by James Carlos Blake – Reviewed by Mike Keeler (4 Stars out of 5)
What do you think of when you hear the name Stanley Ketchel?
For the young crowd, and I have asked some young people what they think of Ketchel, most don’t have any opinion of him at all. For the most part the people that do have an opinion on Stanley Ketchel only know him as a name in a record book. They just don’t think about him. He’s a vague reference at best, shrouded in the mystery of almost a century of time passed.
For me the name Stanley Ketchel has always conjured up the image of a wild, ruthless prizefighter from the early dark ages of the sport of Boxing. It was the era when there weren’t many boxing matches that got filmed and of those that were, most times the results were grainy, motion pictures of such low quality that you couldn’t tell much of what was going on anyway. It was the best film they had in that day. And what they had wasn’t good.
To me Stanley Ketchel was crazy. That’s all there was to it. How else could you explain what happened when he climbed into the ring with Jack Johnson for a fight where they both had agreed to make it more of a sparring match and take it to a no-decision to set up a high dollar rematch. What he pulled was a bit insane. And that is in this novel.
The Killings of Stanley Ketchel attempts to give a vivid face to a great middle-weight champion from the era of modern Boxing’s birth. More of a portrait than just saying, “That boy was crazy.”
There are fictional works of literature that have the sport of Boxing as the background. Then there are books that seem to be almost biographies of prominent figures within the history of the sport of Boxing but aren’t really, because they just don’t stick close enough to the facts.
The Killings of Stanley Ketchel by James Carlos Blake falls somewhere in between those two extremes.
What it reminded me of was one of those docudramas you see these days on TV. Ones like the recent “Tut,” where drama is emphasized over facts. The general facts are there, but the details are played with for entertainments sake. The reason why this book lost one star in its rating is because of where the facts and this story don’t mesh. As an author I do appreciate authenticity because I know how hard it is to keep all the facts straight.
That’s fine by me because I read for enjoyment and The Killings of Stanley Ketchel by James Carlos Blake was certainly a very entertaining book.
There are times when the prose got down and dirty as in this passage about an exchange at the weigh-in for a fight between Ketchel and Billy Papke: ***‘They each tipped the scale at 154, then took questions from reporters. One of them asked Papke why he didn’t wear shorts in the ring.
“Because I move around better without them,” Papke said. “Sure hope it don’t make any of you boys blush.”
Ketchel said the problem with Papke not wearing shorts was that his ass and his face looked so much alike you’d have to see if his toes were pointing up or down in order to know if he was on his back or his belly while he was being counted out.
Only Papke and his crew did not laugh. Papke said he had thought about wearing shorts for this fight but wanted to make it easier for Ketchel to kiss his ass.’***
I didn’t write that but, I kind of wish I had, because it is so funny.
There is really good rough humor throughout this book but the main thing that made it good was the excellent recreation of the early 1900’s.
You do see, hear, smell and feel the untamed country that was the United States of the early twentieth century. This was a rough country in those days, ruled by rougher men.
If you do seek out and find a copy of The Killings of Stanley Ketchel you’ll laugh in many spots and in a few don’t be surprised if you shed some tears. James Carlos Blake understands that for fiction writers it’s all about pushing the reader’s emotional buttons. He does it well.
I highly recommend The Killings of Stanley Ketchel, so that you can put a face to a truly great Middleweight Champion.
While the journey that is described may have just a few facts misplaced, still it’s well worth the ride.
I just checked and there are a few copies of The Killings of Stanley Ketchel by James Carlos Blake available at extremely low prices on Amazon.com.
Other entertaining reads that have something, however vague, to do with the sport of Boxing:
The Sailor and the Fox by Brian Burland, Night Knuckles by B.L. Morgan, and In This Corner by Peter Heller. All three are fun to read.
A few more Killers: Just in case you are not up on the slang of bygone eras. The term Killer was once used to describe something you thought was really, really good.
Killer #2: Holly Holm: Thank-you Holly Holm!
In the past pro-boxers moving into MMA have appeared to have taken too many punches to the head when dreaming up their fight plans. They appeared clueless and usually met with embarrassing results.
Does anybody remember James Toney? (I wish we could all forget.)
With Holly Holm we had the intelligent application of top level boxing movement and punching technique against an all-time great grappler. It wasn’t that Ronda suddenly forgot how to fight last Saturday night, what happened was that Holly Holm used disciplined boxing skills to dismantle her.
Ronda Rousey was a step in the evolution of MMA. No one before her had used arm bars as effectively.
Holly Holm is another step in the evolution of MMA. No one before her had made use of top level Boxing skills as effectively as she did on Saturday night. It was a painful lesson (for Ronda) in the evolution of a relatively new sport.
Again; Thank-you Holly Holm. You did the sport of Boxing proud in an MMA cage!
Killer #3: Roman Gonzalez
Due to my work schedule being totally insane I don’t often get to watch the big PPV shows the same night I record them. With the most recent one, I had to wait until the Tuesday night after GGG & Roman Gonzalez destroyed their opponents to actually witness it. Which meant for those few days I was avoiding the internet like the plague. (Yes, it can be done, but only through much willpower and PAIN!)
While I enjoyed Gennedy Golovkin’s destruction of David Lemieux I was even more impressed with Roman Gonzalez handling of the established quality world championship caliber fighter that Brian Viloria is. Viloria actually got in a few good whacks to the belly too. But Roman handled himself like a hero of my long ago youth, Alexis Arguello. Roman is one cool customer under fire. He is an all-time great right now. Enjoy his fights while you can.
Killer #4: While every Premier Boxing Champions telecast is not of superstar status we have been getting a boatload of entertaining matches. A few shows are duds. That’s inevitable. But most have been fun to watch and some are incredible. If you don’t believe me just watch this recent battle presented by Premier Boxing Champions:
PBC keep doing what you are doing. I for one really appreciate seeing so much Boxing on free TV.
Killer #5: A blast from the past. Seeing Roman Gonzalez do his high level destruction made me pine just a little for the little guys of yesteryear. If you’ve never heard of Michael Carbajal or Humberto Gonzalez then this is where the ignorance of youth can serve you up one really fun surprise. Don’t look them up. Just watch this fight before you know the outcome. And if you know all about it already, believe me this one is worth seeing one more time. Enjoy:
That’s it for now.
I wish you all peace, happiness and everything you want out of life.
Have a Killer Day!
Author’s Bio: Mike Keeler is a Mystery Man.
You could say Mike Keeler is even a mystery to himself.
Mike Keeler is a Pen Name of an author who has had several genre novels published. He has also written for numerous publications and has over twenty short stories published… all under another name.
Don’t search for Mike Keeler.
He does not exist.