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The Professional Paperback – September 4, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Heinz's first novel offers the story of boxer Eddie Brown and his manager, Doc Carroll, on their way to a shot at the middleweight championship title. Since its 1958 publication, the book has garnered a loyal following of fans, including Ernest Hemingway, who declared it "the only good novel I've ever read about a fighter." This edition includes a terrific new foreword by Elmore Leonard.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Esquire (website), 2/17/12
“It's about fighting, but it's also about watching and listening, and it's about patience, and honing, and craft, and sparseness, and beauty, and crushing, awful defeat.”

Men’s Journal,11 Best Cult Sports Books, 1/18/13
“The author of this book received two congratulatory notes upon its publication in 1958: one from Elmore Leonard and the other from Ernest Hemingway, who called it ‘the only good novel I’ve ever read about a fighter.’…Style-wise, the book owes much to Papa—though it deserves its own championship belt.”


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 334 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (September 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306810581
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306810589
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Dave Schwinghammer VINE VOICE on June 27, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you're going to read THE PROFESSIONAL written by the great sports writer W.C. Heinz (who also wrote MASH), skip the foreward by Elmore Leonard until you've read the book. The ditz gives away the ending.
Other than that, the book is pretty much what one might expect after reading the blurb by Hemingway: "THE PROFESSIONAL is the only good novel about a fighter I've read and an excellent novel in its own right." It reminded me a whole lot of THE SUN ALSO RISES. Rather than the minutia of fishing and bullfighting we get boxing: how to wrap a fighter's hands, how the fighter eats during training (Lots of tea and boiled eggs), how to fake a missed right hand, followed by a left hook. All of this is narrated by a somewhat cynical sports writer named Frank Hughes, who follows middle weight fighter Eddie Brown around as he prepares for a championship bout. Eddie is the professional in the title. He's fought ninety times, losing only three, one of which his manager, Doc Carroll, set him up to lose because he was becoming too cocky. W.C. Heinz has a pretty good reason for entitling the book, THE PROFESSIONAL. Carroll resents the champion because he's pretty much all glitz and show. At one point Heinz has his narrator say, "The amateurs have always crowded the highways to everywhere, so it's never been easy for the pros to get through."
I've never been a big Hemingway fan, but this book is chock full of interesting minor characters. There's Eddie's "cold fish" of a wife. There's Johnny Jay, the trainer, a non-stop talker who never makes a whole lot of sense, but is tolerated because he was Doc Carroll's first fighter. There's Al Penna, who steals a ring off a dead man's finger. But my favorite is Jean Girot the recovering alcoholic who owns the hotel at the training camp.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Joseph VINE VOICE on August 11, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Eddie Brown, known as "The Pro" for his mature, professional approach to boxing, is a contender for the Middleweight Championship. Sportswriter Frank Hughes, the narrator of the novel, spends a month at a boxing camp in the Catskills with Eddie and his cantankerous old-school manager, Doc Carroll, to observe their training and pre-bout preparation for use in a magazine article. Because this will be the peaking Eddie's best shot at the title, as well as the aging Doc's final opportunity to see one of his charges crowned as world champion, the tension surrounding the bout is intense and addictive.

A simple story, to be sure, but it is not the story line per se that interests Mr. Heinz. Rather, he uses the world of boxing as a medium to distinguish the few, heroic champions from the multitude of pretenders. This echoes Papa Hemingway's view of the world, where people must be separated into those who have grace under pressure and those who are phony imitators. Boxing, like Hemingway's bullfighting, succeeds wonderfully as a backdrop for development of this theme, particularly given the prevalence of corruption in the sport, the number of unskilled athletes and managers, and the increased focus on profiteering by the media with the advent of the television age.

My sport is running, not boxing. Yet I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The author's dissection of what it really means to be a champion, how the code by which an athlete lives and competes is every bit as important as the result of the competition. Despite a few holier-than-thou passages, in which the author may have gone a bit overboard in drawing his distinction between the heroes and the anti-heroes, this is an impressive work harkening back to a time when there was a greater appreciation for a straight-forward story told in the journalistic style perfected by Hemingway.

Kevin Joseph, author of "The Champion Maker"
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tyler Smith on March 2, 2013
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Getting cover hype from Ernest Hemingway could be a curse if the writer on the receiving end of the praise isn't able to deliver, but W.C. Heinz answers the bell decisively in this very fine novel. And I leave the modifier "sports" off deliberately. It's an excellent novel -- period.

Told from the perspective of a sportwriter developing a magazine piece on a fighter, Eddie Brown, training for a championship bout, The Professional gives us a day-to-day look at boxers preparing for the ring. The writer wants to live his subject's life to the greatest extent possible, so he spends all his time in camp with Eddie and his manager, the memorably crusty Doc Carroll. We get the drudgery and hard work of training, the talk of strategy, jokes and gamesmanship and most of all the stories of the past, all told in a finely controlled narrative voice that jabs and snaps. The writer, Frank Hughes, is as cynical as they come, but he's drawn to fighters because their calling, in his view, is to face irreducible truth found in the boxing ring, a place where there is no escape from the finality of victory or defeat. And Heinz brings a fine air of tension to it all, particularly in his portray of Doc, who we know is probably getting a final shot at producing a champion.

In a very few places, the prose becomes overwrought, mostly when Frank attempts to articulate his love of boxing. But those passages are more than made up for by the fine, spare descriptive lines, the dryly humorous interactions and the moments of emotion unsullied by sentimentality, most notably the scenes surrounding the death of Eddie's trainer, Jay. These characters are not ones to put their hearts on their sleeves, yet Heinz believably transmits their sense of loss.
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