I’m currently working on the third Rules of Scoundrels novel, No Good Duke Goes Unpunished.
The book is Temple’s story — Temple, the broad-shouldered, broken-nosed bare-knuckle boxer who handles security at the casino. Oh, and who is known across London as the Killer Duke. Needless to say, Temple’s like no other hero I’ve ever written — extraordinarily physical and filled with emotion that he can barely hold on to, which makes for a rather unpredictable hero.
As I’ve been writing about a fighter, I’ve been doing a lot of research on fighting in the 1830s and in general. I’ve learned some wild things–some of which will end up in this book and some of which will likely never see the light of day: The way fighters used beeswax to stop their teeth from cutting their cheeks; the way they wrapped their knuckles in long strips of linen in precise, perfect patterns; the fact that true bare-knuckle matches lasted 80-100 rounds and that boxing gloves were actually designed to pack heavier punch and make fights more quick and brutal–not to to protect fighters as you might imagine.
I’ve been reading books and watching movies and thinking about fighting a lot as I craft Temple and his story. Movies like Snatch and Knuckle (the Irish travelers have kept bare-knuckle boxing alive and held most closely to its original origins) have been a huge inspiration, and I must confess I’ve watched this clip from the first Sherlock Holmes movie more than I’d like to admit:
Colum McCann writes in his introduction to At the Fights: American Writers on Boxing:
“Writers love boxing, even if they can’t box. And maybe writers love boxing especially because they can’t box. The language is all cinema and violence….what you have with a fight is what you have with writing, and they each become metaphors for each other: the ring, the page; the punch, the word.”
It’s true, of course.
When I came at Temple’s story, I knew I would have to learn about fighting…I just didn’t know I would learn to love it so much.
Is there a sport that really speaks to you, either as a spectator or a player?