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THE GHOST OF JOHNNY TAPIA

From the Hamilcar Noir series , Vol. 2

A gritty, engrossing, and concise account of a boxer’s meteoric career and tortured personal life.

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A biography chronicles the struggles and triumphs of a renegade boxer.

In this second installment of the Hamilcar Noir series, Zanon (Sinner and Saint, 2018, etc.) tells Johnny Tapia’s story, recounting the action in and out of the boxing arena where the fighter made his name. The author follows Tapia from his birth in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1967 and the savage murder of his mother when he was only 8 years old to his first boxing bout at 9 and beyond. He had his first professional match in 1988 and won the United States Boxing Association Super Flyweight title in 1990. But, as the author puts it, “unfortunately, his passion and desire in the ring played second fiddle to a destructive lifestyle” when the gloves were off, a destructive routine featuring a steady consumption of drugs and alcohol. Zanon describes a life of nearly constant brutality in which the boxer was actually declared DOA multiple times, either from violence or drug overdoses. This leads the author to contend that “Johnny stared death in the face more times than would seem physically possible.” The narrative describes the arc of Tapia’s professional life in economical but effective detail. This is by no means a classic of boxing nonfiction, but Zanon knows the sport well enough to keep these bouts intriguing. One of the story’s most moving nonboxing moments comes when Tapia learned that his mother’s murder had been solved but that he had no chance for personal vengeance. The killer was fatally struck by a car 10 years after the crime. Still, the bulk of Zanon’s book—written with the pugilist’s wife, debut author Teresa Tapia—involves the boxer’s increasingly serious swings between hard-fought professional matches and a long series of drug deals, arrests, and broken second chances. He became a world champion, but the strain of his various activities eventually affected his heart; he died in 2012. The work recounts all this with a good deal of momentum and little sentimentality. The resulting portrait is that of a deeply weak and flawed man who could nevertheless exhibit a real zest for living.

A gritty, engrossing, and concise account of a boxer’s meteoric career and tortured personal life.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-949590-15-9

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Hamilcar Publications

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

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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