Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Murder of Sonny Liston: A Story of Fame, Heroin, Boxing & Las Vegas” as Want to Read:
The Murder of Sonny Liston: A Story of Fame, Heroin, Boxing & Las Vegas
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Murder of Sonny Liston: A Story of Fame, Heroin, Boxing & Las Vegas

by
3.58  ·  Rating details ·  242 ratings  ·  46 reviews

On December 30th, 1970, at the age of 38, former heavyweight champion Sonny Liston died from what Las Vegas police suspected was a heroin overdose. When police arrived, they found a one-ounce balloon on Sonny's nightstand but the coroner quickly labelled Sonny's passing as death by natural causes. To this day, Liston's death hovers over Las Vegas and the sports world, leav

...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published August 10th 2017 by PAN MACMILLAN U.K (first published February 9th 2016)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Murder of Sonny Liston, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Harold Kasselman While I enjoyed the book, the answer for me is no. I was a county prosecutor for 30 years and then a defense attorney. In my opinion, it's pure…moreWhile I enjoyed the book, the answer for me is no. I was a county prosecutor for 30 years and then a defense attorney. In my opinion, it's pure conjecture and unworthy of more man hours. You asked, so I'm telling it like it is for me.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.58  · 
Rating details
 ·  242 ratings  ·  46 reviews


Filter
 | 
Sort order
J. Kent Messum

*Review originally published in the New York Journal Of Books: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-...

Charles “Sonny” Liston, former heavyweight champion turned drug dealer, was found dead in his Las Vegas home on January 5, 1971. It was the ending of a life that had been steadily veering toward rock bottom. He wasn’t quite celebrated or beloved enough for the public to view it as a tragedy. A suspected heroin overdose was nullified with an official death from the coroner listed as “natural cau
...more
Joseph Hirsch
Nov 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The Laura Palmer of the Fight Game (Sonny was born dead)

The subtitle of this book says it all. This is not a book about Sonny Liston; it's a book about the seedy Vegas milieu where Sonny settled after his boxing career ended in ignominy. And even though the book is titled "The Murder of Sonny Liston" one should not expect the kind of revelations from this book that came with "I Heard You Paint Houses," the book about the murder of Jimmy Hoffa. After I read that book, I was pretty sure Frank Shee
...more
Erin
Dec 17, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had never heard of Sonny Liston before reading this book. I had to ask my dad who he was & since my dad was a just kid when Liston was fighting he only knew one thing about Liston. My grandfather had told him that Sonny Liston had been paid by the mob lose a fight to Muhammad Ali.

Sonny Liston was illiterate, mean, a drug addict, a womanizer, and a criminal. That's all this book tells you about him. Liston died of heroin overdose because Liston was a heroin addict. This book wants you to t
...more
Hewitt Moore
The title is misleading. The author doesn't offer any evidence that Liston's heroin overdose was murder. But the book did provide some interesting background on Liston, Vegas, Ali, boxing, etc, that made the book worth reading.
Leew49
Dec 12, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports
A generation before George Foreman, Sonny Liston was the biggest, meanest, most fearsome heavyweight in boxing. In an era when the heavyweight championship was still looked upon as having national significance, if only symbolically, Liston's criminal background and alleged mob ties made even the idea of him fighting for the title a matter of heated debate. But for years he was the most obviously deserving challenger. And when Floyd Patterson, the reigning champion, finally gave him a title shot, ...more
Harold Kasselman
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
I listened to the audio version of the book. I listened to it on my way from NJ to Florida, and I was totally engrossed. It is worthy of a 4.5 rating. The author obviously did a yeoman's job in his investigation and research. I give him a lot of credit for his work ethic on a case that was closed in 1970-71. Notwithstanding his research and interviews of key players, I was unconvinced that Liston was murdered. The author proffers several barely plausible theories fo
...more
Erin Cataldi
Nov 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Admittedly I knew next to nothing about Sonny Liston before I read this book. I'm not much of a sports guru, although I do love boxing movies. All I knew about Sonny Liston was that he was the fallen boxer in the famous photo with Muhammad Ali towering over him. That's it. While this book doesn't go into too much detail about Sonny's early life or early career, it does mention some key facts and picks up the story towards the end of Sonny's life and career. This book doesn't paint a pretty pictu ...more
Tracey
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received a digital copy of this book through Penguin's First to Read program in exchange for an honest review. I didn't know anything about boxing prior to reading this book, but I still enjoyed the book. The author did a good job of spinning the mystery and the background information that led up to it. The description of Vegas during that time period was also really interesting. Some chapters seemed to ramble off on a different tangent, but there was a reason for that information and it all c ...more
Quirkyreader
Aug 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book as an ARC from Penguin. It is a good piece of cross genre non-fiction. It combines True Crime and Sport. I am not a big Sport of Boxing fan. But for those who are or are just getting into Boxing this will be a very enjoyable read.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the history of Las Vegas and how the policing of the city has changed over the years.

