The Murder of Sonny Liston: Las Vegas, Heroin, and Heavyweights by Shaun Assael
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Sonny Liston is a fascinating character. He was born and raised in very difficult circumstances – abused, neglected and was almost invisible to the world – an irony for a child who grew up so large. He somehow managed to become one of the best fighter not simply for his generation but also regarded often as top boxer of all times. As a man he was full of flaws, but not without virtue. Yet most people only saw him as a junkie, womaniser and an illiterate angry black criminal. And so his death was duly ignored and dismissed by the public. His talent for boxing was just astonishing I often wondered what great heights he might have attained if things hadn’t been this rough for him at the start.
Shaun Assael painted a complete picture of his life through the eyes of everyone – those who used him, despised him, those who loved him and believed him, and those who simply understood him and put up with his terrible habits. The book was written in a true journalistic observational style, with little interceding personal opinions. He covered all grounds and explored as much as he could, exhausting every avenue of the mystery surrounding Liston’s death. Every concerns, no matter how sensitive or unsavoury was discussed. Tragically, there was little that can be done today with such an enormous time lapse.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It was an easy read for a non-fiction with such a large cast of colourful characters, each playing a complicated role in that complex world where law enforcement and criminals were divided by a blurred line. It also shed some light on the beginnings of Las Vegas, with a few unexpected personalities such as Frank Sinatra – rather informative.