Another take on the beloved boxing-drama genre, strong in its gritty detail but weak in its form.


The Lonely Eagle

In this debut story told in the form of a screenplay, two brothers consider returning to the kickboxing ring in the hope of one last payday.

As teenagers, Paul and John train and compete as kickboxers together. Paul is a serious talent and favored by the boys’ tough-love father, but John makes up for what he lacks in artistry with a whole lot of firepower—he’ll defend himself with his fists at all costs, both in the ring and on the streets. After the glory days of their youth pass them by, Paul struggles alongside their parents to earn enough money to pay off their greedy landlord despite their hard, honest work on the family farm. Meanwhile, John succumbs to the easy temptations of booze and women—not to mention a bar fight or two. Paul eventually signs up for one last fight in the hope of earning enough money to save the farm, while John finds himself being drawn back into the sport through less respectable channels: street fights for cash. Will either brother be able to defeat the reigning kickboxing champion, the ruthless Tango, and find redemption? Debut author de Klerk creates two believable blue-collar brothers fighting to survive in a tough, often cruel world. In its best moments, the story packs a powerful emotional punch. However, the strange decision to tell the story in the form of a screenplay, as opposed to a novel, misfires due to clunky scene directions and awkward narration, as in a voice-over by John: “Michael never got to be champion and dropped out of the sport. Tim lost all interest in life and just lives from day to day. Paul never won a championship; will he ever get his Mercedes?” Although the story itself is appealing, the way it’s told becomes as tiring as 12 rounds in the ring.

Another take on the beloved boxing-drama genre, strong in its gritty detail but weak in its form. 

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4809-0903-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2015

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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