Synopses & Reviews
HURRICANE recounts the harrowing, inspiring odyssey of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a black boxer wrongly convicted of three murders, from fierce despair to freedom and enlightenment. On June 17, 1966, two black men strode into the Lafayette Grill, a white redoubt in racially mixed Paterson, NJ, and shot three people to death. Rubin Carter and his young acquaintance John Artis were not those men, but they were convicted of the murders in a highly publicized and racially charged trial. Fiercely outspoken at the best of times, Carter raged against his imprisonment and vehemently refused to subject himself to its regimens. He shunned the prison's food, insisted on keeping his ornate gold watch, and refused to don prison garb, even after a hellish month in the "hole," where his own clothes literally rotted off him. He also became the apotheosis of the jailhouse lawyer, poring over the vast transcript of his trial, immersing himself in dense case books, and penning his own legal documents.
Over the next decade, Carter amassed convincing evidence of his innocence and the vocal support of numerous celebrities (Bob Dylans song "Hurricane" was but one example). He was freed pending a new trial only to lose his appeal, to the astonishment of many, and land back in prison. He languished there at his lowest ebb, robbed not only of his freedom, but of his wife (whom he divorced to lessen her share of his torment) and of his eye (lost in a botched prison operation). He avoided almost all human contact, until he received a letter from Lesra Martin, a teenager raised in a Brooklyn ghetto. Against his bitter instincts, Carter agreed to meet with Martin, thus taking the first step on a long, tortuous path back into the world. Martin introduced Carter to an enigmatic group of Canadians, including a strong-willed woman with whom he would commence an intense, unlikely romance. In the process, the Canadians would help wage an international battle to free him.
Even as Carter orchestrated this effort from his cell, he embarked on a singular intellectual journey that would lead ultimately to a freedom more profound than any legal authority could grant him. Through an intensive course of study whose texts ran from Victor Frankl to Malcolm X to Hermann Hesse, he gradually raised his consciousness, quelled his rage, and even forgave his captors. James Hirsch has crafted a superb exploration of the nexus of race, sports, and justice. HURRICANE is at once a poignant chronicle of jailhouse redemption, a compelling account of David vs. Goliath court fights, and a revealing history of one of the most dramatic and controversial episodes in the saga of civil rights in America.
"Hirsch gives us an intimate portrait of Carter and the strange Canadian communalists/cultists who, by 1988, had helped him win his ultimate freedom."
"A riveting, straight-ahead account."
"Anyone curious about the persistence of Carter's notoriety ... will find all the answers in [this] exhaustive biography . . . A nearly biblical tale of persecution, punishment and redemption." -- Reviewed by CHARLES KAISER
"[A] sturdy, detail-exhausting page-turner that recalls 'A Civil Action.'
"An excellent investigation of the Carter case and his life."
"Hirsch writes vividly and tells the entire story with economy and grace." Boston Globe
"A riveting, straight-ahead account." Kirkus Reviews
null The Los Angeles Times
"Anyone curious about the persistence of Carter's notoriety ... will find all the answers in [this] exhaustive biography . . . A nearly biblical tale of persecution, punishment and redemption." -- Reviewed by CHARLES KAISER The New York Times
"Hirsch brings an objective historical perspective to the boxer's story. Scrupulously researched and expertly crafted, Hirsch's updated account of Carter's life is both a rich portrait of a complex man and a clear-eyed telling of a remarkable life...Carter's hellish ride through the judicial system and the heroic efforts to free him make for fascinating reading...." Publishers Weekly
"[A] compelling, well-researched and balanced antidote to the Hollywood caricature of Mr. Carter's odyssey...." The Wall Street Journal
"An excellent investigation of the Carter case and his life." Library Journal
"Hirsch gives us an intimate portrait of Carter and the strange Canadian communalists/cultists who, by 1988, had helped him win his ultimate freedom." Newsday
"[A] sturdy, detail-exhausting page-turner that recalls 'A Civil Action.' St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"A riveting story....Hirsch has acquitted his subject well, skillfully recounting the emotional story of a man whose perseverance eventually resulted in his freedom not only from the State of New Jersey, but from the prison he had previously imposed upon himself." Denver Rocky Mountain News
and#147;Hirsch writes vividly and tells the entire story with economy and grace."
and#147;A compelling, well-researched, and balanced antidote to the Hollywood caricature of Mr. Carterand#8217;s odyssey.and#8221;
The Wall Street Journal
and#147;A sturdy, detail-exhausting page-turner that recalls A CIVIL ACTION.and#8221;
"Stratton offers boxing fans a solidly researched, popularly written study of a complex, good man. A clear winner
and#8212;Library Journaland#160; (starred)
"Strattonand#8217;s attention to detail is impressive, and he seems to have uncovered every little tidbit about Patterson's life both in and out of the ring, making this warm biography a must for boxing fanatics. An engaging, breezy portrait of an underappreciated boxing giant."
A "deftly written autobiography...Stratton reminds us of Floyd Patterson's remarkable talent, mortality, and determination."
"An even-handed, surprisingly readable account of one of Americaand#8217;s neglected sports figures."
