Saturday, August 09, 2014

Felony Fists will knock you on your can, then have you bouncing back up for more

I like the novellas I've read in the Fight Card series because they do such a convincing job of capturing the feeling as well as the form of boxing stories from the 1920s, '30s, '40s, and '50s. This is true even for the stories set in the present day, as in the imprint's stories about mixed martial arts (MMA).

Felony Fists, written by Paul Bishop, published under the house byline of Jack Tunney, and set in the Los Angeles of Mickey Cohen and Police Chief William Parker, is no exception. Honor, hard work, overcoming long odds, digging deep within one's self, good winning out ... all are part of this and other Fight Card stories, and not in any smirking, ironic, post-modern way, either. Bishop and his fellow authors clearly love the old-time tales, and clearly believe today's readers can enjoy stories in that vein. And they're right.  Felony Fists is fast-paced, full of intersecting plot lines and narrative climaxes that read as if they were meant to leave the reader panting for the next month's installment. That's good stuff for an impatient generation, isn't it?

I've never stepped inside a ring, and my guess is that you have not, either. But no matter; Bishop  fills the novella with the sort of boxing detail that creates a convincing milieu and teaches you something about the sport as well. Boxing is not called the sweet science for nothing.
Felony Fists contains one jarring verbal anachronism:
 "Both Tombstone and I were actually fighting the uncomfortable feeling of country cousins visiting upscale relatives."
Not only does the first recorded use of upscale date only to 1966, according to Merriam-Webster, but the word feels utterly wrong for the period of the book's setting. I would wager that upscale did not come into widespread use until the late 1970s at the very earliest. Its use is a glaring mistake in a story set in the early 1950s. But it's the only one. The judges here at Detectives Beyond Borders say — and it's a unanimous decision — that you should read Felony Fists.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Anonymous Mary Beth said...

I am not familiar with the vocabulary used to describe social classes in the '50's. The only one that comes to mind is "upper-crust" and that sounds just as wrong. What could he have substituted for upscale?

August 10, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

He could simply have said "city" or even "big-city" relatives, having already established that "country" in this case meant "uncomfortable." He could have called them "rich" or "fancy," though the latter might have lent a tone of jocose scorn that the author probably did not intend.

More to the point, he should have researched the era's vocabulary the same way he researched its sports, military, and criminal history. I suspect that it simply did not occur to him that upscale was as thoroughly wedded to its time as it is.

At least he saved the mistake for deep into the book. I once put down, never to pick it up again, a novel set in 1953 that used clusterfuck on its first page. And I liked Bishop's book enough that I bought another by him today.

August 10, 2014  

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