I loved this book. I just wanted to get that out at the start. It’s rare that I find a book, especially an indie one, that grips me like this.
Cage Life tells the story of Mickey Watts, a cage fighter whose family have always had ties to the Mafia in New York. Mickey had avoided becoming a part of “The Life” until one night, when standing up for his cousin, he hits the wrong man. The son of a Mafia boss.
Mickey’s life changes drastically as he is dragged into the depths of the criminal underworld of New York, not as a big player, but rather as a pawn in someone else’s game. He has to bring the determination and resolve that has always served him in the cage to all aspects of his life just to survive.
Mickey is an intriguing protagonist for the tale. He has the physical prowess that is common in traditional heroes and this is matched by his mental agility. Not especially clever, but smarter than many in his world, this is a college educated cage fighter. This unusual combination could seem incongruous or, even worse, leave him as some kind of superhero is a normal world. The quality of Watson’s character writing is that Mickey never seems out of place. His physical aptitudes are counteracted by his penchant for making bad decisions, stupid decisions and emotional decisions. Mickey’s life is a constant cycle of picking up the pieces from his latest mistake and that makes him relatable and sympathetic.
Watson’s own experiences are clearly seen throughout the book, his personal martial arts training and knowledge adds an authenticity to the fights, so often climactic moments for Mickey, that would be difficult for another to replicate. Watson’s years of experience working in law enforcement adds the same level of reality to his understanding of the operations of the Mafia within New York.
But this book is about more than authenticity, it’s about the characters, it’s about the atmosphere created, it’s about being gripped by the story.
The smoky gambling dens, the meets in abandoned warehouses, the showdowns in the cage. The sleazy made men, the whores, the gamblers, the old hands. It all fits together in a memorable and compelling fashion.
I do have one complaint for the author. Mickey Watts? Really? A little bit close to Miles Watson, isn’t it?
Tongue in cheek complaints aside, I think the greatest testament to Watson’s writing is that the moment I finished Cage Life, I reached for the sequel (Knuckle Down) and kept reading without a beat in between..
I’m delighted to be able to say that Miles is being interviewed for an upcoming Featured Friday piece in the near future!
Reviewed by PD Richmond