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

Review: GuRu by RuPaul

guru_hc

 

GURU, RuPaul. Dey Street Books, $25.99 (208p) ISBN: 9780062862990
Publication date: October 23, 2018

If there is anything RuPaul is more passionate about than being unapologetically fierce, it is probably helping others tap into their fierceness—unapologetically, of course. Now, let’s take it further. It’s great to be fierce and fabulous, but how do you treat others? How do you treat yourself? In his new book, GuRu, RuPaul doesn’t just empower readers to live their best life, he understands that this can effectively be accomplished when people are prompted to take an honest look at themselves and reflect on where their thoughts come from and how much of them are influenced by society. When is the last time you watched, let’s say, a YouTube video and formed your own opinion before looking at the comment section?

GuRu has a plethora of dazzling images that showcase the icon’s versatility in supreme drag queen aesthetics and is an asset to your coffee table. However, it is more than a pretty book with colorful quotes; it is a book that is there whenever you need a reminder that you’re not alone (RuPaul does get personal in the pages), or you need a pick-me-up, and/or a boost of motivation to keep moving forward in life with your head, standards, and heels (if you wear them) high.

Previous book by RuPaul: Workin’ It!: RuPaul’s Guide to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Style (It Books, 2010).

Rating: So Cool

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

Interview With Ben Philippe, Author of “The Field Guide to the North American Teenager”!

ben 2If you are passionate about writing and want to pursue it professionally, you might want to keep certain skills off your resume. Ben Phillippe, author of the forthcoming debut novel, The Field Guide to The North American Teenager (Balzer + Bray, January 9, 2019) is one of many who had jobs that he disliked, but when he removed Microsoft Excel from his resume, he yielded opportunities that were a lot more appealing. “For a while my resume was just a bunch of stuff I knew how to do, but that didn’t make me happy because the only thing that makes me happy is writing,” he explained to So Booking Cool.

“I would get these temp jobs that required a lot of Excel and Microsoft Access because that’s what I was advertising to the world, and then I just started to remove them. They were small jobs–I was living month to month, but I was just doing stuff that was close enough to writing so that I could keep the passion alive.” Phillippe would go on to write for a host of publications including Vanity Fair, Observer, The Guardian, Thrillist, and Playboy, just to name a few. He also has a background in ghostwriting and teaches writing at Barnard College.

FGTNAT - CoverAs for Field Guide, Philippe hopes people will find the book funny. He also feels his character Norris is an underrepresented one in mainstream storytelling.  “Representation is kind of a big thing these days, especially in YA literature, which is great. We see a lot of characters that we wouldn’t normally see, like ten years ago we wouldn’t see characters of color in bestselling books, but I think there’s still the expectation that when you’re reading a story about a black male character, ‘oh no, it’s gonna be sad at the end; oh no, it’s gonna get Precious.”

While Philippe notes that Norris does have stakes and an emotional journey in the book, the story is more about comedy and a young guy’s high school experience. Listen to the interview to learn more about Philippe, The Field Guide to The North American Teenager, creating characters, his insight on ghostwriting, why he loves teaching and how it fuels his writing, who he envisions portraying Norris, his thoughts on the reboot of Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and more! For more information visit his official website.

Interview With Romola Hodas, Author of “The Princess of 42nd Street”!

RomolaHodasHeadshotRomola Hodas is a reminder that we should stop putting time and age limits on our aspirations. At 61-years-old, the author is working on a new business and career in public speaking, a journey she describes as “a lot,” but fun. One of her tricks is telling herself she is 21 and will live past her nineties. As you will note from our interview with Hodas, she champions having a positive outlook on life, especially as someone who’s lived a hard one, as revealed in her new memoir, The Princess of 42nd Street: Surviving My Childhood as the Daughter of Times Square’s King of Porn. Hodas’ father Marty, who passed away four years ago, had an integral part in the formation of 42nd Street, Times Square, which pioneered the American sex industry. This time period of the early 70’s is depicted on the HBO series The Deuce.

The Princess of 42nd Street - Surviving My Childh-largeHodas says the experience of watching the debut season of The Deuce was “surreal.” She’s gone on to become friends with Saul Stein, who portrays her father on the show. Writing about her life and what it was like to be the daughter of a man like Marty Hodas (and her mother) was anything but cathartic for her. She had to relive the abuse from her childhood. “I was just living in hell and it was really hard, and I certainly was drinking a little bit more than I had wanted to, knowing I’d get a handle on it, but it was really hard. I don’t really mind people knowing my story; I really wanted to show people that lots of what we go through, we have a choice,” she told So Booking Cool.

