Black is Bestby Jack Olsen
Although perhaps the world's best known athlete, Cassius Clay is far more important as an American phenomenon of the 1960's than as a prizefighter. In his career as a boxer,
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Before he was Muhammad Ali, there was the riddle of Cassius Clay. Jack Olsen's book on Clay was called one of the best sports biographies of all time by the editors of Sports Illustrated.
Although perhaps the world's best known athlete, Cassius Clay is far more important as an American phenomenon of the 1960's than as a prizefighter. In his career as a boxer, he followed a traditional, even a stereotyped road to the top for a Negro, but his distortion of the American rags-to-riches story is peculiarly his own. When he defeated Sonny Liston for the world's heavyweight championship in 1964, he was hailed by press and public alike as the clean-cut kid who would, by his exemplary life, restore wholesomeness to the tainted world of boxing. Now, three years later, he has made a hash of these earlier impressions. His affair with the Black Muslims, his outspoken support of black power, his inflammatory statements about Vietnam and his controversial draft status have all contributed to the vilification to which he is currently subjected.
Black is Best is an attempt by Jack Olsen to put the contradictory images of Clay into a single focus. Olsen talked at length with those who have surrounded Clay -- his family, his first boxing coach, his trainer, his physician, the group of white businessmen who gave him his start and dozens of others, thereby allowing those closest to the champion to offer, through observation and anecdote, their own interpretations of what makes Cassius run. Even more to the point, the author dogged Clay's footsteps and his own account of what he saw and heard, including Clay's extensive conversations, presents a firsthand record of the life of a truly puzzling personality.
What emerges is a character portrait that is an almost perfect distillate of many of the problems that confront America today. A confessed bigot, a part-time demagogue, pulled by so many opposing factions that he himself often seems confused about his real identity, Clay has sought to develop his own ideals and his own conscience. That they stand in sharp variance from the standards of White America is inevitable, and it is only slightly less inevitable that they should be in conflict with the beliefs of the majority of his own race, indeed of his own family. But behind this public pose, behind the hundreds of thousands of words, pro and con, that have been written about Clay, there lies yet another human being, a troubled and sensitive young man filled with doubts and fears and private dreams. It is this Clay that Olsen ultimately reaches, the man as well as the symbol.
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- Crime Rant Classics
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Meet the Author
The award-winning author of thirty-three books, Jack Olsen’s books have published in fifteen countries and eleven languages. Olsen's journalism earned the National Headliners Award, Chicago Newspaper Guild's Page One Award, commendations from Columbia and Indiana Universities, the Washington State Governor's Award, the Scripps-Howard Award and other honors. He was listed in Who's Who in America since 1968 and in Who's Who in the World since 1987. The Philadelphia Inquirer described him as "an American treasure."
Olsen was described as "the dean of true crime authors" by the Washington Post and the New York Daily News and "the master of true crime" by the Detroit Free Press and Newsday. Publishers Weekly called him "the best true crime writer around." His studies of crime are required reading in university criminology courses and have been cited in the New York Times Notable Books of the Year. In a page-one review, the Times described his work as "a genuine contribution to criminology and journalism alike."
Olsen is a two-time winner in the Best Fact Crime category of the Mystery Writer’s of America, Edgar award.
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