Today I wanted to tackle a book that is not hugely known but is still very near and dear to my heart. Tietam Brown, by Mick Foley, is not a NYT bestseller, but it is a hidden gem that anyone with even a passing interest in pro wrestling should take it upon themselves to read some time. I've always been a huge wrestling fan, and my upcoming novel Blood In The Holler is something of a twisted love letter to that industry, so I was all too eager to snatch up Foley's first novel. He'd written two memoirs beforehand, both of which were NYT bestsellers, but I guess the stigma of a "wrassler" writing books had begun to catch up with him by then.
Foley was always a fantastic wrestler, but I was legitimately shocked to discover he's also a very talented writer. When most memoirs from stars are actually written by ghost writers working off notes from the celebrity, Foley always stubbornly insisted on writing them himself. And they were great! But a novel, like Tietam Brown, is a very different beast to wrangle. And I know from bitter experience that even today people in the industry have a very dim view on wrestling (I had one agent tell me my novel wouldn't find an audience because the people who watch wrestling aren't the same people who like to read. I look forward to proving him wrong). It was only worse in the early 2000's. And even though it had a very muted response upon release, I was still eager to use it as one of my comps when I was querying publishers about my own novel. That broke the rule about only using novels from the past 3-5 years, but frankly there are not many novels that deal with pro wrestlers anyway. Really I just know of one. This one.
My immediate thought upon reading this was "Here's a crossover between Wrestlemania and The Catcher In The Rye." It's got all the hallmark turns of the best long-term wrestling storylines comfortably ensconced in a very different type of coming-of-age tale. Sprinkle in a bit of The Graduate for good measure, and you have Tietam Brown. I think, if the book were released today, it would have found a much wider audience. But when it was published, no one really knew what to do with it. People were too distracted by the fact that Foley is a wrestler to realize that he's also a damned good writer. So do yourselves a favor and find a copy where you can. You'll be glad you did.