Books: Them's Fighting Words

The author of Million Dollar Baby saved his knockout first novel for the very last round

As writers go, F.X. Toole was not one of your precocious, dewy-eyed Iowa Writers' Workshop debutants. He attended the M.F.A. program of hard knocks. If his author's bio is to be believed, he was a taxi driver, saloon keeper, bullfighter (really?) and, most notably and relevantly, a boxing trainer and cut man. Toole (a pseudonym) was also the author of the story collection Rope Burns, best known for the short story Million Dollar Baby, which became a movie of the same name. Rope Burns was Toole's literary debut. He was 70.

Toole never saw Hilary Swank get that second Oscar. He...

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