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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding read, 5 Nov 2004
This review is from: Black Ajax (Paperback)
I wasn't sure about this book. I normally hate books where the story is told from different characters' points of view the author really manages to drive the story along with pace and the change of narrator actually adds to the story.
The editoral review above mentions that the characters are use racist language too much! This seems a ludicrous criticism bearing in mind how people would have actually spoken in Victorian times. The lack of censorship in word and thought is one of the things that make this book really interesting.
It's a touching story about race and fame and 100% recommended for those who'd not normally buy books about those subjects.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 15 Nov 1999
This review is from: Black Ajax (Paperback)
I read Black Ajax in one sitting and cannot get it out of my mind. This is one of the most poignant, dazzling novels I have ever read. Far from being presented as a stereotype, Tom Molineaux comes across as a multi-dimensional, deeply moving individual. Such is the author's skill that the character of 'Black Ajax' is built up slowly and subtly, from a variety of points of view. The racial epithets, far from drawing attention to the 'shortcomings' of the book (there are none), serve to highlight exactly what Tom Molineaux was up against. His situation is treated realistically and with compassion.
The characterisation and structure overall are outstanding. Each character's voice is unique. The book's greatest strength lies in its utter lack of sentimentality. Fraser is clearly a writer of supernatural gifts.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tale of wasted talent and debauchary in typical Fraser style, 5 Mar 2001
By A Customer
When boxing was a gentlemans game and the world champion was a white Englishman, the thought of an inferior blackman winning this crown was unheard of. Well, this novel tells the story of a black boxer and his quest for the world championship. As in all GM Fraser novels all the characters are realistic and true to the time period. The story might even be based on real events, I don't know, but it is a great story whether it is or not. The style is fairly unusual, a reporter interviews people that were there at the time, and records their words. As a disciple of GM Fraser I can only say positive things about this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fraser's pugilist wins, 29 Oct 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Black Ajax (Paperback)
Turning his talents once again to historical fiction (this time the regency period) Fraser has the reader transported into the action - you can almost smell the atmosphere he creates. Story is of a tragic, talented black bare -nuckle fighter who starts life as a slave on the American cotton plantations and within months is conversing with British royalty. Difficult to put down and excellently written. A sure-fire hit !
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent stuff from the creator of Flashman, 28 Jan 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Black Ajax (Paperback)
I had thought that George MacDonald Fraser was going stale and that the last books in the Flashman series had been dull and one-dimensional. What he obviously needed was a change of character to set the creative juices flowing again, because this was a true return to form. Since reading the Sharpe books by Bernard Cornwell I've found the Regency a fascinating time, but this novel brings them to life far more effectively that Mr Cornwell's formulaic pot-boilers. The characters are fantastic: Pad Jones, Bill Richmond, Tom Cribb and Tom Molineux himself, not forgetting, of course, the dastardly Buck Flashman.
What makes the novel more poignant is that these, with the exception of Mr Flashman, were all real people. Tom's descent to ruin is beautifully told, and the author's grip on the Regency argot is wonderful. Why can't all books be more like this?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Autres temps, autres moeurs, 20 Jun 2010
By 
Charles Vasey (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Black Ajax (Paperback)
Fraser has made an art-form of injecting non-historical figures into historical events with his Flashman Papers. Not only is the result a very enjoyable read but it holds up a perspective-glass to the past and a mirror to the present. Fraser's fiction is never less than grounded in the past but a past with which we can identify; these are real people behaving as they might in reality, even if their situation is greatly different from ours. To achieve this leger-demain Fraser has to know a very great deal of his period and to avoid the twin sins of contempt or quaintness with which the past is often described.

In Black Ajax we follow the story of Tom Molineaux and Tom Cribb, two famous Regency pugilists. These are historical characters and though Fraser had woven a tale "based on the original story" about them nearly all of the characters are also historical (bar Buckley Flashman, young Harry's father). It is perhaps a comment on Fraser's choice of topic that the fictional characters are the least unbelievable; he has mined a rich vein of characters. The vein is rich because boxing in the 1800s was an interest of both the rich and poor and it exposed a point in British history where class inter-action was at its strongest, though of course carefully managed even then. The fame of the boxers eclipsed even the multi-millionaire golfers and athletes of today. They resembled the great gladiators of ancient Rome.

