A lively, consistently entertaining sports biography.

Historian and travel writer Klein (Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands: A Guide to the City's Hidden Shores, 2008, etc.) delivers a well-researched, enjoyable biography of boxing’s first heavyweight superstar, John L. Sullivan (1858–1918).

In the late 1800s, boxing matches were little more than “savage human cockfights.” Though prizefighting had rules, few participants followed them; moreover, the sport itself was mired in corruption and always on the run from the law. All that began to change when “Boston Strong Boy” Sullivan stepped into the ring in the late 1870s. A wondrous “ ‘engine of destruction’ manifest in flesh in blood,” Sullivan drifted into boxing at age 19 after demonstrating his prowess in impromptu brawls that caused him to lose jobs as a day laborer. He began his career by taking part in local matches around his native Boston. In 1880, Sullivan met his first two championship-level opponents and demolished them both. He traveled all over the country to take part in exhibition fights, and he earned a reputation as a fearsome opponent who never lost a match. Two years later, Sullivan finally had his much-desired shot at the heavyweight title in a bare-knuckle, illegal brawl. He defeated the reigning champion and then began another successful fight, outside the ring, to require that prizefights be conducted under Marquess of Queensberry rules, under which contestants had to wear gloves and put an end to such practices as head butting and wrestling. Attentive as he is to historical details, Klein’s storytelling gift is most evident in how he depicts “John L.” as a beloved hero who was eventually undone by ego and who had a legendary appetite for food and drink. Though largely forgotten, Sullivan was the great “American Hercules” who ruled the late-19th-century boxing world and helped usher it into the modern sporting age.

A lively, consistently entertaining sports biography.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7627-8152-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2013


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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