Donnybrook by Frank Bill is a fun (if dark and violent) first novel. An ensemble cast works its way across Kentucky and Indiana for a private bare knuckle fighting championship, the Donnybrook. No heroes here, but there are some sympathetic characters, and some evil SOBs. You’d think this would be a “fight formula” book where each match is described and the good guy overcomes overwhelming odds to win the prize. Nope. Each entrant (some unwilling) has a back story and the Donnybrook is a small part of the overall story. But fights? Boy are there fights. Brawlers, martial artists, boxers and other combatants compete in the streets, in houses, in the fields and in the ring as everyone fights to get what they want. There are more broken bones, crushed noses and fistfights per page than any book I’ve ever read. People are beaten, shot, kicked, stabbed, dragged by cars, and that’s just by page three! Characters take an enormous amount of punishment. The ending leaves room for a sequel (with the characters left alive), and that I would enjoy reading. Recommended if you have a high tolerance for violence. The characters certainly do.
Rating: *** 1/2 out of 5 stars