Fight Fiction: a History Part II

A novelist, screenwriter, television personality and half the creative genius behind the Fight Card series, Paul Bishop recently finished a 35 year career with the Los Angeles Police Department where he was twice honored as Detective Of The Year.  He continues to work privately as a deception expert and as a specialist in the investigation of sex crimes.  His books include the western Diamondback: Shroud Of Vengenace, two novels (Hot Pursuit / Deep Water) featuring LAPD officers Calico Jack Walker and Tina Tamiko, the thrillers Penalty Shot and Suspicious Minds, a short story collection (Running Wylde), and five novels in his L.A.P.D. Detective Fey Croaker series (Croaker: Kill Me Again, Croaker: Grave Sins, Croaker: Tequila Mockingbird, Croaker: Chalk Whispers, and Croaker: Pattern of Behavior).  His latest novel, Fight Card: Felony Fists (written as Jack Tunney), is a fast action boxing tale inspired by the fight pulps of the ‘40s and ‘50s. His novels are currently available as e-books.


Continuing our look at the hope and appeal offered by fight fiction …


Paul Bishop


As the ‘70s progressed, the public became primed for a change in their fight fiction.  Unlike with prior generations, this change in popular entertainment would not be  tied to the socio-economic factors of the day.  Instead, a blurring of the lines of fact and fiction – especially in the world of boxing – was occurring, reflecting the hyper embellishments of celebrity being inflicted upon larger popular culture as a whole.

In boxing, the anger, power, and sheer showmanship of Muhammad Ali – the man who would become boxing’s greatest ambassador – had revitalized the public’s fervor for ring action.  Ali’s larger than life love-me-or-hate-me-I’m still-The-Greatest personality overshadowed the ever darkening machinations of the trademark spiky-haired head and grasping fingers of promoter Don King.

In 1971, Joe Frazier fought Ali in a bout hyped as The Fight of the Century.  Frazier prevailed over Ali, who was returning to boxing after being suspended for over three years for his refusal to obey the draft.  The defeat sent Ali on a quest, fighting contender after pretender to the heavyweight throne in an attempt to obtain another title shot.

The Rumble in the Jungle in 1974, pitted then world Heavyweight champion George Foreman against former world champion and challenger Muhammad Ali.  This fight, coupled a year later (1975) with the climax of the bitter rivalry between Ali and Frazier – dubbed The Thrilla in Manila – returned boxing to the world stage like nothing that had gone before.

Norman Mailer’s bestselling non-fiction work, The Fight, documented the greatest fight of the greatest life with all the power of a great fictional narrative, ushering in a culmination of self-involved journalism.  All of which laid the ground work in preparing the public for the little film that could go the distanceRocky.

Rocky not only detailed the winning underdog story of a fighter who only wanted to go the distance – an achievable, if difficult, goal believed in and desired by the everyman of the day in his everyday mundane life – but was, in the actual inception and creation of the film itself, an underdog story to rival its fight fiction plot.  Sylvester Stallone was inseparable from his onscreen persona as he fought for his screenplay and starring role against all studio odds – and then went the distance as Rocky would go on to win three Oscars ©, including Best Picture.

Rocky and its (eventually) five sequels were hits and misses with the critics, but not with the public.  The average Joe began to see the hype of the real world fights and fictional movie fireworks as almost one and the same.

Fight stories were back in the public eye in a big way.

In 2000, fight fiction morphed yet again with the publication of the pseudonymous F.X. Toole’s, Rope Burns: Stories From The Corner.  Each story in the collection was a gem.  But unlike the tales populating the fight pulps of old, the stories in Rope Burns gave a whole new human face to the world of boxing, a deeper meaning – all leading to the brilliant Best Picture Oscar © winning film Million Dollar Baby, based on several stories from the collection.

The stories in Rope Burns proved to the wider public, yet again, what fans of fight fiction have always known – the world of the sweet science, at its best, has always been a reflection of what it means to be human, what it means to struggle, what it means to be hit in the face with the daily and millennial challenge of survival as individuals, as families, and finally as a race.

In the new millennium, the economy is struggling again.  Today, the ever exploding popularity of mixed martial arts tournaments (MMA) has again brought the fighting arts back to the forefront of the public consciousness.  In MMA, the everyman sees in the caged octagon a release of his or her own frustrations at the state of the world – the stark struggle to survive in a time and place where the rules have change, where the action is  faster, more brutal, and yet possessed of a choreographed beauty.

Simultaneously, the thirst for fight stories has also increased, as shown by the popularity and critical acclaim for such MMA-themed novels as Suckerpunch by Jeremy Brown, The O’Quinn Fights by Robert Evans, The Longshot by Katie Kitamura, Choke Hold by Christa Faust, and many more.

