The author’s research is commendable, but it swamps readers with too many details.


The Fight That Started the Movies


How an 1897 boxing match helped make cinema history.

This is a long book about a very short film. Admittedly, that movie, a document of a heavyweight title bout called The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight, was once much longer—about three times longer than the 29-minute version eventually shown on June 10, 1997, at London’s National Film Theatre. But even the 90-minute version of the film, which no longer exists, would pale in comparison to Hawley’s (The Imjin War, 2014, etc.) densely written account, which weighs in at more than 350 pages. His subject is a little-known footnote to cinema history: the “fight film.” As motion pictures were being created—by everyone from Thomas Edison to Georges Méliès to the Lumières—two American brothers, Gray and Otway Latham, and their associate, Enoch Rector, realized there was money to be made by filming prizefights. Boxing was exceedingly popular at the end of the 19th century but prohibited in many states. Their idea was simple and savvy: given there were no laws (yet) against boxing films, they would find a pair of famous pugilists, put them in a ring, and rake in money by showing the footage all over the country. It was harder to pull off than they thought, though, and Hawley’s book painstakingly chronicles the enormous pre-bout preparation. The author splits his attention between the athletes and the cinematic pioneers to deliver an extremely well-researched tale of who did what, when, and how—and sometimes, even why. But this mountainous accumulation of detail is ultimately smothering. Readers don’t just learn about Eadweard Muybridge and his famous stop-motion films of Leland Stanford’s horses; they even learn the name of one of the equines (Sallie Gardner, if one wonders). In the same vein, Hawley doesn’t just describe a match between British fighter Robert Fitzsimmons (who would later appear in the titular film) and an Irish heavyweight named Peter Maher; he provides, literally, a blow-by-blow account. It’s not that his research is unwelcome; it’s simply overwhelming. By page 260, he’s only gotten to the first round of the big fight in Carson City, Nevada. So many writers give readers so little that it seems churlish to chide one who gives too much—but there’s a reason for the old adage “less is more.”

The author’s research is commendable, but it swamps readers with too many details.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2016


Page Count: 404

Publisher: Conquistador Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2016

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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