Review: Off the Ropes: The Ron Lyle Story by Candace Toft

off-the-ropes-coverOFF THE ROPES: THE RON LYLE STORY, Candace Toft. Hamilcar Publications, $27.95 (214p) ISBN-13: 978-1949590012
Publication date: Oct. 31, 2018

What you learn from a book is what really dictates its value. What the book reveals. What the book confronts. What the book asserts. Off the Ropes: The Ron Lyle Story, is the definitive biography about one of boxing’s “the most known and unknown” (homage to Three Six Mafia) heavyweight, Ron Lyle. At a time when the heavyweight division was inarguably at its height—the 1970s—Ron Lyle was unquestionably the most feared and avoided heavyweight. He has had more fights cancelled due to excuses by his opponents than any top-tier fighter in history.

Muhammad Ali only agreed to fight Ron Lyle after he (Lyle) lost to an unheralded heavyweight named Jimmy Young. Joe Frazier and Ken Norton wanted no part of Lyle. George Foreman agreed to fight him only AFTER losing his title to Muhammad Ali in the “Rumble in the Jungle,” which was fought in Kinshasa, Zaire. Jerry Quarry was only willing to fight Lyle a second time when offered a king’s ransom. Of course, as he got older, there were more suitors, (i.e., Jerry Cooney et al), however, Lyle was still a threat to any heavyweight because of his extreme punching power. Earnie Shavers, who is considered by most boxing experts to be the hardest punching fighter in history, declared that no one hit him harder than Lyle.

But, Lyle’s story is so much more than his boxing exploits. He was one of 19 children. His father was a cleric and his mother was devoutly religious. Even though Lyle’s upbringing was strict, his GPS was set to mischief, and then morphed into petty crime. Lyle was convicted of murder, learned to box in prison, served 7 ½ years, became a professional boxer, met a woman—married her—had a child, and pursued becoming heavyweight champion with a level of zeal that would be considered extreme—even for Steve Jobs or Elon Musk.

Like many boxers, Lyle had more “downs” than “ups” and managed to find trouble. However, his devotion to children was second only to his devotion to boxing. We learn that Lyle was charitable, deeply private, overwhelmingly mistrustful, and overburdened with demons. The writer, the late Candace Toft, uses plain language to tell a very complex story. Her writing style allows the reader to gain traction rather than be distracted by language that overreaches. Hall-of-Fame boxing journalist, Al Bernstein, wrote a compelling foreword. Off the Ropes is as good as any boxer-bio/memoir ever written and would be an even better feature film.

Rating: Booking Cool

Rating Scale:
Cool: Decent
So Cool: Good
Booking Cool: Excellent
So Booking Cool: Masterpiece

Interview With Mathew Knowles About “The Emancipation of Slaves Through Music” and more!

mathew knowlesFront-Cover-Emancipation1800Mr. Mathew Knowles, entrepreneur, record label executive, music mogul, professor, speaker, and bestselling author, recently visited So Booking Cool in support of his new book The Emancipation of Slaves Through Music. While we had the pleasure of gaining some insight about the book months earlier when Mr. Knowles first chatted with us in promotion of his memoir Racism From the Eyes of a Child, our conversation with him this time around reached greater levels.

Our discussion extended beyond how slaves shaped music and vice versa and the compelling research Mr. Knowles and his students found when co-writing The Emancipation of Slaves Through Music; we discussed images in music, particularly pertaining to female artists, in which Mr. Knowles notes that this does not occur in gospel music; who ultimately decides the concepts for artist’s music videos; why Mr. Knowles believes music will become increasingly and entirely visual;  the diversity of the Music World brand; his plans to tell his life story on the screen, as well as his approach to Destiny’s Child: The Untold Story, in which the mogul asserts that no one really knows what went into the music group; his interesting take on “culture vultures”; his public relations book; and a lot more!

Listen to the full interview below and check out the time stamps for select portions. For more information, visit Mr. Knowles’ official website.

Interview With “Renaissance Man: The Lin Manuel Miranda Story” Author, Marc Shapiro!

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While New York Times bestselling author Marc Shapiro likens the life of a writer to that of a roller coaster, he also believes that as a creative, the psychological benefits of the craft are high. He would know. Shapiro has written everything from articles, horoscopes, short stories, poems, to approximately 80 celebrity biographies, including the bestseller, J. K. Rowling: The Wizard Behind Harry Potter. Lin Manuel Miranda (check out our review here on Renaissance Man: The Lin Manuel Miranda Story, An Unauthorized Biography)Mary Tyler Moore, George Harrison, Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan, Adele, and Fifty Shades of Grey author, E.L. James are among the high-profile lives he’s penned. He even wrote one about the hit rock song “Hey Joe.” Recently, he revealed that he finished writing the late Senator John McCain‘s life story (this interview was done prior to the senator’s death).  Shapiro, who says he’s always been attracted to creative people, is also interested in finding out what makes them tick.

