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The Harder They Fall

4.18  ·  Rating Details  ·  104 Ratings  ·  13 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, 357 pages
Published February 1st 1996 by Ivan R. Dee Publisher (first published 1947)
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Oct 07, 2011 Harold rated it really liked it
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
May 11, 2012 Oliver Bateman rated it it was amazing
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
Tony Gleeson
Oct 17, 2009 Tony Gleeson rated it really liked it
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
Dec 15, 2008 Nicholas rated it liked it
Shelves: lifestyle
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Dave Morris
Jan 02, 2015 Dave Morris rated it really liked it
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
Aug 22, 2016 John marked it as to-read
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 19, 2013 Jnagle4 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 08, 2014 Peter rated it really liked it
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
Aug 02, 2012 Aaron Goldfarb rated it it was amazing
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!
Aug 25, 2015 Chaimpesach rated it really liked it
Well written, though clearly from a different era. The ending hits particularly hard. It's a shame this didn't do very much to reform boxing. The protagonist is particularly uninteresting, but the cast of characters does much to enhance it. I'm amazed that some of the sections in this book ever got published in the 1940s.
Christina Jacqueline Jacqueline
Good book part of our "hard boiled bogart novel/movie series

We are using this novel as part of the Novel/Movie series "Hard Boiled Bogart." The Bogart character is much more interesting in the book. And the book doesn't have the "happily ever after" ending in the movie.
Dec 04, 2013 David rated it really liked it
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.
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
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