Most of us wish that we could be idly rich, but when globe-trotter Sam Sheridan achieved that state, he only longed for violence. In 1999, this Harvard graduate took the first steps to fulfilling his long-held dream to become a kick boxer, launching a crash course that began with an accelerated apprenticeship with the greatest fighter in Thai history. Within a year, he was in the ring, exchanging vicious pokes with professionals. Before he hung up the gloves, he had faced Olympic pugilists, Brazilian jiu-jitsu stars, and Ultimate Fighting champions. In A Fighter's Heart, he explains to a disbelieving audience what drove a bright guy to a blood sport. Vicarious excitement.
Just out of Harvard University, Sheridan set out to discover if he had what it took to be a fighter. His quest takes the reader around the globe and through most of the major martial arts disciplines-muay thai in Thailand, jiu-jitsu in Brazil, tai chi in New York City and boxing in Oakland, Calif., to name a few. On his way, Sheridan trains beside, lives with and learns from some of the most dangerous men in the world. He even gets into the ring himself and beats a Japanese karate champion in his very first fight. It's impossible not to admire Sheridan's bravery and tenacity-he's done more wild things in 10 years than the average man would in a hundred lifetimes (Sheridan also worked in the merchant marine, as a smoke jumper and as a construction worker in Antarctica). However, Sheridan's attempt to cram so many of his adventures into one book diffuses their impact, reading more like a bunch of magazine articles strung together. Sheridan's prose is straightforward and illuminating at times, but he jumps so quickly from one adventure to the next that readers don't have the opportunity to immerse themselves in any of them. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Plimpton-esque journey into the international world of professional fighting, with painful results. Give first-time author Sheridan some credit. Not content to savor the joys of kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, pro boxing and other martial arts from the cheap seats, he climbed through the ropes himself, enduring grueling training sessions and living Spartan-like alongside his fellow fighters. In Thailand, he sampled the joys of Muay Thai, in which fighters may both punch and kick. He trained in Iowa at the country's leading martial-arts center. In Brazil, he tackled the art of jiu-jitsu. In Oakland, he tried his hand at pro boxing. Not surprisingly, he ended up with as many lumps as insights. Although he was victorious in his first kickboxing bout, he got battered and bloodied in his second, then was forced to bow out of several other fights due to a torn rotator cuff and a recurring rib injury. Sheridan actually fought less than three rounds in six years of "research," so in that sense, the book leaves the reader feeling shortchanged. He provides some interesting insights into the various fighting disciplines, introducing a score of colorful fighters, trainers and hangers-on. But he also includes too many tedious digressions. Sheridan studied tai chi at a Manhattan clinic; meditated with Buddhist monks in the mountains of Thailand; attended disgusting dogfights and cockfights in the Philippines, then worked as an extra on a B-grade prison film shot in Mexico. He tries gamely to draw parallels between these other pursuits and actual fighting, but it feels like padding. Oft-repeated platitudes about "courage" and "inner strength" don't help. Sheridan seems sincerely interested in testing hisphysical limits, but after his early injuries, neither he nor his book ever regain momentum-or the reader's interest. First printing of 50,000; $50,000 ad/promo