Book Review: “The Murder of Sonny Liston …”

The Murder of Sonny Liston-by Shaun Assael

  • DougInNC book review

Author Assael delivers on two counts. The title suggests this is an investigative work, plus the pages pack a rich story as a complement. Pick your pleasure or appreciate both.

Most readers will pursue this work for the tale’s murder-mystery aspect. The depth and commitment to digging for facts are admirable. There is plenty of meat to chew, served in courses easily digested.

Will you be satiated, comprehending that Charles “Sonny” Liston might have met his fate at the hand of another, just as the writer suspects? The adventure ride to uncover his discoveries is worth the price of this ticket to the roller-coaster life of a legendary sports figure.

I enjoyed the book’s descriptions of Las Vegas history on par with the intrigue around title character. The time period was heavily researched and captured well. The next time visiting “sin city,” I’ll be looking past the present glitter to the past portrayed here.

There is sufficient background for readers unfamiliar with the famous and infamous of the boxing world, a universe neither limited to nor controlled by the pugilists. The 1960s, we learn, included massive troves of howling fans, lurking characters, and prying governmental entities weighing into the fray. There was much symbolic as well as true good and evil. While presenting the dynamics of the sport, the work stays focused on its end-of-a-life story.

For many readers, the author will not deliver the convincing knock-out blow that Mr. Liston was murdered. However, there is intrigue and there are mental images herein that one might not find anywhere else. The pages transport you to a different world, a real world, a recent past, a time and place. That is what a work like this should do, and this one does it well.

Full title:
The Murder of Sonny Liston: Las Vegas, Heroin, and Heavyweights

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