“Some days it’s a pain in the butt to make a living doing this, but more often than not, it’s fun. You’re doing what you love to do and making a living, and getting paid for it,” he said.

Listen to the full interview to learn more about Shapiro’s projects, both past and present, including the recent release of his debut short story collection, Short Story Collection: Stories of High Strangeness, the execution of Renaissance Man, his insights on being an author, and journalist, and the time he had three weeks to write the LA Times bestseller, Total Titanic: The Most Up-to-Date Guide to the Disaster of the Century, and more!

Review: Renaissance Man: The Lin Manuel Miranda Story, An Unauthorized Biography By Marc Shapiro

marc shapiroRENAISSANCE MAN: THE LIN MANUEL STORY, AN UNAUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY, Marc Shapiro. Riverdale Avenue Books, $18.01 (200p) ISBN-13: 978-1626014480
Publication date: May 10, 2018

From the New York Times bestselling author and veteran entertainment journalist, Marc Shapiro, comes his newest biography of a high-profile talent: the self-made Lin Manuel Miranda’s story. Unlike some unauthorized biographies, Renaissance Man is anything but salacious and scandalous. Shapiro doesn’t go for the cheap. He has instead chosen to tell the compelling journey of the Hamilton frontman that will leave readers feeling inspired and motivated. Ever the page-turner and crisply written, this book is just as pleasurable for the celebrity memoir and/or “tea” enthusiast as it is for the go-getter crowd. When absorbing Miranda’s story, the takeaway extends beyond the fact that Miranda was a man who went after his dreams steadfast. The real message here is the level of discipline one should probably have for pursuing and maintaining a passion.

Prior to the groundbreaking success of Hamilton, there was Miranda’s first major theater production, In the Heights, which dealt with cultural themes significant and personal to Miranda, who was bred in a predominately Latino community in Inwood, New York City. Shapiro highlights the tireless work ethic Miranda dedicated to his play as a college student, as well as his determination—there is a moment when Miranda meets with a potential investor who wanted Miranda to trade the loss of a scholarship storyline for one about drugs and/or a teen pregnancy. In short, the investor opted for a stereotypical scenario and showed he didn’t get the heart of the project. Miranda stuck to his guns, and the play eventually soared past his college campus and onto Broadway. Each new opportunity that arose to elevate his work, whether it be in the form of a national tour or any new stage in general, raised the stakes for Miranda; he did not allow the praise to make him comfortable or complacent.

Miranda was introduced to Alexander Hamilton in school for an assignment. And while he possessed a keen interest in literature early on (he’d read to the other kids in daycare, kind of like a teacher, in which he would eventually become) as well as in musicals and hip hop, the Puerto Rican visionary never imagined he would one day create a play in the late president’s honor.

Call it fate, nevertheless, Miranda worked hard for his success. He had talent, recognized his talents, and made the choice to hone them (even if there were on-and-off-again periods and other obstacles he had to overcome). He didn’t ask for handouts and didn’t need to. Shapiro shows how Miranda got to the point where his work spoke and continues to speak for itself.

Rating: Excellent

Rating Scale

Cool: Decent

So Cool: Good

Booking Cool: Excellent

So Booking Cool: Masterpiece

Interview With James Mtume About His Unsung Story!

JAMES MTUME PHOTO

Society is the thermostat. It sets the temperature. Artists are thermometers. We reflect what the temperature is.” This is among the many potent quotes that emerged from So Booking Cool‘s interview with Grammy award-winning musician, songwriter, activist, and radio personality, James Mtume. His timeless hit song, “Juicy Fruit” (the heavily sampled cut for numerous artists including the late Notorious B.I.G.’s smash hit “Juicy“) is celebrating its 35th anniversary. Not bad at all for a song that almost did not get released. The Philadelphia-bred icon has not yet penned his autobiography, but a starting point for telling his story will be covered in his upcoming episode of the docuseries, Unsung  to air this coming Sunday.

The Philadelphia-bred composer had early exposure to jazz music with his father performing the genre. Mtume created a list of the three musicians he desired to work with and ultimately was recruited by one of them, Miles Davis, who would become a cherished mentor. It was Davis who encouraged Mtume, who became the first black Middle Atlantic AAU champion in the backstroke before taking the music world by storm, to explore different sounds. “When you finish a musical genre, put it away,” the 71-year-old advises younger and aspiring artists. “Once you cross a musical bridge, burn it, so that you don’t have to go backwards.”

Listen to the full interview to learn more about Mtume’s thoughts on the music industry, the artists that impress him today, how seeing Elijah Mohammed and Malcolm X speak when he was 14-years-old changed his life, the parallels between the social movements during the 60’s and present time, the proudest moment of his illustrious career, and more!

For more information, visit Mtume on Twitter or his official website