Traditional boxing novels are also flourishing.  Every Time I Talk To Liston and Las Vegas Soul by Brian DeVido; Pound For Pound, F. X. Toole’s posthumously finished novel; Waiting for Carver Boyd by Thomas Hauser; and more, continue to tell the tale of the tape and the story of the squared circle.

By the end of 2013, the Fight Card series (along with spin-off brands Fight Card MMA and Fight Card Romance) will have published twenty-seven plotted tales of fistic mayhem from some of the best New Pulp authors working today, each sporting a stunning cover created by artists Keith Birdsong and David Foster.

2014 will also offer a full slate of monthly Fight Card titles, including more tales from the Fight Card MMA and Fight Card Romance imprints along with more of the traditional Fight Card tales set in the noir-filled streets of the earlier decades.

Retro or modern, Fight Card novels will continue to provide inspiring, entertaining stories of tough guys caught in tough spots with nothing but their fists, wits, and fighting nature to battle against the odds.  The Fight Card novels are about characters and their individual journeys and how they can inspire our character and our journeys.

As Fight Card readers you can become part of the Fight Card team by writing reviews on Amazon with your honest opinions of the tales you’ve read, giving us shout-outs on your blogs, and visiting the Fight Card website at www.fightcardbooks,com/

Fight Fiction: a History Part I

A novelist, screenwriter, television personality and half the creative genius behind the Fight Card series, Paul Bishop recently finished a 35 year career with the Los Angeles Police Department where he was twice honored as Detective Of The Year.  He continues to work privately as a deception expert and as a specialist in the investigation of sex crimes.  His books include the western Diamondback: Shroud Of Vengenace, two novels (Hot Pursuit / Deep Water) featuring LAPD officers Calico Jack Walker and Tina Tamiko, the thrillers Penalty Shot and Suspicious Minds, a short story collection (Running Wylde), and five novels in his L.A.P.D. Detective Fey Croaker series (Croaker: Kill Me Again, Croaker: Grave Sins, Croaker: Tequila Mockingbird, Croaker: Chalk Whispers, and Croaker: Pattern of Behavior).  His latest novel, Fight Card: Felony Fists (written as Jack Tunney), is a fast action boxing tale inspired by the fight pulps of the ‘40s and ‘50s. His novels are currently available as e-books.


Cultural influences, tough economic times, and the hope and appeal offered by fight fiction …


Paul Bishop


The fight fiction genre has become an integral part of our cultural history – especially when economic times have been as tough as the character’s in a fight fiction tale.

Even before the explosion of fight fiction stories in the pulps of the ‘30s and ‘40s, Jack London was penning fight stories for the masses, such as his classics A Piece of Steak and The Abysmal Brute, among others.  Feeding the need of the everyman to rise above his daily struggle for survival through vicarious fight entertainment, London’s fight tales were devoured.

London learned to box by sparring with his friend Jim Whitaker, and his love of the sport never waned.  Wherever his wanderings took him, London always had a pair of boxing gloves, always ready to mix it up with any challenger.  Most often, however, London’s regular sparring partner was his wife, Charmian Kittredge, with whom he routinely sparred.

Even on the Snark, travelling to the Solomons Islands, or on the Tymeric from Sydney, Australia, to Ecuador, or the Dirgo from Baltimore to Seattle in 1912, Jack and Charmain would put on their bathing suits and square off for an hour of sparring before throwing buckets of salt water on one another.  Because he couldn’t strike back against Charmain as he would against another man, London developed an almost impenetrable defense, making him more than a challenge for any man he toed the line against.

London hated bullfighting and hunting, considering them without any sporting interest.  However, the specific mano-a-mano science of boxing fascinated him.  He always tried to attend professional fights as a reporter in order to secure a ringside seat.

In 1905, he wrote one of his most highly regarded fight stories,  The Game, which was serialized in Metropolitan Magazine. The story caused a clamor when critics claimed a fighter could not be killed by hitting his head on the canvas. London’s reply was a claim to have seen it happen in the West Oakland Athletic Club.

Eventually, lightweight champion of the world, Jimmy Britt, settled things in the San Francisco Examiner when he was quoted as saying, “With … nothing more to guarantee me that he knows The Game than his description of his fictional prize-fight, I would, if he were part of our world, propose or accept him as referee of my impending battle with Nelson.”

During the height of the pulp era on the ‘30s and ‘40s, Robert E. Howard was another writer who banged out fight stories while also engaging in the pugilistic arts. Even though as a child he was bookish and intellectual, in his teen years he took up bodybuilding before eventually entering the ring as an amateur boxer.

Best known as the creator of Conan The Barbarian, Solomon Kane, and other sword and sorcery characters, Howard had a lifelong interest in boxing, attending fights and avidly following the careers of his favorite fighters.  He also claimed to considered his fictional fight tales – especially The Iron Man, and the adventures of Sailor Steve Costigan, the lovable, hard-fisted, and innocent semipro pugilist who regularly squared-off against dastardly villains in exotic ports of call – as among the best of his works.

