Neugeboren, Jay. “Max Baer and the Star of David: A Novel”, Mandel Vilar, 2016.
The Heavyweight Champion
“Max Baer and the Star of David” is author Jay Neugeboren’s twenty-second book and it is focused on the life of the world heavyweight champion Max Baer. In 1933 Baer (who was one-quarter Jewish and wore a Star of David on his boxing trunks), won the greatest fight of his career, defeating Nazi Germany’s heavyweight champion, Max Schmeling, in front of a crowd of 60,000 fans. A year later, he earned the heavyweight title defeating Primo Carnera in 1934 in front of 50,000 fans at Madison Square Garden Bowl. Baer was a flashy performer and showman who was a source of entertainment for America during the Great Depression. At the pinnacle of his fame, he starred in more than a dozen movies, played the vaudeville circuits, and was romantically linked to innumerable starlets, showgirls, socialites, and Broadway actresses.
Neugeboren has created fictional characters that interact with boxing champion Max Baer. At the center of the novel are two mysterious and memorable fictional creations, Horace and Joleen Littlejohn, who were constantly with Baer and who presented themselves to the world as husband and wife, when, in fact, they were brother and sister. They become best friends and sometime lovers to Max in this dazzling story about the world of boxing, and about Max’s life in and out of the ring. Horace is the narrator of the story and he takes us into an is interracial love triangle that is set in a world where love and violence are part of the way things happen. So we not only learn about the golden age of boxing but also about breaking a taboo. The characters are epic and the story is fascinating, one that you will want to read over and over again.