Seconds Out by Martin Kohan

Book Review

Seconds Out, by the Argentine intellectual and novelist Martin Kohan, is a literary ‘who done it’. Its seventeen chapters each covers a single second of the time when the world heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey was knocked out of the ring in a title fight in New York. He was allowed to recover by a hapless referee, and managed to climb back in, to resume a fight he should have lost by a knockout.

Woven into each of the chapters is a news item of a mysterious death in a hotel room in Argentina, which took place at the same time as the fight. This was followed up many years later by a journalist. His speculation that the two events were connected was dismissed by colleagues as their lives continued.

Eventually, there is a satisfactory resolution to the story, which I will not reveal.

This is an elegantly written book translated from the original Spanish and one which rewards readers with its power to sustain the themes of boxing, and wider existential issues. It happens to have another unexpected turn for me. In 2016, I began writing a story with the provisional title Seconds Out: A Memorial Hall mystery. My own idea is to draw attention to the emerging mind-and-body sport of Chess Boxing in a ‘cosy’ thriller format. Subscribers to Leaders We Deserve will not be surprised to learn it also touches on political and political leadership.

In 2017, as my own book was approaching publication, I came across and purchased a copy of the Martin Kohan novel. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I can only hope that my own tale, which also has a bizarre boxing match in it, will give as much pleasure to readers as Kohan’s gave to me.

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