ON THE ROPES by Otto R. Salassi
Kirkus Star


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Part novel, part tall tale, part domesticated Southern grotesque, with a little innocent deacon-baiting and Runyonesque sentimentality--this energetic story, begins with the funeral of eleven-year-old Squint Gaines' Bible-minded mother Constance, whose death has caused no grief. To avoid being taken in by his two grim aunts, Squint takes his older sister Julie and the family cook Herman off in search of his father, a wicked pool shark and two-bit promoter who deserted the family's Texas farm six years earlier. They find Claudium Gaines in a sports arena, where he manages six of the most transparently fake wrestlers of the period (1951). Before long they are all ensconced in the old homestead, Constance's proper parlor has become a pool room, the front yard houses a brand-new wrestling college, and Claudius has launched a three-night show whose gate receipts he hopes will pay off Constance's mortgage and save the farm. The plot then hinges on how Claudius' shabby wrestlers will handle an unwelcome challenger, a huge, feathered, seemingly semi-human monster known as the Angel of Death. What they do, after three hokey, tense, and rowdy nights--with Claudius up to one trick after another and Squint proving a worthy son with resources of his own-is to win the Angel over to their own happy camp and send his nasty manager packing. Like Claudius, Salassi has the hearty charm and the unabashed showman's imagination to win the toughest crowds.

Pub Date: Feb. 9th, 1981
Publisher: Greenwillow