For those who still haven’t picked up a copy of my recent boxing novel, A Bittersweet Science, (and shame on you) I’m including below a brief synopsis and an excerpt. If you like it, it’s available on Amazon in digital format for $2.99. You can find it by clicking on the book cover at the right side of the screen. And if you don’t like it, it’s still available on Amazon for $2.99.
From the exploited fighters who bleed for pay to the scurrilous promoters and slick young television executives who make the backroom deals to the sardonic reporters who are there to record it all with a jaded eye, A Bittersweet Science offers a glimpse into a world most will never know.
It’s the story of “Action” Jackson Hayes, the unbeatable but volatile heavyweight champion who’s suspended from boxing because he’s just too violent and then decides to make his vacation permanent when he discovers Jesus. Enter promoter extraordinaire Abraham “Abby” Lincoln. A former 1960s student protest leader turned boxing mega promoter known for his tie-dye tuxedos and love of Machiavelli, Lincoln needs to appease his money men by bringing some excitement back to a moribund heavyweight division. With the aid of charismatic televangelist Antonio Harper, he lures Hayes out of retirement for a multi-million dollar showdown with young Tommy O’Callahan. That O’Callahan can’t fight very well is negated by the fact he just happens to be a white heavyweight… and his family has a bitter personal history with Hayes.
Caught at the intersection of it all is brilliant but discontent sports columnist David Goldman, whose disillusion with the amorality of the people he’s tasked to write about is mirrored by his own marital infidelities. But when events take an unexpected turn, Goldman finds himself thrust into the middle of a legal firestorm as both Lincoln and Hayes wind up in court facing off against ambitious prosecutor, Michael Bratkowski. Bratkowski is determined to make a name for himself with this year’s version of the trial of the century. The real fight has just begun but Abby Lincoln is determined to score a knockout over all his foes, even if it means sacrificing his favorite son, Jackson Hayes.
An Excerpt From Chapter 2:
Never one to be shy in the face of public speaking, Abby Lincoln strolled up to the microphone in that rolling, wide-armed gait that only men long used to carrying substantial girth possessed. He adjusted the microphone down a couple of inches to accommodate his 5 foot 10 inch height and began to speak, not in an oblique, quasi-intellectual fashion or a soul-brother, ghetto jive manner, nor in any of the other Zelig-like tones that, with the proper modulation, allowed him to blend in with the rich, the fashionable, the high, the low, the diverse minorities and many more in the general populace whom he could so successfully put at ease and make believe, if only for a moment, that he was of a consubstantial fabric. Instead, the mercurial promoter began to speak in the quaint, folksy tones of small-town America – not quite the rural inflections of the deep-south, more a mild, neighborly inflection that might have been mistaken for a Twainesque Hannibal, MO drawl or a Northern Virginia-verging-on-Washington twang, or any number of other regional dialects that inhabited those areas of America where next-door southern hospitality came up against more urbane northern intonations speaking in a voice that, in truth, had its origins nearly as far south as one could get in the continental United States, down in the lower regions of Florida, down below Miami at the very hob-nailed toe of the nation amidst the thick palmetto grass and cloying mangrove swamps of Homestead, Florida – someplace anyone who had bothered to read his best-selling autobiography “Livin’ The Dream: My Life As a Humano-American” would have recognized as Lincoln’s long-discarded place of origin.
But the promoter could readily call on this faint, confidence-inducing vocal timbre of his youth when he felt the need, as he did at this moment. Launching into a melancholy story of his humble beginnings as the son of “po’ folks” (his family had, in reality, been middle class) living in a broken down shack on the edge of the Everglades (modest ranch house in the suburbs) after his father had deserted the family without a penny (died in an Air Force accident; government benefits) forcing him to take work in the fields as a child to support his family (hustled used cars at his grandfather’s dealership during summer vacations) yet all that time knowing he would rise up to achieve some measure of the success this fine country offered to any who had the courage and virtue to…
Goldman and the other members of the press sat with their small reporter’s steno notebooks and pencils poised, waiting for something of interest to actually be said. They had all heard numerous versions of the “humble beginnings” speech from Lincoln over the years. At one time, the details varied: for example, the first time Goldman heard it, back when Lincoln was just getting started in the boxing business, the would-be promoter informed his audience that his father had been killed in Vietnam, was, in fact, the first U.S. serviceman to die in that terrible conflict way back in 1961, thus leading young Abby to later devote himself wholeheartedly to protesting that horrid blight on the national conscience in order to spare other children the pain he had suffered. At a later telling of the “humble beginnings”, Goldman heard Lincoln inform his listeners that, as a youth, he had to overcome the awful, scarring effects of being deserted by his father, who abandoned Abby and his mother in the late 50s never to be heard from again. As Lincoln’s reputation and position in the boxing world grew, Goldman began to notice other inconsistencies in the “humble beginnings” shtick and finally made it a point to do some research into the promoter’s Rashomonesque background. He eventually reported that nearly all the details Lincoln gave about his life were either wildly exaggerated or outright lies. Nevertheless, a good lie shouted from the mountaintops often enough will almost always overshadow dull truth spoken in sober tones. So most people who were not boxing insiders or devout followers of the sweet science remained convinced by the “humble beginnings” version of Abby Lincoln’s origin. With the publication of his autobiography several years back, the story had finally settled down into a fairly concrete pattern which the promoter retold on appropriate occasions, such as he now deemed this press conference to be.
Lincoln wove the cloth of his life story into the current garment of this upcoming struggle between two of the greatest boxers on the planet, two men who also knew what it was like to strive and overcome the obstacles life had set in their path. He first called Eddie Roy up to the microphone, allowing the boxer, not a polished speaker when relaxed and now quite uncomfortable in the face of public oratory, to stammer and stumble over several threatening remarks about what he would do to Tucker Smith when he got “that little faggot” in the ring. Despite the champion’s heterosexuality, it was a line sure to draw the ire of various gay rights groups and reaffirm Roy’s position as the bad guy in this showdown.
For all that, the press had little interest in what Roy had to say. He was basically an afterthought; a mediocrity; a steroid-inflated, iron-pumping ex-con of limited abilities who had never beaten a decent boxer in his life and likely never would. As one wag put it, instead of fighting Tucker Smith for the heavyweight championship, Eddie Roy should have been fighting Ann Margaret for possession of a last name. He was just that poor a boxer.