Howard’s boxing tales and hundreds of other two-fisted stories flourished in the fight pulps such as Fight Stories Magazine and Knockout Magazine, helping a generation of readers to fight through the Great Depression and the tough years to follow.

During the ‘50s, the printed tales of fight fiction gave way to a wider appreciation of live bouts.  Television brought those fights into American living rooms for all to see.  However, as the public became jaded by the scandal of fight fixing and the real life encroachment of organized crime into the fight game, a new realism in fight fiction wrapped its hands with tape and pulled on battered leather gloves illegally loaded with lead.

Published in 1958, The Professional written by W. C. Heinz cast a harsh reflection of the seedy circus-like atmosphere of boxing with its assorted hangers-on, crooked promoters, and jaded journalists.  With his lean sentences, rough-and-ready dialogue, dry wit, and you-are-there style, Heinz brilliantly used the cynical eyes of fictional sports writer Frank Hughes to recount the trials of middleweight Eddie Brown and his crusty trainer, Doc Carroll, as Brown prepares for a championship fight.

Heinz’ novel is still as revered today as it was when Hemingway – himself an amateur pugilist and teller of fight stories such as Fifty Grand and A Matter of Colour  – declared it “the only good novel about a fighter I’ve read and an excellent novel in its own right.”

Like the fight fiction novels to be published in the ‘40s and 50’s. movies of those eras also reflected the public’s growing disenchantment with boxing in the ‘50s.  Humphrey Bogart’s last screen appearance in 1956’s The Harder They Fall – based on Budd Schulberg’s 1947 novel – dramatizes a thinly disguised account of the real life boxing scandal involving champion Primo Carnera.  Bogart’s character, Eddie Willis, was based on the career of boxing writer and event promoter Harold Conrad.  The book and film pulled no punches, showing brutal and brutish fight scenes coupled with the cynical and humiliating treatment of fighters by those surrounding them – which further reflected the middle class workers’ own feelings of punitive treatment by upper management.

Finally, in 1969, the noir edge of fight stories was capped with the publication of Fat City.  Written by Leonard Gardner, Fat City, set in the small-time boxing circuit of Stockton, California in the late ‘50s, became an acclaimed film from director John Houston in 1972.  As in The Professional and The Harder They Fall, the message of Fat City was a harsh metaphor for the impossibility of a public striving to get ahead while surrounded by forces determined to derail you at every turn.

Boxing and Romance

Honored by her college for literary excellence, author Carol Malone has played make-believe all her life and started writing romantic tales in high school. Raised with four older brothers, sports was the center of her family’s life. To this day, she still bleeds Dodger Blue. Carol writes pulse-pounding, noir sports stories with a passionate twist, inviting fans to jump in a front row seat and cheer for the underdog.


Can a romance writer make it in the harboiled world of fight fiction?


Carol A. Malone

I wrote Fight Card Romance: Ladies Night on a dare.

A couple of years ago, my friend, Paul Bishop, along with his good friend, Mel Odom, created the Fight Card series – fast action boxing tales inspired by the fight pulps of the ‘40s and ‘50s.  Being part of a monthly writers group mentored by Paul, I was familiar with these novels and intrigued by their punchy style.  When Paul offered my husband, Tim, the opportunity to write a Fight Card novella, I saw only one major problem – Tim, raised with four sisters, can’t abide sports. He never played sports of any kind, nor does he like to sit and watch sports on TV He considers it wasting time.

On the other hand, I was raised with four older brothers.  When I wasn’t blowing up a Lionel train set with my brother’s dart-shooting-tank-truck, I was outside shooting arrows into a bale of hay, riding my grandmother’s horse, or zipping down sloping hills on my brothers’ sled like my hair was on fire. I learned how to score a baseball game well before learning my ABC’s.

Sports was a way of life with four brothers – ice skating, skiing, hockey, water skiing, basketball, football, bowling, and baseball. Weekends in my family were spend watching Friday Night Fights with my dad, attending my brother’s baseball games on Saturday afternoons, and bowling with the whole family on Saturday evenings. I ran track, played tennis, and was on my college’s volleyball team. I am a die-hard Dodger devotee – and, like Tommy Lasorda, if I get cut, I bleed Dodger Blue. My dream was to be a batgirl – not one who chased after Adam West, but the kind who takes care of the bats for all those hunky ballplayers.

I read all the previous Fight Card novels and loved them.  If Tim wasn’t going to take a crack at a Fight Card story, then I wanted to get in the ring. The series to that point was essentially guy sports stories written for tough-minded, fight-loving male fans, so I was a little tenuous, wondering if I would be accepted into the brotherhood.

