Born in the Bahamas but raised in four of the five New York boroughs, excluding the Bronx, from age seven onwards, Neil J. Smith was the fifth child of ten children. He says I was ill-educated in as many schools and did not receive an education until he discovered the library system.
He started boxing at the age of 12 and went on to win various amateur awards for the next 12 years, including the All Army Champion. He organized for various civil rights groups, the 5th Avenue Peace Parade Committee, and finally The Black Panther Party.
After that sojourn, Neil studied creative writing, literature, and poetry at NYU with William Packard, author, editor, professor, and founder of the prestigious New York Quarterly, where Neil was vice president for 15 years. He now lives upstate with his wife where he continues to write.
Visit the author’s Website.
On The Ropes is the story of a young black fighter, Percival Jones, whose bid for the 1968 Olympic Gold is sidetracked by the successive deaths of both Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, six weeks apart. Here his life spins off course, he loses his purpose, becomes misdirected, and drifts into the ranks of The Black Panther Party, where every ideal for which the Panthers stood turns into betrayals, suicide, fratricide, insanity, etc.
He is eventually cast out of the Party for not submitting to a scopolamine test, thus facilitating his return to the ring where he claws his way up the ranks and surmounts the difficulties which accompany such a climb along with other unforeseen hazards until, at long last, a title shot is within reach. Where-upon his complicity in the death of his brother is unearthed, jeopardizing his freedom and prospects for a title bout. On The Ropes is a modern rendering of the mythic hero overcoming insuperable obstacles while on the way to unraveling the mystery of his assigned destiny.
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Neil J. Smith delivers a powerful tale that lingers with you in “On the Ropes.” A realistic view of the sixties, the story follows the trials and tribulations of aspiring Olympic boxer Percival Jones as he deals with the aftermath of significant events in his life. From hearing the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to dealing with issues regarding the mother of his son, the author offers a no-holds-barred approach to a black man’s experience in America.
The book is full of distinct imagery combined with Smith’s mastery of words. He evokes a pain that many people can relate to: From constantly proving your worth to having your dreams disappear in a flash. The collective experience of being black in America is as unique and relevant as it is today. While the story takes place in the sixties, there is no doubt that readers would find the life of Percival Jones as relatable as today.
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