The All-Action, Family-Friendly Wrestling Spectacular by Dean Harris
Review / July 31, 2020

While it’s a hugely exaggerated fictionalisation of the real British wrestling world, this novella is unexpectedly timely. At first glance this seems purely in the world of outlandish fiction, with the central storyline being a Muslim wrestler beaten to death as he attempts to detonate a suicide vest in the ring. However, while the plot may be far-fetched, the setting is very true to life. The descriptions of a small-time independent wrestling show and its cast of characters are very much on the nose. A wrestling promotion may not be made up entirely of the people described in this book, but they could all very plausibly exist. Released in early-June, it’s a particularly notably timed book as a subplot involves a wrestler with a predatory interest in an underaged fan. The description of his machinations and the varying responses of his peers borders on eerily believable in the wake of the #speakingout movement. The story itself doesn’t quite live up to the characterisation. It’s brief enough to read in a single setting and is largely based around description. The plot consists of two detectives investigating the events that led up to the fateful night and the final twist feels too…

Animal by George Steele with Jim Evans
Review / July 27, 2020

An in-character account by “The Animal” would have been a short read, but this attempt to capture his true voice disappoints. The book is presented as a first-person account in the words of Jim Myers (the man who portrayed Steele in the ring), but several style choices mean that even if this is how Myers speaks, it doesn’t feel natural. One problem is the repeated inclusion of extraneous facts that nobody would include in normal conversation. For example, when discussing his dyslexia, Myers/Steele mentions the “Dick and Jane” series and for some reason notes the authors, the publishers, the formal name of the series and even the years during which they were published. This ramps up to the extreme later on where we have several pages of the history of Joe Louis’s career leading up to barely a paragraph of Steele’s recollection of the time he refereed one his wrestling matches. Meanwhile a chapter about Steele’s appearance in the movie Ed Wood includes lengthy IMDB-style bios of every star in the production. Another issue is that a couple of chapters (covering Steele’s childhood and his time coaching sport students) are filled with lengthy first-person quotes from his peers and colleagues….