AshEdit—News About Books & Writers

February 18, 2018

​Jonathan Brown’s Boxing Novel Pay$ Off​

A Dealmaking & Dollar$ post

Dealmaking & Dollar$

When an impressive publisher of biographical fiction needed a writer who could turn in a muscular, sports-savvy manuscript on the life of  ​boxing ​legend Angelo Dundee, they tapped Jonathan Brown. For the uninitiated, Dundee was arguably the greatest trainer that ever lived. He coached Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard, and ​many ​more. The Dundee list of grand-champion gladiators goes on and on.

Angelo & Ali

Angelo Dundee (L) and Muhammad Ali, seated

The minute Brown clinched the writing assignment—and the juicy five-figure advance that went along with it—he contacted me. Would I like to edit his work before turning it in to the publishing house editors? Would I??!!

Jonathan head (1)

Jonathan Brown

Brown and I had just finished editing his roaring, rollicking manuscript about drummer Lou Crasher, a struggling black drummer in Los Angeles who is forced to go undercover to bust a musical equipment theft ring. (The Big Crescendo just landed a two-book deal at Down and Out Books). I was familiar with Brown’s stand-out voice, visceral action and relentless pace. As writer and editor, we were a well-tuned, high-octane team ready to rumble on the challenges Angelo Dundee presented with his roster of gloved greats.

The challenge was to bring the softer, more personal side of Dundee, including his family, to the story. It may seem surprising that a rock-‘em’sock-’em tale ​wanted to ​show that side, but family was highly evident in Dundee’s real life, so it had to go in the ​novel. This was one trainer as concerned with ​a​ boxer’s mental health and positive outlook as he was in the physical. The “sweet science” as insiders call the boxing life, is a lot more than throwing punches. The mental aspect separates true champs from those that never rise in the ring.

Angelo & Ali laughing

ALI laughing with the press, DUNDEE to the right, partial face showing. Photo credit:

In order to land this assignment, Brown submitted a 23-page chapter outline​. After a few back-and-forths, the in-house editors signed off  ​and he set to writing. Two months later, he had 50,000 words which he sent to me. In my first read, I was looking for structure. Did the story rise and fall at the right moments? Did the story flow logically from beginning to middle to end? The answer was a resounding ‘yes.’ Thanks to our intense work on The Big Crescendo, Brown had internalized the rhythm and sequence of a bestselling novel. He was able to transfer everything he’d learned to Angelo Dundee.

 Once I determined that the structure of the story was intact, I made sure each chapter set-up was crystal clear with a few visuals thrown in to paint pictures in the reader’s mind. Then I ​hunted for places where historical details could round out the atmosphere of each chapter. Who was President of the United States during each period of Angelo’s career?  What were the trends in music, fashion and popular culture? Quick references t​o​ famous milestones of each decade were briefly sketched to add texture and depth​.​

One ​aspect that needed no help was Brown’s distinctive dialogue for each character. As a professional drummer, he had an ear for the spoken word that was uncannily realistic. As an editor, my only challenge was preserving the colloquial integrity of the dialogue throughout the line edit, proofing and punctuation.

Jon drums

Jonathan Brown playing a pro gig in Los Angeles.

Finally, Brown felt he had a polished first draft. Soon after, the in-house editors weighed in. “Really delightful” was the leading comment ​prefacing a page of minor notes. The manuscript was enthusiastically accepted, a few small changes requested, and the final draft commenced. This means another satisfying payday is coming for Brown. I hear a family vacation is in the works.

Does this mean Brown is casting around for a new writing project? No​t hardly. While he waits for Down and Out Books to release The Big Crescendo, we are busy finalizing the outline of book two in the series. Brown has ​also decided to self-publish a series of novellas based on the turbulent life of black Los Angeles bouncer Doug “Moose” McCrae, which will serve to marshal a readership and keep social media buzzing until the D&OB release. Brown and I brainstormed this strategic blend of self-and-traditional publishing, then ran it past Eric Campbell, CEO of D&OB for his approval. The green light came back and our plan is now ‘Go.’

D&OB logo

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Champange 3 (1)

Elaine, Jonathan and Dan Kelly (Sonia Mauro Brown behind the camera)


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