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Featured boxing book:
Francis Wallace, Kid Galahad. 1936; New York: Bantam, 1947.
Several of Francis Wallace’s novels (1894-1977) were made into movies. Kid Galahad was made into three: in 1937, Bette Davies and Edward G. Robinson starred in the film based on the book’s boxing plot. The film was remade in 1941 as a circus movie (The Wagons Roll at Night). In 1962 Elvis Presley starred in a musical version (same title as the first film and the novel).
Even so, it is an undistinguished novel. It is rich in character types that Hollywood could love, and perhaps only Hollywood could love them. There is a jaded night-club singer, an innocent girl who loves the boxer, a good cop, a bad promoter, an Italian mother who speaks her heart through her cooking, and so on. The public in the world of the novel believes what they read in the papers, it seems, and expects a man to be pure because someone gives him the ring handle of “Galahad.” The press cleverly turns that handle into “never had a gal,” one of the book’s few memorable lines. A boxer famous for his slick good looks and supposed sexual innocence is not a promising subject for a novel. His ambition--to get rich and buy a farm--is admirable, but not inspiring.
Part of the problem is that the gangland world around the ring is as important to the plot as the boxer and his development. But that murky world is murkily drawn. Amusingly, Wallace supplied a “cast of characters” (Wallace, or his editor) opposite the first chapter, but the identifications of the minor characters are not useful, and there is no need to identify the boxer, the promoter, or the leading women, since they appear on nearly every page. For all their importance to the plot and especially to the conclusion, the bad guys are almost impossible to tell apart.
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Summer 2018