Thursday, December 11, 2008

Robert W. Walker reviews Tom Schreck's On the Ropes


Rob says: I did this review for Tom Schreck cause he's a great guy and "one of us"

-- I met Tom at LIM last year and hoisted a few with him. I still wonder if readers of a well turned phrase in a review, knowing you are an author, will also want to look into your pages as well as the ones you are touting.

Here's a question -- does doing well crafted reviews of books from other authors get folks reading your work? I should hope that wellturned phrase in a review you put heart and soul into might translate into someone's thinking, hey, I kinda wanna see something from this guy, too.

REVIEW by Rob Walker for Midnight Ink's Tom Schreck's On the Ropes:

On The Ropes By Tom Schreck
Midnight Ink Books
326 pgs/13.95/15. 95 Can
ISBN#978-0-7387- 1114-0

Social worker and sometime boxer Duffy Dumbrowski gets it from all sides—from Polish jokes hitting him at every turn to a boss that he wishes death upon to coworkers slamming him onto a desk to make love to the sad reality of those he appears planted on Earth to help—his client list.

The novel has an excellent opportunity to become a series, given that Schreck's character list is ready-made in that Duffy D's client list is a gift that keeps on giving—in short, a list of eccentrics and street people and single mom's in dire trouble, any one of which can and does become Duffy's cross to bear.

When one particularly sad case that Duffy's big heart goes out to is arrested and then killed while behind bars, Duffy seems the only advocate for her, and he goes to dangerous lengths to determine the truth—what happened to Walanda andwho was behind her murder and the all-important why.

Duffy hates an unanswered question. Furthermore, Duffy is a "sucker" in the best tradition of the term, as with Bogey, as he gets saddled with a "dame and a dog" – in this case due to his promise to Walanda to take care of King, her basset hound, and to look in on her grown daughter to keep her out of trouble. All of this while trying desperately to fit into the suit and tie and cubicle world of organized social work, to please an unholy boss, to keep tabs on four drunken friends whose strange brew of advice actually helps.

While I am not a huge fan of many first person narratives, as it is hard to listen to a single POV voice for the length of a novel,sometimes an author's creation of that voice works extremely well, and if you grew up in Chicago, where there is a huge Polish community so that many of your friends were Polish, Duffy is a fresh voice indeed and not a knockoff of the TV voice of Magnum PI. Duffy is not a PI but he must play one.

If Duffy gets to you, as he did this reviewer and author in the first paragraph, you'll find On The Ropes not enough, and you'll be salivating like Pavlov's dog awaiting for the sequel, TKO: Round 2. Even if it is to find out what more trouble Duffy can place at the foot of his onerous and all-too-familiar boss!

Meanwhile, author Schreck manages to slip in—barely noticed—a number of social issues without being as dire or heavy-handed about it as one might expect from a novel with a social worker as hero. A fine novel,well-crafted, and it will leave you laughing and crying in all the right places.

On The Ropes, and I have no doubt TKO: Round 2 are a brilliant mix of the underworld of big city life and boxing perfectly commingled with our modern day social ills, questions, and if not answers, a character whose heart is in the right place.

What's really neat about On The Ropes is that you don't have to be interested in boxing or know anything about what social workers do on a daily basis to thoroughly enjoy Dumbrowski's disorganized Bogey approach to life.

On the Ropes has my highest recommendation for a book with a dog on the cover. No, honestly, I have no reservations about Tom's ability to make you laugh and give you pause. His characterizations of city folk down on their luck is spot on—and I grew up in inner city Chicago, Jackson and Racine—so of this I know from the slumlord to the wino, the merchant to the addict.

On The Ropes is a great ride into the array of events and characters populating a singularly colorful world.Still, I thought Schreck was supposed to be spelled Shrek…

Above Review by Rob Walker, author City of the Absent, PSI Blue, Dead On

Other Tom Schreck books:

Tom's website is where there is now a free audio short story to go along with his other free stories.

FOR MORE ABOUT TOM SCHRECK TODAY, Be sure to check out the blog post at

Please leave a comment for Tom or Rob, even if it's about their cute dogs - note Rob with Pogo in the right column.


Morgan Mandel said...

Great review. Sounds like a wonderful book. Also cute covers!
Of course, I'm partial to basset hounds, since it was the first kind my husband and I adopted less than a year after we got married.

Morgan Mandel

The Stiletto Gang said...

Pongo is pretty cute too, even if he isn't a basset hound.

Great review of a wonderful book.

aka the Southern Half of Evelyn David

Debra St. John said...

Sounds like a great book! It's going on my TBR list.

June said...

Wonderful review. This sounds like a really great book.


Anonymous said...

Hey all -- I was so pleased when Morgan Mandel suggested I post the review on ACME. It hadn't occurred to me until that suggestion. I love the fact ACME can be so flexible and versatile. You never know what is in the works here until you get here, ya know? And that suits my personality just fine. Cool too that due to Tom's popularity that The Stiletto Gang and ACME have made a connection as a result!

Rob Walker

Anonymous said...

I am almost done with TKO and I love the book so much I went out and got On The Ropes to read next..keep the
books coming Tom.

Tom Schreck said...

I'd like to thank all the folks I promised checks to for saying nice things...