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The Harder They Fall

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  183 ratings  ·  21 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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Jul 03, 2011 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
Oliver Bateman
Mar 03, 2012 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 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
Oct 23, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: lifestyle
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dave Morris
Jan 02, 2015 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
Richard Block
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beaten to Death

Budd Schulberg wrote four novels, all downbeat. Of the four, the best is the least well known, The Disenchanted. This one is not as good, but is better than What Makes Sammy Run - which it resembles. As for On The Waterfront, it is so famous and close to the film that all objectivity is impossible.

Schulberg was a movie brat, the son of a top executive, but he is no slouch or beneficiary of nepotism. He is a very accomplished writer, and in this tale of Toro Molina, the Primo
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I remember reading What Makes Sammy Run by Schulberg as a college assignment many years ago. I loved the book then and read a few more times. The Harder They Fall was another treat in the same vein centered on the boxing racket in the 1940s. It was every bit as gripping as Sammy. There are numerous characters--mostly sleazy--except for a hapless Argentinian giant who despite his size will never be a successful boxer.
I didn't like it quite as much but the only reason is boxing resonates less with
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Well-written, propulsive, a bit funny and a bit sad with a uniquely mid-20th-century American energy and cynicism to it. It was like watching a great forgotten noir movie play out in my mind, something like Sweet Smell of Success. You need some level of interest in/familiarity with boxing for it to work on you though.
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
****1/2: you can see the KO punch coming from a mile away but the journey getting there is so satisfying, you’re willing to take it right on the jaw anyway.
Jordan Shipman
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
2nd novel I’ve read by this author and he’s becoming one of my all time favorites. I loved this one. Not as good as “What Makes Sammy Run?” but as a fight fan this one rang true in a special way.
Juha Saxberg
Jun 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Isn’t it nice to enjoy a truly well-written, old-fashioned book every once in while?

Budd Schulberg’s classic book tells a story of an Argentinian giant, who’s being manufactured towards to a heavyweight boxing championship by ruthless mobsters. As inconceivable the story is, it’s based on a true character. Check out Primo Carnera, an Italian boxer who became a World Champion in the 30’s.

If you know who Carnera and Max Baer were, you’ll understand where the story is based on. Truth is stranger
Robert Palmer
Sep 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Bud Schulberg wrote the screenplay for "on the waterfront " which showed us the seamy side of the life of the Men who worked on the docks of New Jersey,this book shows us the seamy side of boxing.
Racing is the sport of kings,boxing is the vocation of the slum-dwellers who have to fight to exist.
This book is crowded with people you don't want to meet.
Toro Molina at 6 feet 7 inches tall and weighs in at 285 lbs. is backed by a group of shady entrepreneurs and most of his opponents are incompetents
Mar 12, 2013 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
Jul 01, 2010 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, ...more
Aug 22, 2016 marked it as to-read
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 29, 2014 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.
Aaron Goldfarb
Aug 02, 2012 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!
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 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