Book Review: Dan Stuarts’s Fistic Carnival By Leo N. Miletich

5 stars out of 5: The Highest Rating.

A couple of years ago I was doing the background research for a novel for the Nanowrimo Novel in a month contest and ran across Dan Stuart’s Fistic Carnival by Leo N. Miletich.

The book I did was picked up by a very prestigious publisher and I think a lot has to do with the wealth of entertaining historical background that I found within Miletich’s book. As a thank you to Mr. Miletich for helping me get a feel for the time period at the end of the 1800’s without having to absorb mind numbing scholarly volumes I have decided to spread the word a little bit about what an excellent source of information Dan Stuart’s Fistic Carnival turned out to be.

And there is one other reason why I want to let people know about this book. Plain and simply, Dan Stuart’s Fistic Carnival is fun as hell to read. The characters you’ll meet in this non-fiction story are as zany and bizarre as any you’d find in the most off the wall odd-ball comedies. The Wild West really was Wild in the late 1800’s. Learning history, doing research and having a good time all the while to me is a winning combination. Believe me, I’ve read enough history to know that absorbing most of it is boring and painful. Miletich’s book is unique.

Dan Stuart’s Fistic Carnival primarily covers the long and drawn out process of putting together the James J. Corbett vs. Bob Fitzsimmons fight.

In those days Boxing was illegal in most states. In the places where prizefighting wasn’t against the law, new laws were being written just as soon as the local lawmakers found out the Corbett/Fitzsimmons fight was being planned in their area.

If you think it’s difficult making a big fight happen in this day and age in the 1800’s it was downright insane. Fight fans back in those days were thought to be nothing more than blood-thirsty savages and were often unfavorably compared to the crazed mobs of Ancient Rome who watched lions munch on Christians for entertainment.

Before the fight finally took place on St. Patrick’s Day, 1897, in Carson City, Nevada attempts had been made to put the Fitzsimmons/Corbett match on in Arizona, California, Dallas, El Paso, Mexico and New Mexico. It’s a wonder the fight ever took place at all.

Dan Stuart’s Fistic Carnival tells the story of an important chapter in the early development of Boxing before it was accepted as a sport and a legitimate form of entertainment. It also quite effectively colors the time that it takes place in. Newspaper accounts are used liberally to show the climate of the government and the movers and shakers of the late 1800’s.

The United States was a raw open country in those days. It was a different time, a different era. In those days a man with a dream and a boatload of grit and perseverance could make his dreams come true.

Dan Stuart had the dream of bringing together the two greatest gloved Gladiators of his day to fight a historical battle. All the trials and tribulations he had to endure to make his dream come true is an extremely entertaining tale that illustrates a pivotal point in the history of prizefighting.

I highly recommend Leo N. Miletich’s, Dan Stuart’s Fistic Carnival as an energetic, engaging story of a time when the West was Wild and putting together a big time prizefight was even Wilder.


B.L. Morgan is the author of Night Knuckles, Blood and Rain, Blood for the Masses, Blood and Bones and You Play, You Pay.


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