George MacDonald Fraser Black Ajax

ISBN 13: 9780786705535

Black Ajax

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9780786705535: Black Ajax
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The author of Flashman presents a rollicking, historically rich novel about a freed slave from New Orleans who becomes a boxing legend in Regency England, thanks in part to the enthusiasm of Captain Buckley "Mad Buck" Flashman.

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Review:

In Black Ajax, George MacDonald Fraser tells the story of a black man from the United States who nearly became England's champion boxer during the early 19th century. This historical novel is based on the true story of Tom Molineaux, a former slave who won his freedom in a boxing match, then traveled to England, refined his skills, and almost became the first black champ. The story is told by over a dozen witnesses to Molineaux's bouts with the reigning champion, Tom Cribb. Molineaux's trainer recalls the fighter's awe-inspiring strength and speed. A butler who asks to remain anonymous divulges information about the fighter's love affair with an English noblewoman. Molineaux's manager, a former slave and retired boxer, speaks bitterly of his disappointment in the youth for failing to prove to the English that a black man could be as capable a fighter as any white man. Nearly all the witnesses to the first match between the two fighters thought Molineaux lost mainly because the judges gave the white opponent an unfair advantage.

All the characters in this novel speak in 19th-century dialect, and it's diverting to try to decipher their many odd turns of phrase. For those who cannot determine the meanings of words such as "Spike Hotel," "toco," "winker," and "wistycastor" from context, the author provides a glossary at the end of the book. Unfortunately, almost all of the characters seem overly fond of using racial epithets, which draws attention to the shortcomings of this book. The main one is that Tom Molineaux, who undoubtedly was a complex, fascinating character, comes across as a stereotype here: a hulk with not many brains but a lot of sex drive. Although Fraser fails in that respect, this novel does vividly chronicle an intriguing episode in the history of sport and race relations. --Jill Marquis

About the Author:

The author of the famous `Flashman Papers' and the `Private McAuslan' stories, George MacDonald Fraser has worked on newspapers in Britain and Canada. In addition to his novels he has also written numeous films, most notably `The Three Musketeers', `The Four Musketeers', and the James Bond film, `Octopussy'. George Macdonald Fraser died in January 2008 at the age of 82.

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