Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
“Midnight Emissions” by F. X. Toole
Card picked: Ace of Spades
From: Murder on the Ropes edited by Otto Penzler
I was hoping I’d get to this story sooner rather than later, but I didn’t expect to pull it in Week 2! The inclusion of a story by F. X. Toole was the reason I requested this book from Paperback Swap back in 2009…
This is the story of trainer Red, manager Billy Clancy, and boxer Kenny Coyle. Coyle thinks he’s a very smart man. But as Red puts it, you shouldn’t shit a shitter and you shouldn’t hit a hitter.
See, when the police find a corpse in Texas, their first question ain’t who done it, it’s what the dead do to deserve it.
The mystery aspects of this tale are not particularly mysterious. We are introduced to a corpse in the first paragraph. It becomes fairly obvious who this particular dead man is and who is probably behind his death. This story is all about the journey.
Billy Clancy is partial to heavyweights, having been one himself. Red, on the verge of retirement from the sport of boxing, is fully aware of the ups and downs of training young men who believe they deserve the world for the beatings they take. Both probably knew better, but both are taken in by charismatic, talented Kenny Coyle.
Toole knows boxing, but here his eye is toward the intricacies of training a fighter. It’s social as well as physical, a balancing act between controlling and permitting behavior. The title refers to letting nature take care of physical release rather than pursuing other fatiguing means. The analogy works on a couple of levels.
The weakness of the story is that it is written in a south Texas dialect. It was tough to get into and confusing sometimes. I wish Toole would have kept the language plainer.
About the Author:
From the back of Rope Burns, an anthology of Toole’s stories which I read back in 2008:
F. X. Toole was a trainer and licensed cut man in the world of professional boxing. He was seventy when Rope Burns, his first book, was published, and had been writing and battling rejection letters for forty years. He died two years later, in 2002.
One the stories from Rope Burns was adapted into the movie Million Dollar Baby which was released in 2004.