DEATH MATCH: A SPAR BATTERSEA WRESTLING THRILLER is not my usual read, but once I put away my granny reservations, I began to enjoy the writing of Jason Ridler and his tall tale of Spar Battersea.
I was captivated by the story, in awe of the realistic fight scenes, entertained by the book’s mock serious tone, and Ridler’s rough and tumble syntax. Matter of fact, I felt a little breathless each time I put down the book; I figure that reading DEATH MATCH could make an hour’s bus or train commute seem like a minute.
The main character, like the story itself, is rooted in American and French Canadian folklore. Paul Bunyan and Davy Crockett spring to mind, but think, also, of Superman, Indiana Jones, Spider Man. The tradition is long. In DEATH MATCH my favorite characters are Spar, Mercy, and Ray (as remembered by Spar), and I smiled at the mock dystopian description of Chisel and Lonesome Crow Tavern.
The hero, a journalist at The Dispatch, is assigned to cover the wrestling match between Hobo the Destroyer and Spar’s friend, Clown Royale. The match ends when Clown Royale, aka Ray Kinston, dies suddenly. Spar, believing that Ray’s death is, at best, suspicious, searches out the real cause of his friend’s death and the perpetrators. On his journey, he encounters a number of grueling tests and must pass each one in order to arrive at the truth. Hurdles and suspects abound, their names, like the places in this novel, are straight from the author’s prolific imagination: Karate Jesus, Magnum, Wizard, Mercy, Johnny Silent (Mime Boy), the Bullet. The list goes on.
I also enjoyed the irony. DEATH MATCH is told in the first person by Spar who prides himself on his toughness. But for all his hard-boiled comic book veneer, Spar has real humanity. He portrays Sharon, Ray’s wife, and her loss with true sensitivity: “She was still holding Ray’s face in her eyes.”
It is because of loyalty to his friend that Spar Battersea quests, despite the nightmarish danger to himself.
And Ray, my hero, the one friend who hadn’t ditched me despite my exponentially growing jackassery, pulled my noggin out of the thundermug and carried me to his place. This place. My place.
Although the narration was at times brilliant, at other times the description was, well, florid. And for me, there was a little too much action and a little too much rawness. Face it, at times Spar Battersea questing in Chisel made Jack Daniels detecting in Chicago look like St. Therese praying in Lisieux.
That said, I recommend DEATH MATCH to the reader looking for a well-written, action-packed thriller. If you are such a reader, you won’t want to miss the first of the Spar Battersea Wrestling Thrillers, DEATH MATCH.
About the ebook’s presentation (cover design, editing, ebook formatting): Professionally edited and proofread. An interesting photo on the cover. The ebook formatting was unusual: in the edition I read, typesetter marks were used for open quotes but not for close quotes. Chapter headings, all caps, were chunky and difficult to read.
About the author: Jason S. Ridler is a professional writer and historian, who has sold over forty short stories, as well as dozens of academic articles, pop culture essays, and assorted odd tales to odd places. A former punk rock musician and cemetery groundskeeper, he holds a Ph.D. in War Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada. Visit him online at Ridlerville. He currently resides in the East Bay of San Francisco with his wife, two dogs, two parrots, and the world’s most dangerous library.
Death Match: A Spar Battersea Wrestling Thriller
Copyright ©2011 Jason S. Ridler
Available at Amazon