(Actual un-spellchecked book cover, via Amazon.)
“Gunslinger of the bars, where a duel was a fist-fight without weapons or you backed down by calling the bouncers. It was just kicking ass or getting your ass kicked. The gunslinger didn’t care if he won or lost, but only about his personal integrity and being satisfied when he woke up in the morning that he had delivered justice to a deserving cockroach.”
Those are the first lines from the prologue of Bar Brawler, a 306-page semi-autobiographical novel by personal CP hero David “Tank” Abbott. We first heard about this writing project way back in January 2008, when Tank casually mentioned it during an EliteXC press conference before his fight against Kimbo Slice. Bar Brawler was finally published this June, but it flew under our radars until yesterday, when this Sherdog article revealed that the book did in fact exist, and that it’s actually the first in an already-completed trilogy.
So believe it or not, Tank Abbott is already the most prolific novelist in UFC history. But is the book any good? We’ll get to that in a minute. First, here’s the description from Bar Brawler’s Amazon page, which doesn’t inspire much confidence in the quality of the work:
Walter Foxx, Happening* Beach, California’s most feared bar brawler, works at Sea Lion Beach Liquor at night, attends Wong Beach State College in the day, and dishes out street justice in his spare time to the scumbags, posers, wannabes, and bullies of the world who violate his personal code of honor. Driving a 1987 Chevy Sprint with his faithful pit bull Adolf** riding shotgun, Walter and his twisted crew of Poppa Chulo, Rolando, Big Cal, and Gonzo hold court at the Dead Grunion bar where they take on all comers.
When Walter sees a man beating his girlfriend one night and steps in to assist her, he gets punched for his trouble and makes the perp pay. The man has friends in high places, though, and Walter soon finds himself facing felony assault charges that his 600 pound bench-press-fueled fighting skills alone can’t beat.*** As he battles liars on the stand and his own hapless attorney John Wittless**** in a desperate bid to clear his name and avoid prison, Walter struggles to understand what his life means and what his future holds.
* Could “Happening Beach” be based on Huntington Beach, Tank’s hometown? We don’t know. We just don’t know.
** aka Hitler Dog.
*** That is the greatest line in any Amazon.com book description, ever.
**** Subtle, Tank!
By now, you’re probably thinking this is some oddball vanity project from a man who’s life has recently sunk into a haze of oddball backyard fights and oddball hairpieces. But Tank takes this stuff very, very seriously: ”Every fight in the book has a purpose and a meaning and it’s written very metaphorically,” Abbott told Sherdog. “It’s kind of like ‘Old Man and the Sea.’ It’s about finding your meaning in life and being lucky enough to live it.”
Is Tank Abbott the Ernest Hemingway of MMA? Let me put it this way — I’ve skimmed through several MMA fighter autobiographies over the years, and I’m not going to name names, but judging from the sample pages of Bar Brawler that are available on Amazon (click “Look Inside!” then “Surprise Me!”), Tank Abbott’s book is more entertaining than nearly all of them. Tank’s writing actually reminds me of Andrew Vachss — another writer who skates on the edge of great and terrible — with its terse, hard-boiled lines peppered with stabs of impressionist description (“all form and no substance in his ice cream suit and pompadour blond hair”), and the moral superiority of the tough-guy narrator. Honestly, it’s not bad. Plus, Tank did the painting for the back cover of his book, which is something that Hemingway never did.
The second installment of Tank’s trilogy, Street Warrior, is expected to be released in January.