Fight club 

Mick Foley's fiction debut, Tietam Brown, is, most likely, review proof.

The book is bound to sell no matter how much anyone slams the loose bundle of cliches that narrowly qualifies as a novel. Foley, also known as Mankind, is a much-loved three-time WWF champion who ruled the ring for 15 years. The "Hardcore Legend" (which our staff wrestlemaniac tells me means he bled a lot) found writing success in 1999 with his memoir, Have a Nice Day. Both it and its sequel hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

Rabid wrestling fans will most likely lap up Tietam Brown, even if its author knows more about breaking bones than crafting prose. The book tells the story of rage-fueled teen "Andy" Antietam Brown, just out of reform school for killing an older boy who tried to rape him. Enter Andy's long-lost dad, who gives his son a fresh start in upstate New York and introduces him to porn and booze. Soon enough he's dating the homecoming queen but attracts the fury of a megalomaniac football coach.

The title character, named after the Civil War's bloodiest day, has a mangled hand and a missing ear (a detail lifted from Foley's own life), and in true pro-wrestling form, the book delivers gory fights galore. Even the dullest readers will catch the none-too-veiled Freudian subtext, with adolescent fears of child molesters and meditations on masturbation. The novel's women, all saintly, have a bad habit of dying, while the men are enraged bullies often looking for man-on-man action.

It may sound engaging on paper, but Tietam Brown screams for an editor to cut cliches and throttle the author's frat-boyish attempts at humor. Foley's writing feels like a cheap imitation of Russell Banks, whose Rule of the Bone finds a similar juvenile delinquent in search of a father figure. Unfortunately Foley, unlike Banks, shows zero grace in his prose. He usually bangs out his theme like he's brandishing a metal chair.

The author in his wrestling career was known for taking a beating but coming back for more. Too bad he expects his fans to endure the same abuse.

Mick Foley appears July 15, 7 p.m., at Chapter 11 Discount Books, 875 Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road, Lawrenceville. 770-822-2650.

Shelf Space is a weekly column on books and Atlanta's literary scene.



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