The Fists of the Father by Daniel Tamone

Reviewed by Rod McLary

The evocative title and cover image – a teenage boy with bloodied knuckles – offers a preview of what will be found within the book’s covers.  This debut novel by Daniel Tamone explores the far-reaching effects of family violence and the challenges inherent in any attempt to leave them behind.

The key protagonist is Teddy Taylor – sometimes known as ‘Little Boy Blue’ – the son of Ron who was once a two-time champion boxer.  Ron fell into disgrace but is now on the cusp of a successful comeback.  Teddy is also a championship boxer but has had two recent ignominious losses which have dented his reputation.  But Teddy and his sister Jodie have a tragic backstory.  Teddy and his mother were frequently the target of Ron’s anger and the all-too-ready use of his fists against them both; until Teddy at age sixteen turned the tables on Ron and beat him up.  Tragically in Teddy’s eyes at least, this incident led to his mother driving away and not ever returning.  She died in a single vehicle accident – an accident for which Teddy blames himself.

There are two important themes running through this book – the long-lasting impact of family violence on children, and the dark side of boxing and its promotion essentially driven by money and profit.  Both themes make for a challenging read.  The detailed descriptions of the bouts suggest a real knowledge of the sport and the machinations behind the scenes.  The reader can almost feel and hear the blows between the boxers in the ring.

But there is also the intensely personal narrative as Teddy struggles with his chosen sport, his relationships with his father and grandfather, and the aftermath of the violence.  Interspersed through the narrative are flashbacks when Teddy’s mind returns to the time before his mother’s death.  These flashbacks describe the intensity of the violence and the ever-present uncertainty of when the violence may manifest itself; and the descriptions – though not many in number – provoke a visceral response in the reader.

But there are also glimmers of hope as Teddy begins to confront some of the critical issues from his past and moves towards – perhaps – some form of reconciliation with his father.  It is by any measure a tough journey and it is the quality of the writing which ensures that the reader is right alongside Teddy as he faces his demons.

Daniel Tamone has crafted a novel which demands attention as it confronts the family’s three-generational cycle of violence and the destruction wreaked on those subject to it.  While some sections are confronting, it is nevertheless a narrative which engages the reader from the beginning.  Teddy is an attractive protagonist who is struggling not to be defined by his past and to move to a more hopeful future.  The reader can only hope that he makes it.

The author played several seasons with a rugby union football team the Parrmatta Two Blues [now the Western Sydney Two Blues]; and currently works in the financial sector.  He lives on the NSW Central Coast with his wife and three children.  The Fists of the Father is his first novel.

The Fists of the Father


by Daniel Tamone

Echo Publishing

ISBN: 978 17606 8857 8

$32.99; 301pp



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