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The Harder They Fall

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  76 ratings  ·  11 reviews
Budd Schulberg's celebrated novel of the prize ring has lost none of its power since its first publication almost fifty years ago. Crowded with unforgettable characters, it is a relentless expose of the fight racket. A modern Samson in the form of a simple Argentine peasant is ballyhooed by an unscrupulous fight promoter and his press agent and then betrayed and destroyed ...more
Paperback, 362 pages
Published February 25th 1996 by Ivan R. Dee Publisher (first published 1947)
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I read this some years back, but got into a discussion with a friend of mine recently about Primo Carnera, the real life boxer upon whom this novel is based. I decided at that point to to revisit this book sometime soon.

Ok - I revisited it. Here are my thoughts:

Toro Molina (based on real life Primo Carnera) is a prizefighter imported from Argentina (Italy in Carnera’s case). Despite being physically huge Molina is a poor fighter. Unbeknownst to him the promoters fix all his fights, the idea bei
Oliver Bateman
A propulsive and extraordinarily bleak semi-roman à clef about the "career" of enormous heavyweight boxer Primo Carnera (here represented as "Toro Molina," an equally prodigious Argentine peasant), The Harder They Fall is among the best novels I've ever read. There's nothing tricky about what Schulberg is doing, and that's for the best: the prose is clean and tight, and the dialogue is razor-sharp. Not one of the characters in the book, from fast-talking PR man Eddie Lewis to greedy mobster Nick ...more
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Dave Morris
Like all Budd Schulberg's novels this one is about artistic and ethical integrity as well as the very colourfully-depicted world of the story. In this case he's taken as his setting the seedier parts of the sport of boxing in 1940s America. Schulberg handles a large cast of characters and makes each so distinctive that you can feel their presence in the room with you.

I laughed a laugh of horrified recognition when a former champ goes over his ghostwritten copy and starts telling the writer how t
Tony Gleeson
Budd Schulberg's second novel, written in 1947, is nowhere near as well known as the Humphrey Bogart film that was made from it several years later. The book is simultaneously funnier and much darker than the film, and ends on an even lower note. Despite Schulberg's rampant cynicism toward human nature, I found this book a total joy to read. That pessimism is balanced with almost sparkly writing, filled with individual sketches of every character, wry observations on life, and a Runyonesque ear ...more
Eddie Lewis, a once respected sportswriter and aspiring playwright is reduced to being a press-agent for mob backed fighters. With his legitimate background, love of literature and ability to speak in coherent sentences, he thinks of himself as above the shady backdoor world of prizefighting. However, when gentle giant El Toro Molina is brought to the United States to fight, he realizes that he is just as guilty as the people he associates with.

The Harder They Fall is a moving and revealing book
Dark, cynical and tragic novel of a dubious heavyweight contender. Though the fight scenes are visceral and vividly written, the book is almost more about the shady characters that infest the boxing world than the fights themselves. Which is good, because those characters (and there are a lot of them here) are fascinating in their own right. However, the book isn't quite as good as Schulberg's great What Makes Sammy Run?, mostly because this is more of an ensemble narrative without a strong, com ...more
Aaron Goldfarb
Decided to read a second Schulberg and, holy fuck, this might be even better than "What Makes Sammy Run?"

It's not like Schulberg is *unknown*, but how is he not considered an absolute titan of American literature? "Sammy" and this still hold up today better than just about any works from that era and both still manage to feel as sharp and fresh as if they were written just this week!
While I think W.C. Heinz' The Professional is the best novel on the sweet science, The Harder They Fall might be the best novel on the fight game - especially the mobbed-up boxing scene of the 30s-50s.
Jeff Winter
Amazing. Far superior to the movie (which is solid in its own right). It's dated, yeah, but one tough, dark and tragic look at the microcosm of America known as pugilism.
Pam Sarver
Vintage 1947 edition
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Budd Schulberg (1914–2009) was a screenwriter, novelist, and journalist who is best remembered for the classic novels What Makes Sammy Run?, The Harder They Fall, and the story On the Waterfront, which he adapted as a novel, play, and an Academy Award–winning film script. Born in New York City, Schulberg grew up in Hollywood, where his father, B. P. Schulberg, was head of production at Paramount, ...more
More about Budd Schulberg...
What Makes Sammy Run? The Disenchanted Moving Pictures: Memories of a Hollywood Prince Ringside: A Treasury of Boxing Reportage On the Waterfront: The Play

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