Black Ajax is told by the various parties to Molineaux's career from slave to almost champion of England. Fraser has them tell it in the vernacular of the time and in dialect. This is great fun if you know your accents but perhaps less so if you do not. It is, like much of Fraser's work, a rollicking tale but tragedy and human folly are never far away. It also opens with a great first line "The black man is dying, but neither he nor any of the other men in the barn suspects it".

I commend it to you.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A recreation, not of the past, but of another present., 17 Sep 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Black Ajax (Paperback)
In this marvellously original novel Mr. MacDonald Fraser fully deploys his ability to create the very feel of another age in the way he has done humorously in the Flashman novels and seriously in "Mr.American". This book immerses us in the prizefighting world of Regency England but the author does not write of the past, but rather of another present, different to our own, and he makes it live not only though its own speech patterns and slang, but by conveying the values, expectations and cultural norms of the time, as expressed in daily life. There is no overt judgement here of the rights and wrongs of that society, with its acceptance of exploitation, economic, social, sexual and racial, on a scale inconceivable in modern Western Society, and this makes the implicit condemnation all the stronger. This is not a polemic however and one is reminded throughout how basic qualities of human decency, courage and compassion - no less than of greed and cruelty - are unchanging with time. The story - a true one - is complex, exciting and thought-provoking. The technique employed, a series of narratives from different viewpoints and from different observers or participants, none the main character, is an inherently difficult one to pull off successfully, but Mr. MacDonald Fraser manages it brilliantly. Each narrator has his or her own uniquely personal style and many are not reporting - but rather justifying themselves or establishing a personal stake on the basis of recollections that may or may not be totally accurate. The range of characterisation through reminiscence is stunning - from the proudly-conscious sadism of a Louisiana plantation owner, to the cynicism of a wealthy Havana brothel-keeper whom we have first encountered as an innocent and terrified slave girl, to the absolute amorality of the alcohol-sodden Flashman Senior (father of the immortal Harry) to the rough decency of English prize-fighters. The use of period style and slang is masterful. The author has obviously immersed himself in the writings of Pierce Egan (who features in the cast) and many of the pages of "Black Ajax" might indeed go undetected as being of later date if inserted among the chronicles of the original Tom and Jerry, while I am still uncertain whether the contribution of William Hazlitt (who also appears) is an extract from his actual writings or a recreation by Mr.MacDonald Fraser. In summary - a splendid novel. One thirsts for more in similar vein.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars this was a good read about a distant relative of mine, 16 Feb 2009
By 
Susan Davies (cornwall england) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Black Ajax (Paperback)
we grew up knowing that tom molyneux as a great great great grandfather of mine and so it was fascinating to read about the life and times of someone who had such an impact on world boxing and black british history and yet is relatively unknown in this country connor molyneux-greenfield
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Huge fun (and tragedy too), 3 July 2008
By 
Didier (Ghent, Belgium) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Black Ajax (Paperback)
I picked up this book because I immensely enjoyed the Flashman-novels by George MacDonald Fraser, not because I'm a lover of (let alone expert in) the Noble Art of Self-Defence. But even then, I can only say that "The Black Ajax" had me transfixed from page one to the very end.

Although it's basically a tragic story of wasted talent and opportunity (Tom Molineaux - the Black Ajax referred to in the title - has a huge talent for boxing, but unfortunately also for drinking and philandering), it also had me laughing out loud (in public places, mind you!). George MacDonald Fraser is (or was rather) an extremely gifted storyteller, and in this particular instance he tells the story of Tom Molineaux in the voice of a dozen or so eye-witnesses to Tom's exploits. The way Fraser succeeds in giving each witness his very own particular 'voice is quite simply uncanny! Brilliant!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gem, 22 Jan 2008
By 
S. M. Williams (London W1) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Black Ajax (Paperback)
This book is a sparkling jewel of a semi-fictional historical novel. It is Mr Fraser at his inventive and innovative best.

The tale is of the short but explosive career of Tom Molineaux: a black, former American slave who very nearly became a nineteenth century bare knuckle boxing champion of England. As is typical of Mr Fraser, the language and vocabulary are so rich and full that the reader is transported back through time with ease and with a true sense of the period.

The story is delivered through various witnesses and observers. This can be off-putting usually, but Mr Fraser brings it off with aplomb. The Amazon.com Review above is absurd in its suggestion that the text contains too many "racial epithets"; absurd because one imagines the language to be spot on for the time. It is an historical novel after all.

Black Ajax is a scintillating and most enjoyable read and one I thoroughly recommend.
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Black Ajax
Black Ajax by George MacDonald Fraser (Paperback - 1 Sep 2008)
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