Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Fighter

The Fighter, by Craig Davidson
$16.32 at Amazon.com
ISBN: 1569474656
A terrific first novel by an exciting new author. It concerns two young guys who enter the gritty and violent world of underground boxing clubs. Definitely not recommended for the queasy or faint-of-heart, this book is positively loaded with testosterone.
Our first leading man is Paul. His parents were poor sorghum farmers who, before he was born, started a successful winery. By the time he's a grown man they're millionaires, and hoping their son will take over the family business. At first Paul is engaged by the idea, but realizes in time that he's just a pampered playboy who knows nothing about life. What man wants to think that about himself?
Paul begins his quest for manhood picking grapes in the fields with the migrant laborers. When this isn't hardcore enough for him, he leaves home in a beat-up old jalopy and enters the world of underground fight clubs.
As this is happening, Rob is turning sixteen and has already been boxing for some time. He's being raised, so to speak, by his piss-poor father and uncle who see Rob's talent for fighting as their collective ticket out of poverty. Rob struggles with school and girls, but fighting in seedy clubs is all he really knows anything about. What he really wants is to earn enough money so that he doesn't have to fight any more: he's seen guys beaten to bloody pulps in the ring and knows how brutal the scene can be.
It's a fascinating contrast: Paul running from the very same world that Rob is trying to earn his way into. Naturally, the two guys cross paths somewhere in the middle. When Paul fights Rob's uncle, the results are quite surprising.
Davidson has a real knack for creating rich, sensitive, and introspective characters. There's a romance in the story that lends a much-needed softness occasionally. Overall, prepare for a lot of time picking scabs and putting meat on black eyes.
The theme of tough guys in trouble is a reminder that even the scariest bully in the room has feelings of sadness and fear inside him. Cut from the same cloth as Chuck Palahniuk's famous novel Fight Club, but with something truly original to offer on its own, the Fighter is a fast-paced thrill ride with surprising depth of vision. This is, I hope, the first of many great novels from a talented young writer.

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