I actually was supposed to have this thing written months ago, y’know. I mean, BROOKLYN BEATDOWN has been in print for about three months now. And Paul Bishop had mentioned to me prior to the book’s due date that he’d like to have a short essay from me on the how and why I wrote this particular FIGHT CARD novel as it’s a first for the series; the first FIGHT CARD to feature an African-American protagonist.
So why didn’t I write the thing when I was supposed to? Didn’t I take it seriously? Well, of course I did. There are other African-American writers Paul could have gone to. Writers who easily leave me in the dust when they stomp on the pedal and get their word engines cranked up to where she’ll run like that black Trans Am from “Smokey and The Bandit.” No, I took it very seriously that Paul came to me and asked me to contribute a book to an excellent series of novels that certainly didn’t need me to help it.
Maybe I’m just lazy? Hardly. I think my output proves that despite all other evidence to the contrary, I’m not a lazy guy. Not when it comes to writing at least. So what was the holdup? To be honest; I felt like a fraud much of the time while writing BROOKLYN BEATDOWN. Really. I mean, I’ve got no boxing background at all. I’ve been in some fights in my time. You didn’t grow up in Bed-Stuy during the 1970’s without getting into a fight on occasion. But that hardly qualifies me as a boxing expert. And prior to doing research for this book I hadn't watched a boxing match in quite some time.
I was a big fight fan during the 1970’s and 80’s, though. Thanks to my father. And I feel very lucky to have grown up during a time when boxing was so vibrant and alive with such personalities such as Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Joe Frazier, Tommy Hearns, Marvin Hagler. And this was during the glory days of ABC’s Wide World of Sports which would show a lot of boxing matches on Saturday afternoon. This was before the rise of cable which jumped on sports programming, boxing especially and took it away from the networks. So I got to see a lot of these classic boxers do their thing during their glory days. But what I always took away from them was not only their phenomenal skill but their larger-than-life personalities.
That was my hook for the character of Levi Kimbro. I wanted him to be a personality with dreams and hopes and ambitions outside of the ring. The ring wasn’t his life. It was a tool to get where he wanted to go in life. The clincher was that everybody else except for Levi knew that being in the ring was the thing he’s best suited for. So that was my inspiration for Levi. As for the rest, I watched a lot of boxing matches on YouTube and Warner Brothers fight films I borrowed from the library. In my head I saw BROOKLYN BEATDOWN as being a homage to not only those great old Warner Brothers fight films but also blaxploitation films of the 70’s. I doubted my ability to pull it off but I hiked up my pants and took my best shot at it.
But again, that specter of being a fraud nagged at me. What business did I have writing a boxing novel? But then again, I write novels about mercenary adventurers, spies, superheroes and supernatural gunslingers and never lose any sleep over it. So why was I chewing my toenails about this particular book?
In my gut I knew why: for the first time in my career I was being asked by a professional writer/editor to deliver a book about real people in a real world. No falling back on tricks like bringing in fantastic superweapons, diabolical supervillains or mythical martial arts. In the popular vernacular: I had to keep it real.
And I guess that’s why I didn’t get around to writing this when it was supposed to be written: I didn’t feel as if I had kept it real. I felt like I had made it all up. And that’s when it it hit me: That’s what you do anyway, stupid. You make up stories. The good news is that you make up stories people like to read. And at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
And so I wrote BROOKLYN BEATDOWN and it was published and apparently a few of you think it’s a good story and that’s all that matters. Still doesn’t explain why I didn’t write this essay when I was supposed to write it.
Maybe I am lazy.