Pound for Pound: A Novel

Pound for Pound: A Novel

by F. X. Toole


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Following his remarkable fiction debut, Rope Burns, author F. X. Toole's Pound for Pound is a big, brawny novel of honor, perseverance, family, and forgiveness, set in towns where violence is the norm and success stories take on an almost mythic importance. It is the story of Dan Cooley, an aging, legendary Los Angeles trainer, who takes on Chicky Garza, a troubled young fighter hungry for glory in the notoriously corrupt San Antonio boxing circuit. Written in the masterful style that has earned the author glowing comparisons to Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver, and Frank McCourt, this unforgettable posthumous novel celebrates a unique and powerful bond, and the courage that overcomes insurmountable obstacles in and out of the ring.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060881344
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/07/2007
Series: P.S. Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 636,559
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.94(d)

About the Author

F. X. Toole was born in 1930. Having worked as a bullfighter, professional boxing "cut man," taxi driver, and saloon keeper, Toole published his first book of fiction at age seventy. He died in 2002, before seeing his short story "Million Dollar Baby" become an Academy Award-winning film.

Read an Excerpt

Pound for Pound

A Novel
By F. X. Toole

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 F. X. Toole
All right reserved.

ISBN: 006088133X

Chapter One


In one way or another, Dan Cooley and Earl Daw had been partners for twenty years in the fight game, and co-own-ers for twelve in the body-and-fender business. Dan had opened the shop—Shamrock Auto Body—more than twenty years before Earl became a partner. Because of Earl's bad hands, and because his wife had urged him to stop fighting, Earl hung up his gloves permanently when his first daughter was born. Earl's deal with Dan was fifty-fifty, and they'd sealed it with a handshake. Like their friendship, the deal had lasted.

Earl Daw was a lean, dark-skinned black man who'd been born in the Nickerson Gardens projects in Watts. As a middleweight, with Dan as his trainer, he'd fought his way out of the projects and made money doing it. Because of Earl's many one-punch knockouts, he was given the fighting name "Captain Hook" by sportswriters who recognized the devastating power in his left hand. But fight guys, guys on the inside, knew that Earl had soft hands, hands that would break under the tremendous force fighters can generate. Fight guys are known for being realists. Earl's name in the gym went from Captain Hook to Softhand, but, because fight guys are also known to simplify, the nickname was shortened to Soff,and that stuck, as in, "Say, Soff!" What many didn't know was that Earl was a converted southpaw, and that under his father's, Shortcake's, instruction, he'd changed his stance to move his power from his rear, or defensive hand, to the hand closer to his opponent, his offensive hand. That change in stance often explained the knockout power of a big left-hooker.

Dan Cooley's skin was Irish skin, still had freckles on his arms if folks bothered to look, though age and the Los Angeles sun had darkened him some. If you looked closely at his face, you could see that something wasn't quite right with one eye, the result of an injury that had put him out of the ring as a boxer and into the corner as a trainer. Some fight guys called Dan and Earl Salt and Peppa.

Dan would answer, "Yeah, but I'm tired of this Salt bullshit. I wanna be Peppa." Earl would add, "Yeah, an' I be tired a bein Peppa. I wanna be Salt so I can get all that white pussy out there."

"No good, Earl, I been with white women all my life," Dan would say, and point to his white hair. "Look at what they done to me, and I'm only twenty-eight years of age."

It was a show they'd put on, and fight guys, black and white, loved it no matter how many times they watched it.

Earl stood just inside the big roll-up door of the body shop and watched Dan get out of his truck, his movements slow and stiff, like an old man's. These days Dan would be fiddling with paperwork in his office upstairs one minute and then suddenly gone, destination unknown. Trouble was, Earl never knew when Dan might return. If indeed he would return—that worried Earl a lot, each time. But he kept his mouth shut. And waited.

That day it was hot and dusty, a typical early fall day in Los Angeles, but the grass was green inside St. Athanasius Cemetery. Greener still the Connemara marble base of the Cooley family gravestone. Dan stood there just staring at it, his eyes moving from one name down to the next. All those dates were burned into his memory, as ineradicable as the letters incised in the stone.

brendan connor cooley 1963-1964 terrance declan cooley 1961-1985 mary catherine markey 1965-1992 eamon dermont markey 1960-1992

Little Brendan, his second son, dead of acute lymphoblastic leukemia before his second birthday. Terry, his fireman son, buried alive when a retaining wall at a construction site collapsed as he worked to remove a trapped laborer. His daughter, Mary Cat, three months' pregnant with her second child, and her husband, both killed when their plane missed the runway in Acapulco.

He could still see the little boy, standing rigid as he looked at the two rose-covered coffins, his eyes aching and dry. "But why did they put my mom and dad inside those long boxes?" Timothy Patrick Markey asked.

"Shhh, lad," said his grandmother Brigid. Her voice still had a trace of old-country brogue, thick and rich as Irish brown bread, and her eyes were so green they often looked purple. "Wait until after Father Joe's done."

The charred bodies of Tim Pat's mother and father had been flown back from Mexico in sealed aluminum tubes by the very same airline that had interrupted their second honeymoon when one of its aircraft crashed on final approach.

Tim Pat was six, bright as a new penny and full of life, but once he'd been told of his parents' death, the tears Dan expected him to shed never came, just a frightening stillness. It had taken over four weeks for the Mexican authorities to identify and return the bodies to Dan and Brigid, Tim Pat's grandparents. They moved Tim Pat's bed into their bedroom, where he'd slept fitfully. He hardly spoke once he knew the bodies had arrived, and had said nothing at the rosary or at the funeral mass, but now he shivered like a cold pup and wanted answers.

The priest finished at the grave site, and Brigid had Tim Pat sprinkle a pinch of dark earth on each coffin. As they walked away, Dan gave the aging priest an envelope with the same thousand-dollar donation for a Tijuana orphanage he'd made too often, and then rejoined his wife and Tim Pat. The priest, Father Jose Capetillo, was pastor at Christ the King Church, a refuge for the soul located near the Cooleys' home in old Hollywood. Father Joe had lived and worked with his wetback mojado parents in Steinbeck's Salinas, but he had been born in . . .


Excerpted from Pound for Pound by F. X. Toole Copyright © 2006 by F. X. Toole. Excerpted by permission.
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What People are Saying About This

Edgardo Vega Yunque

“Toole writes beautifully . . . an homage to the resiliency and strength of the human spirit.”

Richard Russo

“That this posthumous novel is the last such gift we’ll receive from a great writer makes it even more special.”

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