IF YOU LIKE BOXING, you’re gonna love The Fight, the debut novel from Luke Wordley; and I daresay even if you loathe boxing, you’ll love that this story pulls no punches in its gritty realism where human life and faith collide. Because this is a story whose author is unafraid to tell it like it is, where there’s no pretence that following Jesus makes your problems disappear.
A single parent family where the mother has lost her way in drink; a teenager torn apart by his anger at life’s injustice; and a man whose faith both sustains and challenges him as a boxing coach: they’re three of the thoroughly down to earth scenarios/characters you’ll meet, amongst others. I’m not sure what a “typical” Christian novel is, but The Fight breaks any stereotypes you might expect: not so much about finding faith as fighting for it in a world where God seems a million miles away. Kudos to CLC Wholesale for getting behind it and drawing it to my attention: full bibliographic details below.
As I prepare this post, I’ve just finished the book: superbly written, it could just be this year’s most exciting find for the Christian trade, and though it’s early days to make a claim like that, I’m going to risk sticking my neck out and say it anyway. One moment you’ll be laughing at the absurdity of the situations the characters find themselves in, the next you’ll be weeping at the atrocity. I was hooked within the first few pages, couldn’t wait to continue whenever I was interrupted, and have only one complaint: it ends too soon — sequel, please, Luke! I’m tempted to tell you more, but that would be unfair on Luke after grilling him about the book, so without further ado…
Luke, what inspired you to write The Fight?
Ever since I became a Christian at nineteen years of age I have been frustrated that there is not more Christian fiction available for men. While I think Francine Rivers and Karen Kingsbury are brilliant, their books are just not something my Christian male friends (and non-Christian friends) would consider reading.
So I set out to write a different type of book — one that would appeal to Christian men and men on the fringes of church as well as women.
OK, give us a quick snapshot of the story without giving the game away…
Set in East London during the early 1990s, ‘The Fight’ centres around Sam, a disturbed teenager driven by anger following a family tragedy. One day a street fight leads him to a boxing club, and to Jerry, an ex-boxer and Christian who has dedicated his life to helping boys from tough backgrounds. But as Jerry reaches out to Sam, an extraordinary talent emerges – a talent that re-opens the wounds of Jerry’s own life. A desperate struggle ensues to save Sam from his rage, before Jerry’s reawakened ambition tears them both apart.
Is it biographical in any way?
No it isn’t. Sam, my main character, was brought up on a farm in Essex as I was myself. But apart from that, it is not biographical. Sam has a pretty tough time in the story – certainly I wouldn’t want to go through what he does.
Elements of the journey of the other main character, Jerry (who reaches out to help Sam) are familiar to me, but are probably common to many of us as Christians — reconciling personal ambition and material gain with our faith. I guess I have tried to develop real characters to whom a lot of us can relate. For me, when fictional characters are too heroic and steadfast in their faith they lose their realism and appeal; and most importantly, their ability to inspire.
You’re selling the book on a “Buy One, Give One Free” basis. What’s that about?
Last year I sent a draft of ‘The Fight’ to a friend of mine at The Message Trust – a fantastic mission organisation working with young people in Manchester and the North-West. He loved the book and thought it would really speak to some of the young people they are trying to reach through their prison and youth ministry. So the idea was born that sales of the book could fund more copies going to prison and youth ministry around the UK. The book was only launched last month and already over 100 books have gone to prisons in the North-West through The Message and to Feltham Young Offenders Institute in London. I hope many more can be sent in the coming months. By visiting the website, purchasers can see where their ‘free’ book has been given.
So what are your hopes for ‘The Fight’?
First and foremost, I hope it inspires men and teenagers in their walk with God. Although it has a strong Christian message running through it, it is very accessible and non-threatening to men on the fringes of church. I’m hoping they will buy it, or their wives and mothers will buy it for them! That’s not to say it isn’t a book for women to enjoy too. Despite some masculine themes I have had fantastic feedback from female readers.
So I’m hoping this is going to be a versatile book for Christian booksellers and one which they can recommend to all their customers. The first Christian Bookshop to stock it (Cornerstone in Taunton) found it sold to a whole range of people and it went on to be their best-selling book last month.
Finally, if the Christian book trade gets behind this book initiative, I believe we can practically support prison ministry throughout the UK. God is doing some amazing things in UK prisons, with many coming to faith. I’m delighted to be working with great organisations like The Message Trust, Caring for Ex-Offenders, Prison Alpha and Prison Fellowship to get this book into the hands of young men exploring the Christian faith.
The battle over a man’s past. The fight for a boy’s future.
Downton Press, 2011 (320pp)
Trade distribution by CLC Wholesale:
download the trade info sheet (pdf, 328kb)
- The Fight by Luke Wordley: Review by Janette, Christian Resources Leicester, 2/7/2012
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