Black Ajax (Charnwood Library) Hardcover – Large Print, 1 May 1998
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|Hardcover, Large Print, 1 May 1998||
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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.
‘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
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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?
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As always, this author has thoroughly researched the subject and his descriptive talent is of the highest order. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Amazon Customer
Good story, but not as good as flashman. Found myself skipping bits due to verbosity, he does go on a bit.Published 2 months ago by victor meldrew and then some
Swift delivery; book in excellent condition. Happily recommend and use this vendor again. Good purchase, very pleased, many thanks.Published 2 months ago by ADMcDougall
After throughly enjoying McDonald Fraser's Flashman novels , I didn't think this book would be as enjoyable, I was wrong the authors writing is truly wonderful,peppering this novel... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Mr Thomas McDonnell
I picked this up as a big fan of GMF's Flashman books and mostly indifferent to the history of boxing, indeed boxing full-stop. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Mark S
Great read, Fraser really captured the period in this one!Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
Superb book. I have read all of the Flashman books and in my opinion this is nearly as good as the best of them. Harry's dad is even expertly woven into the storyline. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Andrew Partington