Bob D'Angelo
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here is the link to my review on my website, The Sports Bookie. Posted Oct. 18, 2016:

http://bobdangelobooks.weebly.com/the...

And here is what I wrote:

It reads like a script from the old television show “Cold Case.”

A former heavyweight boxing champion is found dead from an apparent heroin overdose. Undertones of organized crime and racial tension rage in Las Vegas. A police informant points a finger at rogue policeman, then is found dead under mysterious circumstances years later. Maneuvering, w
...more
Brendan Crowley
Mar 25, 2018 rated it liked it
“As time passed, Sonny stayed in the conversation but not as an icon on his own. Eventually he became part of other people’s stories. He was the springboard for Ali, the model for Foreman, the guy who always scared (but not faced) Frazier”

Charles “Sonny” Liston was the 25th of 26 kids who grew up with no birth cert and no prospects. Boxing became his escape, albeit temporarily, from a life of crime that saw him serve time in prison for assaulting a cop. His career was dominated by mob control an
...more
Simon Zohhadi
It's 2.40 a.m. Just finished reading The Murder Of Sonny Liston. It's an interesting read for reasons, other than the central claim in the book, that Liston was killed; the author does not get close to proving that Sonny Liston was murdered. The original verdict was that the former Heavyweight Champion of the World died of natural causes and although he was a regular taker of drugs, there was not enough drugs in his body to cause the death. In my view, that is more likely to be the truth. Althou ...more
Jim Nesbitt
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With an arresting title that slaps a felony tag on an infamous death that was never officially declared a murder, Shaun Assael’s grim and vivid portrait of the violent and predatory life of former heavyweight champion Sonny Liston builds a strong, circumstantial case that he was a man plenty of people wanted to see dead.

If you’re expecting Assael, a former investigative reporter for ESPN, to definitively prove his case and single out Liston’s killer, you’ll be disappointed and miss the point of
...more
DougInNC
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are at all inclined toward reading this book, you should do so. Author Assael delivers on two counts. The title suggests this is an investigative work, plus the pages pack a rich story as a complement. Pick your pleasure and appreciate both.

Most readers will pursue this work for the tale's murder-mystery aspect. The depth and commitment to digging for facts are admirable. There is plenty of meat to chew, served in courses easily digested. Will you be satiated, comprehending that Charles "
...more
Cyan Night
Dec 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sonny Liston is a fascinating character. He was born and raised in very difficult circumstances - abused, neglected and was almost invisible to the world - an irony for a child who grew up so large. He somehow managed to become one of the best fighter not simply for his generation but also regarded often as top boxer of all times. As a man he was full of flaws, but not without virtue. Yet most people only saw him as a junkie, womaniser and an illiterate angry black criminal. And so his death was ...more
Cal Nordt
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was very well written, capturing the seamy side of Vegas in all its glory, and a real page-turner. I knew almost nothing about Sonny other than his fights. A fascinating book also about the pervasive influence of crime in the growth of Las Vegas, including Mafia figures, but covering the later times when the Mafia no longer ran the show. I loved it!

