Jack Dempsey was perfectly suited to the time in which he fought, the time when the United States first felt the throb of its own overwhelming power. For eight years and two months after World War I, Dempsey, with his fierce good looks and matchless dedication to the kill, was heavyweight champion of the world. A Flame of Pure Fire is the extraordinary story of a man and a country growing to maturity in a blaze of strength and exuberance that nearly burned them to ash. Hobo, roughneck, fighter, lover, millionaire, movie star, and, finally, a gentleman of rare generosity and sincerity, Dempsey embodied an America grappling with the confusing demands of preeminence. Dempsey lived a life that touched every part of the American experience in the first half of the twentieth century. Roger Kahn, one of our preeminent writers about the human side of sport, has found in Dempsey a subject that matches his own manifold talents. A friend of Dempsey's and an insightful observer of the ways in which sport can measure a society's evolution, Kahn reaches a new and exciting stage in his acclaimed career with this book. In the story of a man John Lardner called "a flame of pure fire, at last a hero," Roger Kahn finds the heart of America.
Widely acclaimed as the greatest baseball writer of his generation, Roger Kahn is most famous for his modern classic, The Boys of Summer, which James Michener called the finest American book on sports. Kahn is the author of 16 books, including The Head Game, Baseball Seen from the Pitchers’ Mound. His magazine articles won five Dutton Best Magazine Story Awards and his book The Era: When the Yankees Dodgers and Giants Ruled the World was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Born in Brooklyn, he now lives in Stone Ridge, N.Y. with his wife, the psychotherapist Katharine Colt Johnson.
A Flame of Pure Fire, Roger Kahn's utterly absorbing account of Jack Dempsey's career, moves with the color and pace of a good novel as it takes its subject from his gritty beginnings to his place at the zenith of American sport in its grandest era. Along the way Kahn introduces the aracana of the prize ring with an easy mastery that will enthrall even the most pacific reader, offers a moving and surprisingly intimate account of Dempsey's turbulent first marriage, and finally puts the fighter's life in its largest context to give us a portrait not only of a fascinating man but of the nation that made him its greatest hero in an age of heroes.
The fact that Jack Dempsey was one of America's preeminent celebrities in the 1920s was the result of both the man himself and the special decade in which he flourished. That is why Roger Kahn devotes almost equal attention to the two phenomena. Together, they give us a brilliantly written picture of a champion and his era.
A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring '20s 4.5 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
Knowing little about Jack Dempsey, other than having seen him stand up old and elegant at various prize fights in the 1970s on TV to take applause, the 20's and boxing, this book filled a gaping empty gap. The author mentions his admiration of Dempsey in the Epilogue. And the refrain throughout the book: 'He (Dempsey) spoke openly of his own fear,' 'To see Dempsey box was, quite simply, to see a brave man going about this business in an extraordinary way,' 'Demsey never got overly impressed with himself' evokes almost an ode to the erstwhile heavyweight champ. An ode, based on facts served, justly earned. Two literary devises used by the author drive the narrative quality of the biography. The first, along the Dos Passos method but expanded, sprinkles in tastes of the 20's: GB Shaw and HL Menken at ringside, Warren Harding's amorous escapades, Sacco and Vanzetti, Al Cappone, Hemmingway in Paris. I loved this. The second, first person experiences with boxing and personal meetings with Dempsey, didn't work for me. I wanted to dwell in the 20's and recreate the time; these allusions disturbed my attempt. All told, however, I now understand the difference between a street fight and boxing. I also know something about the 20's and Jack Dempsey. Dempsey 'lied less than most and beat down the huge bullies'. How couldn't I enjoy such a read?
More than 1 year ago
Roger Kahn has done it again! In this mesmerizing biography of Jack Dempsey, Kahn has brought back to vivid life a time in America's history that my parents and grandparents used to talk of with such fondness. I was hooked from beginning to end. This book is a must-read for not only people interested in the life of Jack Dempsey, but for anyone who longs to experience another time and place as can only be conjured up by a magical author. Surely as spellbinding as anything Kahn has written and easily the most enjoyable read I've had in a long time.
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