November 6, 1994
By Michael Pearson
The Virginian-Pilot

Mike D'Orso's publisher calls him a "journalist,'' and I'm sure Mike would be happy with that description, but I have to take issue with the term as it applies to him. As I see things, Mike D'Orso is a creative writer, for any journalist as skillful as he is, finally, must be called a creative writer.

Fundamentally, D'Orso is a superb feature writer, that is, a storyteller. In a few thousand words he offers his readers a tantalizing glimpse of someone's life. In his stories for The Virginian-Pilot and Ledger Star or Sports Illustrated he manages to create biographies on the run, fascinating glimpses into the lives of interesting people. In his latest collection (the first was "Fast Takes," published by Hampton Roads Publishers), D'Orso collects "portraits of people at play.''

"Pumping Granite'' is the kind of book you should enjoy the way you would an exciting party filled with lively individuals. In such situations you don't find out everything you want to know about the characters, but you find out a variety of intriguing things in a short space of time. "Pumping Granite'' is that kind of party, filled with wonderful characters and great conversations.

Mike D'Orso's writing reminds me of John McPhee's - with his descriptions of representative men and women, his knotty individualists and ordinary rebels. In this collection, D'Orso paints portraits of young female race car drivers, football heroes, pool players and horseshoe enthusiasts. Truly, this collection is three bags full - filled with stories of rock climbers, blind and deaf drill teams, circus performers, volleyball players and sumo wrestlers. He takes us to tennis camps in Virginia and onto basketball courts in Portugal and Eleuthera. We go surfing with the William and Mary surf team, and scuba diving for golf balls.

Ultimately, although Mike D'Orso often writes about professionals and businesspeople, he always seems to be writing about amateurs, about people who love what they do, who find themselves by participating in life, by playing as if their lives depended on it.