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Extended Audio Sample Champion of the World, by Chad Dundas Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Chad Dundas Narrator: Kevin Kenerly Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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In this stunning historical fiction debut set in the world of wrestling in the early 1920s, a husband and wife are set adrift in a place where everyone has something to hide and not even the fights can be taken at face value.

Late summer, 1921. Disgraced former lightweight champion Pepper Van Dean has spent the past two years on the carnival circuit performing the dangerous “hangman’s drop” and taking on all comers in nightly challenge bouts. But when he and his cardsharp wife, Moira, are marooned in the wilds of Oregon, Pepper accepts an offer to return to the world of wrestling as a trainer for Garfield Taft, a down-and-out African American heavyweight contender in search of a comeback and a shot at the world title.

At the training camp in rural Montana, Pepper and Moira soon realize that nothing is what it seems: not Taft, not the upcoming match, not even the training facility itself. With nowhere to go and no options left, Pepper and Moira must carefully navigate a world of gangsters, bootlegging, and fixed competitions, in the hope that they can carve out a viable future. A story of second chances and a sport at the cusp of major change, Champion of the World is a wonderful historical debut from an outstanding new talent in fiction.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Here’s one of the finest first novels in years, a gritty tale involving professional wrestling, bootlegging, and the byzantine strategies of cold-blooded con men and desperate grifters…My advice to anyone who loves brilliant storytelling is this: read Chad Dundas’ Champion of the World.

    Jeff Guinn, New York Times bestselling author

  • “A brilliant novel about life—and sport—at the cusp of the modern age, Champion of the World follows a down-and-out couple as they struggle to survive on their wits alone. Reminiscent of the best of early Cormac McCarthy, but with compelling female characters.”

    Philipp Meyer, New York Times bestselling author

  • “In 1920s America, when professional wrestling is in its dying years as a serious sport, one high-stakes contest brings together athletes, gangsters, and long-suffering women in this fine debut…The novel has the feel of noir but is rounder and richer than a Jim Thompson outing. Dundas…features a pared-down, punchy style that goes well with his characters’ basic raw ambitions and emotions.“

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “Rambunctious, page-turning…Dundas draws evocatively on the rich history of boxing in fiction and film…but layers the familiar archetypes with the fascinating history of ‘scientific wrestling.’ There’s a touch of The Hustler, too, thematically but also lyrically, with Pepper rhapsodizing about the beauty of wrestling much in the manner of Fast Eddie Felson musing on how his cue stick becomes an extension of his arm.”


  • Champion of the World is a debut with the masterful breadth and insight of a veteran talent’s work. The confluence of a sport and entertainment, gambling and gangsterism is illuminated on every page, as Chad Dundas burrows into the tangled roots of American wrestling. Tragic and by turns hopeful, Champion of the World is a showcase bout full of reversals, grit, and spirit.”

    Smith Henderson, author of Fourth of July Creek

  • “Chad Dundas’ novel Champion of the World sets us squarely down in 1921 and brings it vividly to life. Moira and Pepper Van Dean feel like a real couple. The tense buildup to the wrestling matches is outstanding, and the pleasure of the matches themselves is that their outcome cannot be predicted. A terrific debut.”

    David Fuller, author of Sundance

  • “Smart and flinty, Chad Dundas’ archetypal debut is a sprawling, brawling yarn populated by gangsters and carnies, bootleggers, hucksters and early-day wrestlers—characters who, in their irresistibility, fairly drag you along by the throat through page after compelling page. A piercing and at times heartrending examination of the universal quest to reach our own championship, be it the big payday, enduring love, or mere survival in a ruthless world.”

    Kim Zupan, author of The Ploughmen

  • Champion of the World is professional wrestling of the 1920s in full roar. It bristles with heroes, schemes, bootleggers, shysters, twists, romance, and excitement. Dundas knows wrestling, scene making, and a good plot. The result is this vivid and cinematic portrait of a sport, and a culture, in flux.”

    Deirdre McNamer, author of One Sweet Quarrel

  • “This story is set in the 1920s, in the midst of Prohibition, which provides a vibrant backdrop for the tale of an ambitious athlete and a former champion hoping to redeem himself. Readers won’t be able to help but root for Pepper and Garfield in this winning debut.”


  • A BookRiot Pick of New Books for July 2016
  • A Boston Globe Pick of the Best Books of 2016
  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award
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