everyone who made the launch for ESCAPE FROM CASTRO'S CUBA such a success.

A tip of the cap to ONE MORE PAGE BOOKS in northern Virginia, BOOKS & BOOKS in the Miami area and those who bought the novel in book, ebook or audible form.

The sequel to CASTRO'S CURVEBALL has been out for almost eight weeks now and one of the high-water marks was this virtual conversation with Saul Wisnia, who did Luis Tiant's autobiography, SON OF HAVANA -- https://bit.ly/3uhMefj.

Perhaps the most intriguing questions I received at such gatherings was, Will there be a third novel featuring the intrepid Billy Bryan? To be honest, I hadn't planned on one, but it's got me to thinking. Let me know where you'd like the onetime catcher to head next? As my friend Jane Leavy said in endorsing ESCAPE, "In Billy Bryan, Tim Wendel has created the perfect baseball man."

Indeed, Billy is a fun guy to write about. 

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Pub dates nears for ESCAPE

Copies are shipping from Nebraska Press and Amazon, where Audible and Kindle editons can be found, too.

And here's a recent column about Cuba, politics and baseball that I wrote for USA Today -- https://bit.ly/3jSXwSL

That can tie you over until your copy arrives.

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Escape from Castro's Cuba

Just finished the audiobook version for 'Escape from Castro's Cuba.'

The new novel will drop March 2 from Nebraska Press, with blurbs from Daniel Silva, Jane Leavy and former big-league pitcher Luis Tiant.

We're in the process of scheduling virtual events with such outstanding independent bookstores as One More Page in Arlington, Virginia, and Books & Books in Miami.

More news soon.


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Latest audio -- Habana Libre

What to do during the pandemic? Hunker down in the home studio and narrate some more audiobooks, right?

The latest is my novella HABANA LIBRE, which came out with CityLit Press a few years ago. The story of an odd couple -- a young sailor and a showgirl -- who dare to escape by sea from Havana and it can now be found on all audiobook outlets. Good fun to narrate a novella that Holly Goodard Jones said is told with "tender complexity and rich detail."

It's also an appetizer to my new novel, ESCAPE FROM CASTRO'S CUBA, which is also set in Havana. A sequel to CASTRO'S CURVEBALL, it will be out this spring from Bison Books.

More on that soon. In the meantime, enjoy the HL audiobook.

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Audio beat goes on

RED RAIN, a World War II thriller, is now available on Audible.

I've been trying to stay sane during COVID-19 by spending more time in the recording studio, which is actually a closet in our three-bedroom apartment. 

The audiobook for RED RAIN, a thriller about the Japanese fire balloons in WWII, just went up on Audible. Thanks to my sister, Amy, for doing the great cover.

Also, I had fun narrating BUFFALO, HOME OF THE BRAVES,  which is about the star-crossed basketball team I used to cheer on when I was a kid. 

Pete Weber, the voice of the Nashville Predators, pitched in by reading that book's foreword by team announcer Van Miller. More about that soon as it should post on Audible in the next few weeks. It's already up on Google, Apple and other outlets.

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