A FLAME OF PURE FIRE by Roger Kahn

A FLAME OF PURE FIRE

Jack Dempsey and the Roaring '20s
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KIRKUS REVIEW

With spellbinding results, a writer better known for his immortal baseball books crosses over—both to another sport, boxing, and to another literary genre, the sprawling social history. Born in 1895 and reared amid the hardscrabble surroundings of Colorado mining towns, William Harrison Dempsey entered adulthood as America girded for entry in the Great War. Exploding onto the boxing scene after felling the giant champion Jess Willard, Dempsey found himself at the center of a storm. Withstanding accusations of brutality from a spurned wife and charges of draft dodging in the war, Dempsey throughout the 1920s proved himself a good man and no dope, to boot. He was courted by kings, Hollywood moguls, and a parade of beautiful women. Meanwhile, in the ring, he faced legendary opponents in fights that even today are recognized simply by the names of the combatants: Dempsey v. Firpo, Dempsey v. Tunney. As the title suggests, this book is about boxing as both a “sweet science” and a corrupt spectacle. More than this, however, Kahn plumbs the times, and what times they were: the Great War, baseball’s 1919 “Black Sox” affair, the Roaring “20s. And Jack Dempsey was the cynosure of these times—a man praised at his passing at age 87 by the writer Jim Murray, with the following words: “he took an era with him.” Kahn chronicles the people and events that propel the narrative, among them, presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, the Scopes trial, Knute Rockne, Babe Ruth, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Lindbergh, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and Al Capone. He also gives an exacting and gripping portrait of sport in its golden era. Kahn pays tribute to a generation of sportswriters—Lardner, Gallico, Pegler, Runyon, Broun, et al.—who shared equally the credit for making the times seem so grand. An intoxicating panoply of legends and heroes, surely one of the most solid and delightful sporting histories of recent times. (16 pages b&w photos) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-15-100296-7
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1999




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