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Black Ajax (Charnwood Library) Hardcover – Large Print, 1 May 1998

4.7 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 377 pages
  • Publisher: Charnwood (Large Print); Large type edition edition (1 May 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0708990053
  • ISBN-13: 978-0708990056
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,504,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon 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 travelled 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 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Review

‘Mr Fraser is a great historical novelist and in Black Ajax he is at the very top of his form. Damme if he ain’t.’
Christopher Matthew, Daily Mail

‘This is not a flashy novel, wearing its learning noisily. It’s rigorous, intelligent, meticulously horrifying. Wonderfully well done.’
Nicci Gerrard, Observer

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: 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.Read more ›
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By Charles Vasey TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 20 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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