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"Hurricane" is a Compelling Read 

Harvey Frommer's Sports Book Review

by Harvey Frommer

Harvey Frommer - Click to Enlarge          

(March 7, 00) - Writer James Hirsch begins his absorbing book this way, "By 1980, New Jersey's notorious Death House had been revived as a lovers' alcove, but Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter still wanted no part of it. ‘The Death House’ was Trenton State Prison's official name for the brick and concrete vault where condemned men lived in tiny cells, and an electric chair stood hard against a nearby wall".

These opening paragraphs set the tone for "Hurricane - the Miraculous Journey of Rubin Carter" (Houghton Mifflin, $25.00, 345pp.). Hirsch, a former staff writer for the "Wall Street Journal" and the "New York Times" goes into great detail in crafting this narrative of a black boxer wrongfully convicted of three murders, his long imprisonment, his battle for freedom, and his ultimate absolution. Although a work of non-fiction, the book reads like a novel, a novel that balances the twin themes - the degradation of a human being through prejudice and the affirmation of the human spirit through courage and persistence.

Rubin "Hurricane" Carter was one of the most dynamic prizefighters from 1961 through 1966. He won 28 bouts, lost 11 and had one tie in those years. In 1963, he was at that top of his form when he defeated welterweight champion Emile Griffith in an upset first-round knockout. The following year, he lost a controversial decision for the middleweight championship against Joey Giardello. Less than two years later, however, Carter's celebrity status and life crashed when he was arrested for a triple murder in his hometown of Paterson, New Jersey. What followed was a sentence of three terms of life imprisonment.

Carter lost his wife (whom he divorced to relieve her of torment), an eye (from a botched prison operation), and the best years of his life. Upon release from prison, he put it all in perspective.

"…The most productive years of my life between the ages of 29 and 50 have been stolen…I was deprived of seeing my children grow up. Wouldn't you think I would have a right to be bitter?"

Strangely, this book has no relationship to the film "The Hurricane" starring Denzel Washington, now playing in theaters all over the United States.

The movie is pure Hollywood, pure caricature; neat and tidy.

"Hurricane - the Miraculous Journey of Rubin Carter" is a far more dramatic and convoluted story that recounts how Carter suffered through the anguish of appeals, how he became a leftist symbol and a celebrity (Bob Dylan, Muhammad Ali, Ellyn Burstyn are among the many renowned figures who rallied to his cause), how his conviction was overturned only to be re-instated, and how in 1988, he finally prevailed at long last.

In many ways, the book is both a downer - reading about the incompetence and prejudice of a county in New Jersey and its criminal justice system is disheartening - and an upper, as it details how a group of Canadians living in a commune became devoted to Carter's cause. In all ways, it's worth reading not just by sports fans but by anyone interested in the law, the American culture, and the way human beings treat one another. It's bound to move you.

BOOK ENDS: "New York Giants" (Sports Publishing, Inc., $24.95, 159pp.) is a book well worth the price as it is filled with 75 years of football memories in entertaining words and one-of-a-kind pictures from the archives of the "New York Daily News."

"A Season In The Sun" by Roger Kahn (University of Nebraska Press, Bison Books) is a re-release with a new afterward by the author. The book's focus is Kahn’s 1976 writing in his splendid prose about all things baseball from spring training to the World Series.

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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in the millions and is housed on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.
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Dr. Frommer is the Official Book Reviewer of Travel-Watch. 
*Autographed copies of Frommer books are available .
 

Other Frommer sports related articles can be found at:   

Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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