Book Name: Gunboat Jack
Author: Timeri N. Murari
Book Blurb: Based on a real-life character, a legendary American boxer who lived in Bangalore in the 1960s and the 1970s, Timeri N. Murari’s novel tells us the thrilling story of a competition between two opponents, one Indian, the other English. Set in the early years of the country’s Independence, the heightened tensions following the departure of the British give the outcome of the boxing match an added edge. Gunboat Jack agrees to coach the Indian boxer, but will that be enough to win against the stronger, more experienced Brit?
Review: Gunboat Jack tells the story of an American boxer who lived in India. He has an intriguing back story (was accused in a murder case) and ekes out a living fighting occasional bouts for entertainment. His love interest Gertrude is a lively, young man and he wishes to save money and return to his homeland.
Like most sportpersons well past their prime, he spends his time drinking or gambling. His monotonous life is interrupted by an interesting business opportunity.
Gunboat Jack receives a proposition from a young royal, Nicky who wishes to hire him as a coach and learn the sport of boxing. They have a month for training but Gunboat Jack takes up the offer. Up to this point, the novel simply develops the back story and is a bit harrowing but it really takes off after this and becomes way too interesting.
Timeri N. Murari writes well, he has a strong grasp on language and never falters. The characters are developed well and each gets enough space in the novel. Gertrude’s vivaciousness serves as a strong contrast to the older, somber persona of Gunboat Jack.
The climax could have been better in my opinion. I am reminded of a similar climax in a book I read a long time back-Third Best. It tells a similar story where a schoolboy prepares for a boxing match but the climax was done in a far better manner.
The palace of the erstwhile Rajah (Nicky’s father) is not without intrigues either. Gunboat Jack finds himself embroiled in between the housekeeper (who has some shallow interests) and his promise to Nicky. Will Gunboat Jack train Nicky in record time but there are many demons that Nicky must encounter first.
The surrounding plot involving Nicky’s sisters and his grandmother has been told very well. It tells the story of the declining fortunes of the Rajah’s family in post-independent India. This is perhaps why this novel is so good- it is a layered story and plots unravel at the right time.
Will Nikcy be able to win inspite of the odds stacked against him? Will Gunboat Jack find his way back home in the end?