There is an appreciation many seem to have for candidness in general. Hodas is also proud that her book captures her voice, in which she credits writer, producer, and publishing consultant, Elizabeth Ridley. As for what’s next? The New Yorker is working on getting a television deal for The Princess of 42nd Street. Listen to the interview to learn more about Hodas, her upbringing, her publishing experience, her thoughts on The Deuce, child abuse, manifestation, her company Creating Harmony MM, problem drinkers vs. alcoholics, her advice for anyone who desires to start a business, and more! For more information, visit her official website.

Interview With Executive Editor of Riverhead Books, Courtney Young!

courtney youngCourtney Young carefully considers our question: whether it is enough for people to write a manuscript if the thought of doing so crosses their mind. Understandably so, the executive editor at Riverhead Books believes it is different for everyone; in other words (no pun intended), like many things in life, it depends.

“I will say writing a book is a lot of work, and you have to be, especially on the nonfiction side, prepared to go really deep on your subject and on working on the book,” she told So Booking Cool. “Be prepared for it to take years to get to the outcome. It’s not easy and the hardest thing is to commit to a book that your heart isn’t in.”

Young can relate to doing something that her heart wasn’t in. Prior to embarking on her 12-year career in book publishing, she pursued engineering. She was expected to follow in the footsteps of her father and brother. However, Young realized her true passion was in English, prompting her to take it on as her new major. She worried about disappointing her family (and to an extent she did), however, leave it up to a book to become the solution. Her father would later gift her The First Time I Got Paid for It: Writers’ Tales from The Hollywood Trenches by Peter Lefcourt (Editor), Laura J. Shapiro (Editor).

“ ’Well, I guess people can make a living if they’re not engineers, and I assume you’ll be okay,’ “she recalled her father saying. The Detroit native also had a stint working at NASA in California as a technical writer, where she edited proposals and journal articles. She was grateful for the opportunity, but, again, this wasn’t her ideal career. Her vision clear, she relocated to New York City and officially began her publishing career at Penguin Random House’s Portfolio Books, a business imprint. She has not looked back since.

bookpile

Some of Young’s favorite titles she’s edited include the New York Times bestsellers What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe; Romeo and/or Juliet: A Chooseable-Path Adventure by Ryan North; Spineless by Juli Berwald, just to name a few. Young also discussed some of the forthcoming projects that she is excited about, such as Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein (May 2019), who wrote the bestseller, The Sports Gene (she also worked with him previously).

the sports generange bookThe Sports Gene is a really fascinating, wide-ranging book that a lot of people came to, and he found the thing that most people were interested in is this idea of early specialization,” Young said. “The idea that if you want to truly be great at something, especially sports, you have to start early and focus; be kind of like Tiger Woods, and just sort of get ahead of everybody else. And David was turning over all this research that said the opposite, that the people who are actually most successful aside from those few stories like Tiger, are generalists.” In his new book, Epstein presents information on why thinking broadly and having diverse experience and various interest will enable an individual to thrive.

Listen to the full interview to learn more about Young, her insight on what makes a strong editorial team, some of the proudest moments of her career, her insight on book reviews, and the other upcoming projects she looks forward to sharing with the world. Don’t be a stranger, visit Young on her official Twitter.

Interview With Marc Shapiro, Author of “John McCain: A View from the Hill”!

One of the reasons New York Times bestselling author Marc Shapiro penned John McCain: A View from the Hill was because he wanted to uncover the unknown details of the late senator’s life. However, if you are expecting a scandalous, sensationalized account, you won’t find it in this biography. The book, published by Riverdale Avenue Books, was written prior to McCain’s passing and focuses on the revered figure’s professional life, in which readers have gained compelling information. McCain was as kind as he was tenacious and was willing to work with everyone, a point Shapiro emphasizes.

“We need more people like John McCain,” Shapiro told So Booking Cool. “I mean, that sounds cliché as hell, but we really do. I talked to one person who made the point of saying that John McCain was a throwback to the founding fathers of this country. If there had not been people like him when this country first came into being, we would probably have thirteen United States of Americas as opposed to the one we ended up having in the beginning.”

In our second interview with Shapiro (check out our first one, in which we discussed his Lin Manuel Miranda biography and more), we uncover additional topics, such as the book he wrote on Donald Trump prior to his presidency, as well as his forthcoming biography on the popular boy band from South Korea, BTS. Shapiro, who is just as much as a journalist as he is an author has a catalog that includes more than 80 high profile biographies, as well as fiction, short stories, and poetry.

