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Summary

The Fighter is a brilliant novel set against the dark and desolate backdrop of the Mississippi Delta, where Jack the Jaw, a washed-up bare-knuckle fighter, battles against decades of booze and drug abuse as he returns home to try to save all he has lost.

The acres and acres of fertile soil, the 200-year-old antebellum house, all gone. And so is the woman who gave it to him, the foster mother who now rests in hospice care, her mind eroded by dementia, the family legacy she entrusted to Jack now owned by banks and strangers. And Jack's mind has begun to fail, too, as concussion after concussion forces him to carry around a notebook of names that separate friend from foe and remind him of dangerous haunts to avoid.

But in a single twisted night he is derailed. Hijacked by a no-good harmonica player out to settle a score, Jack loses the money that will clear his debt with Big Momma Sweet, the queen of Delta vice, whose deep backwoods playground offers sin to all those willing to pay. Yet this same chain of events introduces an unlikely saviour in the form of a sultry, tattooed carnival worker.

Guided by what she calls her 'church of coincidence', Annette pushes Jack toward redemption in her own free-spirited way, only to discover that the world of Big Momma Sweet is filled with savage danger.

Damaged by regret, crippled by 25 years of fists and elbows, heartbroken at his own betrayals, Jack the Jaw is forced to step into the fighting pit one last time, the stakes nothing less than life or death.

©2018 Michael Farris Smith (P)2018 Audible, Ltd

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An underbelly of the 'civilised' world

This is a story about people who dropped (or were thrown) back from the march of civilisation. The book's greatest strength is the way it manages to create the atmosphere of living on the skids of the Mississippi delta. This is partly the achievement of the narrator.

At first, I thought the final chapter (the epilogue) was superfluous but I now think it would have been better if I had waited until the drama of the preceding chapter had faded in my mind.