The ever-innovating Steve Bunce has branched out again, publishing his first novel, based in the the murky secret world of deals, fights and fighters with his thriller The Fixer.
After he lost his weekly television boxing show with the collapse last year of broadcasters Setanta, Bunce took his show on the road, something he is planning to repeat this year.
But as a boxing writer of 25 years standing, The Independent‘s correspondent is well aware of the legal constraints he is under in a notoriously litigious sport, and so has opted for fiction to allow him to paint a picture of boxing that a more straightforward piece of journalism would not allow.
“There was a giant hole in boxing writing,” Bunce told sportsjournalists.co.uk. “I’ve read far too many dull autobiographies where the truth has been sucked out by a lawyer. I know why, but that doesn’t make the book any better.
“I started putting this together about eight years ago. One agent tried for a few years, then another had a few years and finally I settled with the current agent. She managed to place it at Mainstream.
“It’s a rare book – a novel by a sportswriter about the world of sport. Nobody knows what to do with it. I think it should be in Sports – the people that know disagree. There you go.”
The book has already been acclaimed in a review in the Daily Mirror by Tony Parsons, a noted novellist himself. “Reads like a Raymond Chandler for the 21st century,” Parsons, author of Man And Boy, wrote. “A hard-boiled, two-fisted, wise-cracking novel about the boxing world’s black underbelly. As a thriller writer, Steve Bunce wipes the floor with Stieg Larsson.”
Of course, Bunce is not the first to use the world of boxing as a backdrop for their writing – Ernest Hemingway and Norman Mailer certainly made a fist of it. But some estimate it could be six decades – when Budd Schulberg wrote The Harder They Fall – since boxing has been used for some fascinating fiction.
Bunce points out that the move into fiction is anything new – “Dick Francis did it for about 3,000 years” – but The Fixer may not be his last: Rooney-like, he has managed to secure a four-book deal. “We’ll see how it sells,” he says.
“There are hundreds of boxing people in the book – some real, some invented, but most mixed and matched with a degree of reality. A lot of people have identified themselves and seem happy enough.”
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