I was determined to approach Paul about an assignment, but figured the best thing to do would be to start writing a Fight Card story and surprise him at our next writers group meeting.  I was already writing romance with some form of suspense and action – I was hoping it wouldn’t be much different.

So, without Paul’s knowledge, I started to write Ladies Night in March, 2012, all the while working on other romantic manuscripts. For boxing research, I watched fights from the 50’s on YouTube, typing the descriptions of the punches into my computer while announcers describe the action. I rounded out the research with old LA city maps, period photos, boxing statistics, and scads of boxing technique videos.

With trepidation, I brought the first chapters of Ladies Night to the once a month writers group and was overwhelmed with the excited acceptance. Paul encouraged me to continue.  He’d had a notion in his head to expand the Fight Card brand – which he’d already done by adding in a series of Fight Card MMA novels – to include Fight Card Romance novels, and Ladies Night looked like it might fill the niche.

Working with my book coach Beth Barany ( on my previous romantic fiction, I put aside the prosaic stuff and concentrated on my Fight Card book. Beth kept reviewing the manuscript, teaching me invaluable skills to make the process run smoothly.

With his real world background in police interrogation, Paul knows how to make criminals sweat. I often felt the cold-cop experience of Paul’s suspect-breaking techniques when I wrote a couple of chapters he thought were a crime. Yet, under his tutelage, I experienced phenomenal growth. I went from writing very bad romance to creating a well-turned sports-romance novel. Paul is confident, but time will tell if it will be accepted by the die-hard fans of the great Fight Card stories.

I couldn’t have written Ladies Night without Paul and Beth’s expert influence and their uncompromising declarations, from time to time, that some of my writing did indeed – suck. But they also offered praise and reassurance, and forced me to keep at it until I got it right.  Just like a heavyweight champion needs the right trainer and the right cornermen, so too does a writer.

Find out more about Fight Card Romance and other Fight Card brands here:


And in This Corner…

From his secret lair in the wilds of Bethlehem, Georgia, Bobby Nash, the 2013 Pulp Ark Award Winner for Best Author, writes a little bit of everything, including novels, comic books, short prose, novellas, graphic novels, screenplays, media tie-ins, and even a little pulp fiction just for good measure. And he sleeps at least once a week, whether he needs it or not.  Between deadlines, Bobby is a part-time extra in movies and television. He is also the co-host of the Earth Station One podcast.  Barefoot Bones is Bobby’s first Fight Card Book. He hopes it won’t be his last.


On the writing of Fight Card: Barefoot Bones …

 Fight Card - Barefoot Bones cover

Bobby Nash

At first I was afraid.

No, seriously. When Paul Bishop first approached me about writing a Fight Card book I was a wee bit intimidated. My relationship with sports is a strange one. I am not generally a big fan of sporting events and hardly, if ever, watch them on TV. Oddly enough, I love sports-themed movies. Yeah. I know. It’s weird. Aside from a stock car racing idea I have, which I still plan to get to one of these days, the idea of writing sports fiction had not occurred to me.

I have a cursory knowledge of boxing at best. Meaning, I’ve seen the Rocky movies, Raging Bull, a few episodes of TV shows that had a boxing episode, and one or two pay-per-views I watched with some buddies. I did some research, of course, so hopefully my fight knowledge is sound.

So, with that said, when I agreed to write a Fight Card story, I approached it as a character piece about a boxer. Knowing the character is the most important thing for me and when the plot started to gel together in my mind, it was James Mason, the boy the bullies called Barefoot Bones who sold me on the idea of telling this story. I’m not sure where the name came from. As I was plotting out the ideas for this story, it was the week between Christmas and New Years Day. On one of the many drives to family events, it just popped into my head and it fit.

When working on stories, especially in a series or an anthology, I look for a different kind of story to tell. Setting Bones in the south and learning to fight as a way to survive excited me. At the same time I also had this image of him fighting in Korea, which is how his story came to start and stop there. I tried to avoid M*A*S*H antics, but I have to admit, it was hard not to envision that compound when writing about the compound in this story.

For those who know my work, I spend a good deal of time writing period pulp stories so I’ve gotten used to spending time in the past. Although Barefoot Bones isn’t exactly pulp, it does share a few of the same ideals as a good pulp yarn. I tried to keep things moving, only to slow up when necessary, much like Bones’ life.

The above ramblings is very much what it’s like for me plotting a story. The ideas tumble out in waves and rarely, if ever, in sequential order. That would just be too easy, wouldn’t it?

I’d like to thank Paul and Mel for inviting me to play in the Fight Card sandbox and David Foster for the amazing cover. This was a lot of fun. Who knows, maybe we’ll do this again soon.

Find out more about the Fight Card series here: