Albom hopes latest novel is ‘Heaven’-sent

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. – Mitch Albom’s best-selling memoir, “Tuesdays with Morrie,” gave him the literary chops to try his hand at fiction, so it’s fitting that he returns to the book’s central theme – the struggle to understand one’s own mortality – for his fourth novel.

“The First Phone Call From Heaven,” which came out Tuesday, mines the same death-and-afterlife material that transformed Albom 16 years ago from an award-winning sports columnist into a best-selling author. A closer look, though, shows it’s not quite like his other novels. At 323 pages, it’s about 100 pages longer than his other fictional works, and he devotes the extra space to fuller character development.

Plus, “it’s a bit of a thriller,” according to Albom, who said some people close to him expressed surprise he had a mystery novel in him, but he realized: “I’ve been writing sports my whole life, and sports is exactly that.”