Ian Probert asked me to review his new book Dangerous, and I spent a lot of time on the review because, even though I never cared for boxing, the depth of the book so impressed me, I felt it should reach an audience of readers who, like me, have little interest in the sport.
Amazon rejected my review, citing only their “guidelines,” which, I reviewed, rewrote my review several times and was rejected eight times.
I even reviewed the guidelines three times to make sure the review was consistent.
(I think it was my mention of HBO and Showtime, their competitors in the streaming market.)
It was only when I looked further down on the last message that I noticed a new clause:
Once they reject a review, Amazon will not let you resubmit, even if you revise the content.
This, of course, sucks for authors and publishers, and makes no sense.
Ironically, iBooks won’t let me post any review and Barnes and Noble is behaving bizarrely as well, downgrading his rating by two stars every time I try to submit.
Anyway, since your readership far exceeds mine, I was hoping you would post the review and give him a little more of the exposure he deserves. I did post this on Goodreads, but I would still like to raise awareness.
If you can, I would really appreciate it.
Phillp T. Stephens.
A metaphor for personal and family disfunction
Ian Probert devotes Dangerous to interviewing England’s premiere boxers of the eighties and nineties as well as their sons who follow them into the game. Don’t dismiss Dangerous as a boxing book, however. Probert appropriates boxing as a vehicle to drive down the twisting lanes of chronic pain, depression and disfunction that many families live with when a parent is driven by obsession. Probert discovers how often these themes intersect in the lives of successful boxers and those with marginal careers, and how they seem to perpetuate in the need to see the next generation follow the same self-destructive road.
Probert parallels the stories of the boxers slowly degenerating bodies and family lives with the story of his own long undiagnosed illness, alcoholism, near loss of a daughter to the health system, and the abuse he suffered that steered him away from an arts career to a career in sports writing.
The book hit home. I underwent the second of two knee replacement surgeries and a lower back procedure while reading the book. My surgeon consented to performed the knee replacements only after I lost 120 pounds over the course of a year and a half. I suffer lifelong chronic depression, and abandoned a career in the arts for teaching spurred by a lifetime of indifference and assurance that my talent would never measure up from my own family.
Dangerous opens with Probert’s chance to reunite with Michael Watson, a promising boxer and close friend, whose career ended with a brutal beating in the ring 23 years before. The experience shook Probert so badly he walked away from boxing reporting. A chance reuinion with Watson inspires Probert to examine the lives of boxers out of the ring, when their careers are over.
In counterpoint, Probert introduces us to his National Health Service appointed shrink who seeks to put him through the traditional ropes without paying attention to his real concerns. (At least, this is how he perceives their encounters.) She makes a good foil anyway, against which to bounce his frustrations at his progress with the book and progress with his bouts of personal depression.
The book’s storyline involves Probert’s blunders as he retrains himself to be a reporter in the era of social media—setting up the interviews and engaging the fighters as much as reporting the interviews themselves. More to the point, he can’t avoid becoming entangled in their lives in ways he never anticipated. He discovers some want to use him for their own promotional ends, and some simply need someone more mature to help them sort their lives out.
Making his project more difficult, his daughter Sophie contracts an unidentifiable illness as well, and spends months in and out of the hospital. At the same time Sophie suffers Probert inherits an senior boxer with a burst appendix and a spouse in no condition to care for him (or even herself, it turns out). Probert juggles the boxer’s care, the boxer’s wife’s care, as well as Sophie’s from the same hospital, while trying to keep track of his interviews.
During the course of the book Probert still manages to engage boxers who won and lost world championships, and engaged the boxing headlines and kept boxing fans glued to their television screens, including Nigel Benn, Alan Minter, Chris Eubank (who ended the career of his friend Michael Watson), Herol Graham, Colin McMillan. American readers may find these names meaningless, but many were good enough to land spots in the ring with the likes of Mike Tyson and Marvin Hagler.
Probert’s interviews depart from the standard fare I hear on ESPN and Showtime or HBO. Instead he offers intimate portrayals of the boxers’ lives after boxing including, in one case, a detailed deconstruction of a lost title bout in which the fighter takes satisfaction from his losing performance. Many recognize their careers needed to come to an end, others seek to return to the ring in their forties and drag their sons with them. Some dragged their families into the cycle of abuse and poverty that drove them to the ring. Others found a way to channel the pain they continue to feel into a meaningful life of service.
Let me be honest. I don’t enjoy boxing. I don’t enjoy boxing movies. I don’t enjoy a sport whose only purpose is to inflict punishment on another human being. Until I read Dangerous, I thought boxers were privileged assholes who threw away any chance at a good education to pound on people. By the time I finished Dangerous, I realized how much I misjudged them. But I won’t enjoy the sport one iota more.
Dangerous moves to the top of the list of the best books I’ve read this year.