"A well-researched and overdue tribute to Floyd Patterson. Like one of Patterson's reliable left hooks, Stratton sharply recounts the life of an important, but often forgotten, two-time world heavyweight champion."
and#8212;Gary Andrew Poole, author, PacMan: Behind The Scenes With Manny Pacquiaoand#8212;The Greatest Pound-for-Pound Fighter in the World
"Stratton provides some fascinating insight into, surely, the most inscrutable heavyweight champion we've ever had. His book about Floyd Patterson is comprehensive and sensitive, as it seeks to help us understand a man who seemed so temperamentally in contradiction to his profession."
and#8212;Frank Deford, author of Over Time and Everybody's All-American
"Floyd Patterson was one of the more beguiling and hypnotic figures to stride across the stage of twentieth-century boxing. W. K. Stratton tells the story of this proud and mannered man with insight and artful compassion."
and#8212;Wil Haygood, author of Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson
"W. K. Stratton's Floyd Patterson revives the life of a boxer who was larger outside the ring than within it, a boxer who had a heart and humanity (and courage) beyond what his fight record revealed. He overcame obstacles and persevered in a manner that his more ferocious opponents did not."
and#8212;Gay Talese, author of A Writer's Life and The Silent Season of a Hero
"The extant literature on Floyd Patterson had heretofore been the province of often-fawning admirers, but with Floyd Patterson, W. K. Stratton has managed to produce a refreshingly honest and even-handed deconstruction of the owner of the uneasiest head to wear a crown this side of Henry IV."
"A knockout biography of the best boxer in 1950s and early 1960s America. From winning an Olympic Gold medal to developing the peek-a-boo stance that influenced Muhammad Ali, Patterson was a monumental influence on the boxing profession during its Cold War era heyday. Highly recommended!"
and#8212;Douglas Brinkley, bestselling biographer and professor of history at Rice University
In 1967, the black boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter and a young acquaintance, John Artis, were wrongly convicted of triple murder by an all-white jury in Paterson, New Jersey. Over the next decade, Carter gradually amassed convincing evidence of his innocence and the vocal support of celebrities from Bob Dylan to Muhammad Ali. He was freed in 1976 pending a new trial, but he lost his appeal -- to the amazement of many -- and landed back in prison.
Carter, bereft, shunned almost all human contact until he received a letter from Lesra Martin, a teenager raised in a Brooklyn ghetto. Against his bitter instincts, Carter agreed to meet with Martin, thus taking the first step on a tortuous path back to the world. Martin introduced him to an enigmatic group of Canadians who helped wage a successful battle to free him. As Carter orchestrated this effort from his cell, he also embarked on a singular intellectual journey, which led ultimately to a freedom more profound than any that could be granted by a legal authority.
The powerful story of boxing legend Floyd Patterson, civil rights activist, national icon, and the youngest man to win the World Heavyweight Champion title, and the first to ever win the title twice, from critically acclaimed author W.K. Stratton.
"A well-researched and overdue tribute. Like one of Patterson's reliable left hooks, Stratton sharply recounts the life of an important, but often forgotten, two-time world heavyweight champion." and#8212; Gary Andrew Poole, author of PacMan: Behind the Scenes with Manny Pacquiao
In 1956, Floyd Patterson became, at age twenty-one, the youngest boxer to claim the title of world heavyweight champion. Later, he was the first ever to lose and regain that honor.
Here, the acclaimed author W. K. Stratton chronicles the life of "the Gentle Gladiator" and#8212; an athlete overshadowed by Ali's theatrics and Liston's fearsome reputation, and a civil rights activist overlooked in the Who's Who of race politics. From the Gramercy Gym and wildcard manager Cus Dand#8217;Amato to the final rematch against Ali in 1972, Patterson's career spanned boxing's golden age. He won an Olympic gold medal, had bouts with Moore and Johansson, and was interviewed by James Baldwin, Gay Talese, and Budd Schulberg. A complex, misunderstood figure and#8212; he once kissed an opponent at the end of a match and#8212; he was known for his peekaboo stance and soft-spoken nature.
Floyd Patterson was boxingand#8217;s invisible champion, but in this deeply researched and beautifully written biography he comes vividly to life and is finally given his due and#8212; as one of the most artful boxers of his time and as one of our great sportsmen, a man who shaped the world in and out of the ring.
About the Author
James S. Hirsch, a former reporter for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, is the author of Cheating Destiny, the bestseller Hurricane: The Miracle Journey of Rubin Carter, Riot and Remembrance: The Tulsa Race War and Its Legacy, and Two Souls Indivisible: The Friendship That Saved Two POWs in Vietnam. He is also a principal of Close Concerns, a consultancy and publishing company that specializes in diabetes. He lives in the Boston area with his wife, Sheryl, and their children, Amanda and Garrett.
Table of Contents
Prologue: Nothing Short of Miraculousand#8195;xi
.and#8194;I Donand#8217;t Like That Boy!and#8195;1
.and#8194;Taken Up with Boxingand#8195;13
.and#8194;Floyd Patterson Is Out of This Worldand#8195;26
.and#8194;Cus Answers the Questionsand#8195;34
.and#8194;Do I Have to Fight Floyd?and#8195;53
.and#8194;Youngest King of the Mountainand#8195;64
.and#8194;A Black Champion in Americaand#8195;73
.and#8194;Lightning and Toonderand#8195;94
.and#8194;Not the Time to Quitand#8195;106
.and#8194;Standing at the Peakand#8195;126
.and#8194;Confronting a Certain Weaknessand#8195;157
.and#8194;A Title for Americaand#8195;167
.and#8194;A Boxing Manand#8195;189
Acknowledgments and Sourcesand#8195;219
Floyd Patterson Boxing Recordand#8195;245