I was in the trade show transportation business and was forced to deal directly with a Mafia Teamster Steward in New York City and didn't find
...more
Vnunez-Ms_luv2read
I was very excited to read this book. And it did not disappoint. Growing up, male members of my family were huge boxing fans, as was I. I heard a lot about Sonny Liston and was always interested in his life as well as his death. This book was a very good beginning for me to learn about these things. The writing was good and flowed. To learn about Vegas, boxing and the mob was an added bonus. Any boxing fan should read this book. After reading this book, I think there are unanswered questions tha ...more
Leah Dickenson
Apr 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting story, as Liston is a tragic figure and clearly his death is suspicious. But felt like this book didn’t give much insight into Liston as a person. It could be the passage of time between the events and the writing of the book but there felt a distance in the writing. Maybe I was expecting something more gritty, but the way these murky events are told appear clean and clinical.
Flowers4Algernon
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A short and well researched book on Liston and his possible murder. The list of suspects seems endless but bizarre that Assael never considers The Nation of Islam as having a possible reason to be shot of Liston. Also provides another exposé of the seedy side of Vegas in the 60s and 70s. Well worth reading
John Taylor
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was incredibly well-researched. The research was not only focused on Sonny Liston and his death, but on everything happening around him. The book is more about the darker side of Las Vegas in the late 1960s / early 1970s than about the death/life of Liston, but it was all interesting. It was a little slow at the beginning, but the book pulled me in and made it hard to set it down.
Brandon Hodges
Nov 28, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If you are a boxer, boxing historian, and or interested in Sonny Liston at all then this book isn't for you. The arguments for murder are weak and all circumstantial or hearsay and you hardly get insight on Liston other than the author trying to paint him as a thug. Boring and disgraceful.
POW!
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reads like a thriller and certainly keeps you entertained. Liston was a complex man who could never escape the dark side of life, and this book entertainingly showcases the murky world of the former heavyweight champion.
Matthew Terry
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read.

Well researched and written. Unfortunately any evidence that would add weight to the Authors theory are completely missing. Still enjoyed it.
Mike
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed it. Assael gives a lot of background into Las Vegas during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Captivating story.
Calisto
Sep 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very informative and detailed though skimpy in details on Sonny Liston .
Jim Blessing
Jun 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sports
This was a fairly interesting read. However, it lacked a conclusion in terms of who did it, per the title of the book.
Harold Kasselman
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
I listened to the audio version of the book. I listened to it on my way from NJ to Florida, and I was totally engrossed. It is worthy of a 4.5 rating. The author obviously did a yeoman's job in his investigation and research. I give him a lot of credit for his work ethic on a case that was closed in 1970-71. Notwithstanding his research and interviews of key players, I was unconvinced that Liston was murdered. The author proffers several barely plausible theories fo
...more
Lance
Charles “Sonny” Liston lived a mysterious life, whether it was when he was born but could not produce a birth certificate, his young adulthood when he was imprisoned, when he was rising through the ranks of boxing to become the heavyweight champion, when he lost to Muhammad Ali twice (with the second fight ending by some accounts due to a phantom punch) and later in his post-boxing life in Las Vegas. When he was found dead in his apartment by his wife Geraldine on January 5, 1971 the medical exa ...more
Peter Ackerman
Sep 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Murder of Sonny Listen is a satisfying book, up to a point. As that point came near the conclusion, about the last fifth of the book, I was satisfied enough to read this. The positive aspects that take up most of this review are due in part to the fact that I knew so little about Liston's post boxing struggles, career attempts, and death.
This work of non-fiction provides the reader with the life of Sonny Liston from his struggles as an early boy, his beginning with boxing, and what made hi
...more
Ellison
The title causes the reader to feel that 'The Truth is Out There'. Feels like a rehash of the movie "Phantom Punch' as it recounts Liston's life in a scattershot manner. At times feels padded as it mentions Sinatra, Howard Hughes, and Joe Louis. Mentions that Liston may have been promised a percent of Ali's future earnings if he took a dive. When Ali and Frazer plan to fight for big $ Liston ends up (conveniently) dead. Swearing.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Last Great Fight: The Extraordinary Tale of Two Men and How One Fight Changed Their Lives Forever
  • Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing
  • Ghosts of Mississippi: The Murder of Medgar Evers, the Trials of Byron De LA Beckwith, and the Haunting of the New South
  • A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring '20s
  • The Boxing Kings: When American Heavyweights Ruled the Ring
  • The Making of Major League: A Juuuust a Bit Inside Look at the Classic Baseball Comedy
  • The Yucks: Two Years in Tampa with the Losingest Team in NFL History
  • Season of Upsets: Farm boys, city kids, Hoosier basketball and the dawn of the 1950s
  • Four Mums in a Boat: Friends who rowed 3000 miles, broke a world record and learnt a lot about life along the way
  • Dennis Maruk: The Unforgettable Story of Hockey’s Forgotten 60-Goal Man
  • Tooth and Nail: The Making of a Female Fight Doctor
  • The Last Pass: Cousy, Russell, the Celtics, and What Matters in the End
  • Battling the Oceans in a Rowboat
  • The Fall Line: America's Rise to Ski Racing's Summit
  • A Whole New Ballgame
  • Pitch by Pitch: My View of One Unforgettable Game
  • The Agent: My 40-Year Career Making Deals and Changing the Game
  • Impact Player: Leaving a Lasting Legacy on and Off the Field