Mark Jenkin reviews Dick Brownson's boxing novel A Distant Friendly Party
'A POSH gym doesn't make champions, it helps but that is all'.
That harsh reality is laid bare in A Distant Friendly Party and, for those training in the dingy gym above the Cricketers' Arms, it is just as well.
Dick Brownson's novel brings to life the gritty characters striving to make ends meet during the desperate post-war years of the 1950s.
Harry Keys is the manager haunted by a dark secret over the death of his former boxing protégé Billy Stone.
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Tommy Law is the sharp-talking trainer, living in bomb-damaged housing and bitter from experiences during the war.
As their unruly collection of fighters struggle to earn a crust, they remain as hard-drinking as they are hard-hitting.
Feeling at home in the gym and the smoke-filled pub, they often tear into each other with witty dialogue.
Describing one particularly hard-as-nails fighter, Tommy explains: "If his right hand missed, the draft from it would have given you pneumonia."
Always clinging to the hope of finding a new star, Tommy and Harry have their hopes raised with a new arrival.
Vic Lane is the "hitter in a hurry", but, for all his potential, he remains a mystery. Could he finally be the champion they have been searching for?
Whether rolling with the punches for publicity or pound notes, the characters are fighting against poverty and their plight makes a fascinating read.