“The key to doing what I do is basically, number one: it has to interest me. I’m not averse to the idea of having a book that’s going to sell a lot of copies and make a lot of money for people, that’s how I pay my bills. But at the end of the day, whoever or whatever I write about, it has to have some interest to me because if not, it’s going to be a real drag to write and then you become your own worst enemy.”

Listen to the full interview to learn more about Shapiro’s approach to writing A View from the Hill, who he is as a writer, his thoughts on whether there are qualifications for writing a biography, additional tidbits about the BTS book, and more!

Interview With Literary Publicist, Lathea Williams!

LATHEALathea Williams might not have initially chosen book publishing as a career, but the driving force for why she chooses to remain in the industry is due to history. “There was a point in time where as a black person, we weren’t even given the opportunity to read. We were chastised for it. So I’m very much aware of my history and that’s one of the main things that keeps me in this industry,” the publishing professional said to So Booking Cool.

So far, Williams has worked as a literary publicist for over ten years. She attended City College where she earned a degree in public relations and advertising. Her internships included public relations in the fields of investment and music (one of her stints saw her intern at Columbia Records). But it was the publicity internship at Little, Brown that ended up being her favorite.

ATLAS OBSCURABook publicity was another territory and Williams was delighted that her responsibilities consisted of reading, writing (press releases, which she says are like writing book reports), and building media contacts. “Years ago, proud moments for me was when I would get a media hit in a magazine, like Oprah Magazine or a Today Show or Good Morning America hit, but now, I’m proud and happy when I can give back and I can see someone excel and succeed and have as much passion and joy for what they do a little much as I do,” said Williams. “And bestsellers are great!” she added laughingly.

Williams has gotten several bestsellers, including Dylan Thuras’ and Rosemary Mosco’s Atlas Obscura’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid, illustrated by Joy Ang. What was one of the most integral parts of the children’s book’s publicity campaign? The plentiful school visits that Thuras made.

A WOMAN GUIDES TOI WILL TEACH YOU TO BE RICH

Now, Williams has been gearing up for the upcoming releases of A Woman’s Guide to Cannabis: Using Marijuana to Feel Better, Look Better, Sleep Better–and Get High Like a Lady by Nikki Furrer (Workman Publishing, January 2019) and the 10th anniversary of I Will Teach You to Be Rich: No Guilt. No Excuses. No B.S. Just a 6-Week Program That Works by Ramit Sethi (Workman Publishing, May 2019). Check out the interview to learn more about Williams, publicity, her personal story, her advice for aspiring publicists, what she’s currently reading, and more! For more information, visit Williams on LinkedIn.

Interview With Rock ‘N’ Roll Pianist, Singer & Actor Jacob Tolliver!

jacob tolliver“Santa Baby” was originally Jacob Tolliver’s least favorite Christmas song—in fact he dreaded it—but when the emerging rock ‘n’ roll artist, pianist, and actor had the idea of collaborating with Full House and Fuller House star Jodie Sweetin for a holiday song, he saw no better choice than the classic record. Tolliver’s 50’s, 60’s, 70’s rock ‘n’ roll piano skills meshes with Sweetin’s pop sound for the rendition, which will release worldwide this Friday, November 16.

“It’s kind of a pretty relevant theme in pop music within the last five, ten years of blending retro sounds with modern beats and modern sounds, like Bruno Mars, Michael Buble, Post Modern Jukebox or Megan Trainor,” he told So Booking Cool in description of the song. “Baby” has now become Tolliver’s favorite.

JODIE AND JACOBTolliver, who hails from Ohio, has been active in music since he was a child. Currently, he is the opener for legendary rock n’ roller Jerry Lee Lewis aka The Killer. Previously, Tolliver portrayed the pianist in the Las Vegas production of “Million Dollar Quartet.” The popular musical tributes the famous recording session between Lewis, Elvis Pressley, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins. During his run on the tour, Tolliver was recruited for the 14th season of American Idol. Both stints have allowed Tolliver and Lewis to build a close bond.

“The man truly is a genius,” Tolliver said. Lewis is also an exception to the “never meet your idols” phrase. “He’s 83 and he’s at the point in his life where I think he’d love to see somebody wanting to keep [rock ‘n’ roll] alive and keep it going ‘cause it is really great music. If you’re at a dance and let’s say “Johnny B. Goode” comes on, everybody starts dancing…people love that music, it makes people happy, it makes people dance.” Tolliver’s goal isn’t to copy; it’s to help keep the genre going.

