An often engaging set of boxing profiles that packs a powerful punch and rarely misses its target.

SPORTING BLOOD

TALES FROM THE DARK SIDE OF BOXING

A history of the cruelest sport, told in brutal, poignant vignettes of boxing greats.

As Thomas Hauser, the author of Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times (1991), notes in this book’s foreword, few newspapers or magazines today employ full-time writers devoted to boxing, and substandard boxing websites have proliferated. But Acevedo, the founder of The Cruelest Sport website, stands out in this landscape; his prizewinning writing has been featured in Boxing Digest, Boxing World, and other publications, and this book may cement his status as one of today’s best boxing journalists. In these 21 tales of boxing legends, he looks at tragic heroes of yore, such as early-1900s sensation Jack Johnson, and adds nuance to the stories of well-known later fighters, such as Mike Tyson. With his expertise in boxing technique and form, Acevedo expertly weaves together fighters’ private lives and dramas inside the ring. He’s particularly adept at placing boxers in historical context, such as the Jim Crow South that produced Johnson, and the Northern, racist judicial system that targeted him because he dated white women and defeated many white men in the ring. Many essays challenge prevailing notions about boxing icons; for example, Acevedo focuses on aspects of boxing great Muhammad Ali’s life that white “middle-class baby boomers” and “activist liberals” may take issue with. Ali, he says, was a conservative Muslim who had a strict moral code against drinking and smoking, adhered to traditional gender roles, and not only rejected civil disobedience as a protest strategy, but also opposed the integrationist ideals of 1960s activists. By the 1980s, Acevedo says, Ali had befriended right-wing authoritarians Idi Amin and Ferdinand Marcos as well as prominent American conservatives such as Ronald Reagan and U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch.

Acevedo’s crisp, efficient essays will be accessible to general audiences who may be unfamiliar with many of the fighters, such as Don Jordan, Johnny Tapia, or Eddie Machen, but his fresh insights will still appeal to hardcore fans, as he looks at the greats in new ways. Ringside photographs and artistically shot portraits of fighters complement each chapter and give the book a powerful visual aesthetic. The author compellingly begins his first chapter on Ali with a touching story of his own father's giving him a comic book featuring Superman and Ali as characters, which launched Acevedo’s lifelong passion for boxing. This passage is so beautifully written that it may well leave readers wanting more of the author’s insights on his own life and career. However, each vignette that follows is provocative in its own way, and the book’s structured framework attempts to tie them into a larger, overarching narrative. That said, introductory and concluding chapters might have helped to better unify the book’s common themes of triumph, tragedy, self-destruction, and brutality and made the book a more cohesive read from start to finish. Despite this deficiency, Acevedo still delivers one of the better books on boxing in recent years.

An often engaging set of boxing profiles that packs a powerful punch and rarely misses its target. (sources)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949590-07-4

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Hamilcar Publications

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

TANQUERAY

A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2022

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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