Between the wrestling book boom sparked a decade ago by Mick Foley and the growth of the e-reader making self-published titles ever more viable, numerous wrestling “novels” have appeared in recent years. Sadly most have been badly written and poorly researched, the worst examples being little more than poorly hidden sexual fantasies about real-life wrestling performers.
That run has come to an end with Blood Red Turns Dollar Green, the first truly professional novel about professional wrestling. While this is Paul O’Brien’s first book, he has years of experience writing for the theatre and it shows here.
The plot and feel of the book lies somewhere between the wrestling territories of the 1970s and a Soprano’s-style mafia tale. It covers a four-year period during which rival promoters across the US work together while also battling to control the booking rights to the world title and in turn the business itself.
While both the plotting and storytelling are top-notch, the most impressive skill here is using recognisable traits from real wrestling promotions, owners and grapplers to produce engaging and believable characters, without simply turning it into a thinly-veiled ripoff.
Lead characters like New York promoter Danno Garland and behemoth title contender Babu have more than a touch of Vince McMahon and Andre the Giant about them, yet every character is developed enough in their own right that accusations of historical inaccuracy would be irrelevant. The actions of the promoters in the book are far more dastardly than happened in reality, but the events are merely an exaggeration of genuine promotional feuds, in the same way that pro wrestling is a fictionalised and loudened version of real sport.
The rapid jumps in time can be a little jarring, and the occasional switching between a character’s real and wrestling names without warning are confusing on a couple of occasions, but the book remains utterly readable. It would likely appeal even to non-fans and could potentially make for a fantastic HBO-style mini-series, but in the meantime it comes highly recommended for wrestling lovers, particularly those with an interest in the business’s less savoury era.
(This review originally appeared in Fighting Spirit Magazine.)