Time for another entry in the hard punching Fight Card series – this time courtesy of Mel Odom writing as Jack Tunney. Mel may not be a household name, but if you are like me and troll through book shops, you have no doubt come across some of his work – but possibly without realising it. Maybe you have read some of his entries in Tom Clancy’s Net Force series. Or you might have stumbled across the novelisations of the films Vertical Limit, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and xXx. Then there are the tie-in books for the popular TV-Series NCIS, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel. If fantasy is your thing, Mel has you covered too, with the Lost Soul series, the award winning Rover series and Forgotten Realms. Recently, Mel has worked with Bill Crider and James Reasoner on the western series Rancho Diablo. As you can see, he has written in practically every genre.
He has been quoted as saying:
I make no bones about the fact that my roots are in the pulps. I loved Doc Savage and the Shadow and the Spider when I was growing up. Tracked down every one I could find. I’ve told people all my life that I was simply born in the wrong time. I want to write EVERYTHING. Back then you could. Writers went from a science fiction pulp story in the morning to a Western range romance in the afternoon, and then finished off the evening with a story they hoped to sell to Weird Tales.
If that wasn’t enough, there is another facet to Mel Odom’s varied career as a writer. To some writers it may have been hidden away as a grubby little secret, but not for Mel. He is proud to be one of the authors who has contributed to the Mack Bolan, Executioner and Stony Man series.
He really is the man, that no genre could tame. I first stumbled upon Mel’s work earlier this year, when I read one the best Mack Bolan stories I have read so far (of course, I still have many others to read. You can read my review of Kill Point by clicking here).
I think you’ll agree, there is no other man better qualified to revive the old pulp boxing stories than Mel, who along with Paul Bishop, initiated the Fight Card series.
Although The Cutman is the second book in the Fight Card series, you do not need to read them in order as each story is self contained. This one is set in pre-revolution Cuba, and Havana is like a new Las Vegas with lavish casinos, salsa flavoured night clubs and bars… and of course the organised crime that goes with it. As the story begins, the cargo ship Big Bertha has just made port, and two punks come around claiming that they don’t have permission to dock where they have. It’s all bunk of course, and part of an extortion rort. These punks work for a small time kingpin called Falcone.
But their scare tactics don’t work on the crew, particularly one Mick Flynn. For those of you who have read Felony Fists (or my review) may recognise that Flynn was also the surname of the lead character in that story. You see Patrick Flynn (from Fists) and Mick Flynn are brothers and were both brought up in the same orphanage, St. Vincents Asylum for Boys in Chicago – under the tutelage of Father Tim, who taught the boys to box.
So from the get go, Flynn and the whole shipboard crew, including peglegged Capt’n Sliddell, are on the wrong side of this two-bit gangster, Falcone. And it just so happens, Falcone has a little sideline which is illegal boxing matches – and his fighter, Marcell Simbari – known as the Hammer, is a wrecking machine who has destroyed all comers! Can you guess where this is all going? Of course, the conflict is going to escalate, culminating in a big fight between Mick Flynn and Simbari.
As I said when I reviewed Felony Fists, I guess boxing stories are in some ways predictable, nearly always culminating the big fight, in which the hero wins. But in stories such as these, the starting points, and the end points are not really important. It is the journey along the way, and The Cutman is a great little trip. Mel Odom’s telling of the tale is smooth and atmospheric. As I read, I could almost feel the oppressive Cuban heat, and smell the booze, sweat and smoke in the waterfront dives. And the story builds to a beautiful (and brutal) climax – the aforementioned fight between Flynn and Simbari, which has enough twists and turns in it, to keep most readers, if not on the edge of their seat, then at least on their toes, and dodging from side to side.
Later this month, the third book in the series, Split Decision is scheduled to be released, and if it packs the same punch as the first two books in the Fight Card series, then I am going to be one happy reader over the holiday season.
The Cutman can be downloaded from Amazon.
And if boxing stories are your thing, Mel has another available for kindle called Smoker: A Boxing Fable – I may have to download this one myself!
You can find out more about Mel at his website.
As mentioned above, Mel Odom has written novels in every genre, but spy fans can check out his contributions to the Executioner, Stony Man and Tom Clancy’s Net Force series.
Set in Outback Australia, in Birdsville, one of the most remote towns on the planet, two rival boxing tents set up shop in competition with each other. In the sweltering heat, tensions simmer, tempers flare, and a tent burns.