Before making it big time, Tolliver actually was interested in public relations. He saw himself being the publicist for a musician. Proving that life has an interesting way of unraveling, Tolliver was not always passionate about playing the piano. Listen to the interview to learn more about his trajectory, including the time he stopped playing the piano for five years, how friend and Full House creator Jeff Franklin’s party led to Tolliver befriending Sweetin, the book he’s currently reading, Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll by Peter Guralnick (Little, Brown and Company), his thoughts on mentorship and the new Bohemian Rhapsody movie, and more! For more information visit Tolliver’s official website.

Interview With Writer, “Wild N’ Out” Star, & Author of “Please Don’t Grab My P#$$Y,” Julia Young!

COVER

Comedian, Producer, Actress, Improviser and Wild N’ Out star Julia Young has expanded her skills of television writing and rapping into co-writing her newly-released book, Please Don’t Grab My P#$$Y: A Rhyming Presidential Guide. The adult picture book, published by Animal House Media Group, was co-written with comedian and entrepreneur Matt Harkins, and illustrated by Laura Collins. The impetus for the book came after this past presidential election, in which Young felt upset, but inspired.

When asked what she hopes readers will takeaway from her debut, Young replied, “I hope that they get a laugh first of all. I think people who are buying this book don’t like Trump, it’s a very divisive book. But I hope people realize things need to change, and obviously it’s never okay to grab women by their genitalia, and maybe just come away with a little bit of a laugh in these very, very difficult times,” she told So Booking Cool.

Young, who has produced for Desus and Mero, has written for many hit shows including Brain Games, Girl Code, Hack My Life,  Impractical Jokers, TRL, Safe Word, and Celebrity Death Match, among many others. Before joining Wild N’ Out as a cast member, she was a consultant for the show. She has also taught creative workshops for improvisation. Her road to success has not been a linear one, as she describes, which can actually help people get closer to their dreams.

“I think you just have to say yes to every opportunity. I got on Wild N’ Out because I was consulting for them. I was there and people thought I was funny and after one season, they were like, ‘hey, do you want to be on camera?’ I also think I’ve succeeded in comedy and in this world because that was never not an option…I can’t do anything else, therefore this will happen.”

Listen to the interview to learn more about Young, including her approach to comedy, her book publishing experience, how she overcame bullying, her favorite authors, and more! For more information, visit Young’s official website.

Interview With Walter Tucker, MBA, Founder and President of LiveThe.Biz!

Headshot FinalWalter J. Tucker, MBA started LiveThe.Biz to provide an affordable platform for those interested in the music industry to meet the movers and shakers behind major music brands. This coming Thursday, November 8, the networking organization will host its final and highly anticipated event of this year: The 2018 Music Honors. The honorees are previous LiveThe.Biz panelists who work at the likes of Atlantic Records, Genius, Spotify, and BET, just to name a few.

“I want us to be known for motivating people and educating people around the world,” Tucker told So Booking Cool. “I feel that one of the things that we forget sometimes in the music industry and entertainment in general is the reason why we’re doing what we’re doing. There’s byproduct of feeding your family and making power moves, goals, and all these things. But all that comes down to how you want someone to feel about you and how you want someone to be able to connect and communicate. I want LiveThe.Biz to be known as a community of people who want to connect and build off each other.”

LiveTheBiz Socia LogoTucker, who had a passion for music since his childhood, realized the struggles of trying to network with music professionals when he relocated to New York from Virginia. Conferences often cost hundreds of dollars, which can be especially steep for college students. The Metropolitan College of New York professor decided that once he was in position, he would make these opportunities available for anyone who aspires to become an artist or music executive. For over two decades, Tucker has consulted hundreds of artists including Jadakiss, Jazmine Sullivan, India Arie, and Kirk Franklin just to name a few. Additionally, he has spearheaded projects that involved the publishing rights of the likes of Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, and Adele just to name a few.

In addition to running LiveThe.Biz, Tucker is fulfilling another goal: writing a book. “I’ve wanted to write a book for the longest, but I wanted to have experiences. I wanted to be able to have my own business and teach for a while and travel the world and meet different artists. I didn’t want to write a book for the sake of just writing one, I wanted it to be super useful.” For more information, visit the company’s official website.