Debut Novel "Autumn Fool" Delivers 1940's Football -- to Women, Too

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Surprising reaction to New Jersey author's historical yarn about America's favorite sport

One unexpected surprise for New Jersey writer Michael D'Emilio was the way in which female audiences have responded to the football sub-plot in "Autumn Fool," his first novel. Set in post-war Newark, the story winds through the turbulent love affair between an Army Air Force sergeant and the woman he meets when he is shot down over Nazi Germany.

After the war, Mateo Albero emerges from the gritty streets of Newark's West Side and fends off the local mafia as he pursues his dream of playing for a professional football team. Not exactly what a marketer would call "on-message" for the female demographic. But women are enjoying the book -- and talking about it with surprising enthusiasm.

"With your first book, you figure people are being polite and kind of positive when they tell you about it," D'Emilio said. "But I really thought women were sort of tuning out the football stuff."

Not so, according to reader feedback and reviews posted on, where "Autumn Fool" is generating brisk sales. A former linebacker for Princeton in the late 80s, D'Emilio "couldn't not" write about football. But including it in a love story was a risk that he concedes might have alienated half of the marketplace.

"The war theme, plus the mob stuff, plus that..." he trails off. "Could've been a bit much." But contrary to that expectation, women have gravitated to the quest of an underdog quarterback in the roughneck All American Football Conference, circa 1948. Perhaps it is because the German heroine Anna is never far from the action, or from Mateo's heart.

Less surprising has been the popularity of "Autumn Fool" among those more versed in its themes of war, sports and the mob.

"I enjoyed it," says Paul Zimmerman, Senior Writer for Sports Illustrated. "I was an old-time fan of the AAFC, and Mike D'Emilio captured it perfectly. Both on a football level and on a fiction level, this book gave me many happy moments."

Within the pantheon of football literature, there may just be a place for "Autumn Fool" -- and for the female audience as well. More information on the book is available at

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Michael D'Emilio

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