Paul O’Brien’s debut novel, published last year, received high praise: in the pages of FSM we described it as “the first truly professional novel about professional wrestling.” Volume two answers the question of what happened next and does so in a stylish manner.
Without spoiling too much of the plot, the new book deals with the immediate fallout of a battle between rival promoters that spilled over from control of the wrestling world championship to a blood feud. After charting the rise of Danno Garland — loosely based on Vince McMahon Sr — to the top of the cutthroat wrestling business, we discover what happens after a shocking event that makes his victory a hollow one.
Whereas volume 1 covered a four-year period, Blood Red Turns Dollar Green only advances the storyline by a further seven days. However, large parts of the book involve flashbacks to the timeline of the first volume, revealing previously undocumented events.
The technique allows O’Brien to slowly add new context to events with which the reader is already familiar, putting a new spin on things and forcing the reader to rethink how to view particular characters and the choices they make.
It’s a format that requires a great deal of attention from the reader particularly as not every jump in time is immediately labeled as such. Those who read and enjoyed volume 1 should not find this insurmountable however as they’ll already be comfortable with the way O’Brien’s writing rewards the effort: to use a televisual analogy, it’s more suited to fans of The Wire than The Bill.
For those who are new to the series, reading the initial volume first is almost a complete necessity. Not only will much of the dramatic effect of the format be lost on new readers, but they’ll be cheating themselves of the pleasure of reading the first volume spoiler free.
The new instalment is perhaps a little more heavily oriented to the crime element of the story, but wrestling fans will still find much of interest here. In particular, plotlines involving the fallout of a championship match doublecross bring an engaging insight into the politics of the territorial era.
It’s hard to imagine any reader of the first volume not already wanting to check out the sequel, but for those still in any doubt, rest assured volume two is an offer you shouldn’t refuse.
(This review originally appeared in Fighting Spirit Magazine.)