Sunday, August 05, 2012

Fight Card: Tomato Can Comeback - Jack Tunney (Henry Brown)

One thing I really like about the Fight Card series is that the authors (and editors/creators Paul Bishop and Mel Odom) have found ways to keep the series fresh and different from book to book. For example, the latest entry, TOMATO CAN COMEBACK, by Henry Brown writing under the Jack Tunney house-name, is narrated by sportswriter Gil Schwartz instead of one of the boxers involved in the story.

I also learn things from this series. I didn't know that "Tomato Can" is a derogatory nickname for a fighter who bleeds easily and profusely. In the case of this story, that's Tom Garrick, an alumnus of St. Vincent's in Chicago and a Korean War vet who launches a boxing career with his former sergeant as his trainer. Garrick's career is coming along nicely until he runs into an opponent who not defeats him but gives him a brutal beating that leaves the ring splattered with blood. The rest of the story, as you might expect from the title, is about Garrick's comeback and Schwartz's efforts to uncover the reason for Garrick's uncharacteristic behavior in the fight where he was beaten so badly.

Unlike most of the other Fight Card stories, there's no real crime angle to TOMATO CAN COMEBACK, but it's plenty hardboiled anyway with its mean streets portrayal of Detroit and a sense of gritty, sweaty desperation reminiscent of the work of Orrie Hitt. Schwartz and Garrick are flawed but sympathetic characters, as is Garrick's old sergeant. There's a romantic triangle, but it's handled in a low-key, realistic fashion rather than becoming more of a soap opera. Although as I've said many times, there's nothing wrong with soap opera where I'm concerned, it just wouldn't have worked as well here.

This is one of my favorite Fight Card books so far, and that's saying a lot because I've thoroughly enjoyed all of them. I haven't read anything else by Henry Brown, but I'm going to remedy that as soon as I can.

1 comment:

Hank Brown said...

Wow--thanks for the thoughtful review. I only recently discovered you had your own blog. It's an even bigger (and better) surprise that you reviewed my Fight Card entry.

Very pleased that I seem to have pulled off the hardboiled feel I was shooting for. Thanks again.