El Faraón del Alfabeto

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"The story of the 69-year-old author of this astonishing first fiction collection is a salutary one; he wrote between gigs tending boxers in their corners as a "cut man" (who stanches the blood flow and allows fights to continue), finally got a story published by a small literary magazine, was spotted by a keen-eyed agent and achieved book publication. It's amazing it took so long, because Irish-born Toole, now living and working in Los Angeles, is a natural. His knowledge of the bizarre world of professional boxing is encyclopedic and utterly persuasive, his prose is as tight as a well-laced pair of gloves and his protagonists, in this collection of five stories and a novella, are mythically heroic (and occasionally evil) but convincing archetypes. "The Money Look" is an exquisite turning-the-tables yarn at the expense of a cynical crook of a fighter; "Black Jew" is a telling tale of humble ambition woven with the lure of big money. A lacerating account of a courageous, deeply endearing hillbilly woman fighter and her sad fate, "Million $$$ Baby," is arguably the best story in the book. "Fightin' in Philly" is an almost equally moving tale of the toll the ambition to be a title fighter takes on a man. Another innocent torn up by the fight game is portrayed in "Frozen Water." Only the title novella, "Rope Burns," falls somewhat behind the sterling standard set by the other stories, with their firm authority and dead-on dialogue. It is more ambitious, even operatic, in its pitting of an almost superhumanly noble Olympic contender against a low-life East Los Angeles gang member at the time of the Rodney King riots. Like all of Toole's stories, it's breathlessly readable, even though the climactic bloodshed feels forced, as if Toole's cool narrative style cannot bear so much melodramatic freight. But make no mistake, the man is a heavyweight fiction contender."  Publisher's Weekly

"Toole, who died before seeing the Oscar-winning movie adaptation of his short story "Million Dollar Baby," weighs in posthumously with this bruising smoker of a novel. (The novel was "shaped," notes James Ellroy in the introduction, from a 900-page manuscript by Toole's agent and a freelance editor.) Dan Cooley, a onetime contender who has outlived his wife and children and whose life revolves around his grandson, Tim Pat, goes off the rails after Tim Pat is killed in a traffic accident. As Cooley vacillates between booze-fueled suicidal thoughts and fantasies of homicidal vengeance, Hispanic teenager Eduardo "Chicky" Garza y Duffy begins his troubled ascent in the amateur boxing world. That these two men, separated by thousands of miles, ethnicity and generations, will become the vehicle for one another's redemption is inevitable, but Toole's unsentimental prose and knack for creating tragic characters (whose sufferings, in turn, lead to plausible triumphs) overcome the ready-made plot. Cooley's thesis—that prize fighting, for all its apparent brutality, is a sport that rewards wisdom, skill and (at times) fair play—informs Toole's writing; the result is a stunning cap to a short but brilliant writing career." Publisher's Weekly

"Holy Man", short story

​“Holy Man” charts the rise and fall of a Great White Hope who rises, gets into alcohol and drugs, then gets serious about drying out and commits to making it to the Big Time."  David Marshall, Thinking About Books

TitleAlternate TitleFormatLanguage
Rope Burns: Stories From The CornerMillion Dollar Baby  eBook        English        
Rope Burns: Stories From The CornerMission Dollar BabyeBook (Kindle)English


TitleFormatCountryLanguage
Pound For PoundPaperbackUnited KingdomEnglish
Pound For PoundPaperbackUnited StatesEnglish
Pound For PoundPaperbackUnited StatesEnglish
Pound For PoundeBook (Kindle)United StatesEnglish


TitleFormatCountryLanguageFurther Info
Holy ManPaperbackFranceFrenchwithin Pulse
Holy ManMagazineUnited StatesEnglishwithin Playboy, February 2008
Holy ManHardcoverUnited StatesEnglishwithin Classic Boxing Stories
Midnight EmissionsPaperbackFranceFrenchwithin Pulse
Midnight EmissionsHardcoverUnited StatesEnglishwithin Murder on the Ropes
Midnight EmissionsPaperbackUnited StatesEnglishwithin Best American Mystery Stories 2002
Midnight EmissionsPaperbackUnited StatesEnglishwithin Best American Noir de the Century
Midnight EmissionsComing in 2014!United StatesEnglishwithin Best American Mystery Stories
Monkey LookMagazineUnited StatesEnglishwithin ZYZZYVA, Spring 1999
Training A HeavyweightPaperbackFranceFrenchwithin Pulse
Training A HeavyweightMagazineUnited StatesEnglishwithin Playboy, July 2002