If you like boxing and old film noirs, you might know the movie The Set-Up. Directed by Robert Wise, it’s an impactful film about struggle, grittiness and aging all wrapped up in the knowledge you are just “one punch away from being the champion.”
This book isn’t exactly like that.
As it turns out, the story’s original writer hated the film version. Author Joseph Moncure March was a New Yorker born into wealth. He worked hard to understand, and write about, the “real” world and the common man. He is best known for his earlier work, The Wild Party. This story, first published in 1928, is told as a long poem. It is about a black fighter’s battles in and out of the ring.
The author described it as “the story of a Negro fighter who has already been defeated by race prejudice, but doesn’t know how to stop fighting.”
Korero Press, the UK publishing house that is always stretching to try creative new projects, has just published a new version of The Set-Up. It’s a cross between a graphic novel and a heavily illustrated epic poem. It has the feel of a lost treasure one would find on a back shelf of some forgotten bookstore. And yet, somehow it seems crisp and new.
The art is a big part of the experience. Erik Kriek is a powerful modern-day illustrator. He’s based in Amsterdam, and maybe that’s why I’m not familiar with his work. He has illustrated graphic novels (including In the Pines and Creek County) as well as children’s books. Continue reading “With Further Ado #193: Book Review – The Set-Up”