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The International Writers Magazine: Book Review

The Fixer
By Steve Bunce
Published 2010 by Mainstream Publishing
ISBN: 978184596973
Dan Cann
I will make no secret that I am a big fan of Steve Bunce. I listen to his weekly ‘Boxing Show’ podcast and whenever I catch him on BBC Radio 5 Live’s ‘Fighting Talk.’ I have also read countless articles of his in Boxing Monthly and The Independent. He has also been an enthusiastic and colourful addition to many BBC boxing broadcasts on television covering amateur and professional shows.

The Fixer

He has covered five Olympic Games and has worked as a journalist and broadcaster for over a quarter of a century. What he does not know about boxing is not worth knowing as the old saying goes.
Another saying, particularly apt here is the one about authors writing about what they know i.e. ‘play to your strengths.’ Well, ‘Buncey’ does it here with this his first fictional novel ‘The Fixer.’

There have not been many boxing novels apart from Budd Schulberg’s excellent ‘The Harder They Fall’ in the last half a century or so which is a travesty when you think about it. That may have something to do with the terrible way the sport has been portrayed on film and in television with the usual clichéd subjects supposedly representative of the figures involved in the ‘noble art.’

Well, after reading ‘The Fixer’ we may, in Bunce, have finally found a writer who can do the sport justice. He has said that if his first novel does well then he has enough ideas and material for at least another four.

Although set in 2007 Bunce’s novel has a very ‘Chandleresque’ feel to it. This could have been penned by Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler back in the day. Its central protagonist is London based matchmaker and boxing writer Ray Lester (The fixer of the title). Ray is visited at his flat one morning by an enigmatic and attractive blonde woman claiming to be the daughter of an old school Las Vegas crooner called Eddie Lights. Apparently this popular performer has gone missing and Ray promises the distraught daughter that he will do his best to find her father.

Ray travels to Las Vegas with 30,000 other British fight fans to watch the Ricky Hatton – Floyd Mayweather contest: a nice touch by Bunce as this helps the novels authenticity by placing it at an actual event. It is not long before Ray’s enquiries draw the wrong kind of attention and he finds himself at the centre of a very dark murderous plot.

 ‘The Fixer’ takes the reader from the boxing halls of London, to the glitzy hotels and casinos of Las Vegas and on to the more run down Atlantic City before its dramatic conclusion in of all places, Blackpool.

I have to say that even though I count myself as an avid fan of boxing in lesser hands this could have been instantly forgettable, yet Bunce holds the reader’s attention from first page to last. The characters are well drawn and convincing and the action maintains the mystery and tension right up to the end. Sometimes Bunce does get a little carried away in telling his boxing stories but these do help in providing a backdrop as well as a helpful guide to non-boxing fans.

I loved the way how Eddie Lights becomes an almost Kurtz like figure (from Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’) as Ray attempts to unravel the mystery of his disappearance. Also the descriptions of all the locations are spot on and extremely vivid. He is not averse to showing the seedier side of boxing. Blackpool in particular is portrayed as a sinister, sleazy and menacing place with its crumbling facades, drug addicts and criminal element just beneath the family friendly seaside resort. In fact Bunce does to Blackpool what Graham Greene did to Brighton in ‘Brighton Rock.’

If you like thrillers and boxing then this one is a fantastic read. This is 1940s noir for the 21st Century, an excellent debut novel and hopefully the start of a series from its knowledgeable author.

© D Cann August 2011

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