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In the Cage
Cover of In the Cage
In the Cage

Daniel is one of the most feared cage-fighters in Mixed Martial Arts until an injury ruins his career. Forced back to rural Ontario, his career derailed, Daniel slips into a criminal world. Written in spare, muscular prose, In the Cage penetrates the heart of what it means to endure life in the underclass, and to find small happiness there.|

Daniel is one of the most feared cage fighters in Mixed Martial Arts, closing in on greatness until an injury ruins his career. Forced back to his rural hometown with his career derailed, he slips into the criminal underworld, moonlighting as muscle for a mid-level gangster he has known since childhood. Battling a cycle of rural poverty, Daniel and his wife Sarah struggle to secure a better life for their daughter, but in this violent and unpredictable world of back-country criminals and county cops, Daniel sparks a conflict that can only be settled in blood. Written in spare, muscular prose, In the Cage penetrates the heart of what it means to endure life in the underclass, revealing the small joys found there.

Daniel is one of the most feared cage-fighters in Mixed Martial Arts until an injury ruins his career. Forced back to rural Ontario, his career derailed, Daniel slips into a criminal world. Written in spare, muscular prose, In the Cage penetrates the heart of what it means to endure life in the underclass, and to find small happiness there.|

Daniel is one of the most feared cage fighters in Mixed Martial Arts, closing in on greatness until an injury ruins his career. Forced back to his rural hometown with his career derailed, he slips into the criminal underworld, moonlighting as muscle for a mid-level gangster he has known since childhood. Battling a cycle of rural poverty, Daniel and his wife Sarah struggle to secure a better life for their daughter, but in this violent and unpredictable world of back-country criminals and county cops, Daniel sparks a conflict that can only be settled in blood. Written in spare, muscular prose, In the Cage penetrates the heart of what it means to endure life in the underclass, revealing the small joys found there.

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About the Author-
  • Kevin Hardcastle's stories have appeared in Shenandoah, The Walrus, The New Quarterly, The Malahat Review, EVENT, PRISM International, and Joyland. His work has been anthologized in Best Canadian Stories, and twice in The Journey Prize Stories. His debut collection of short stories Debris (Biblioasis, 2015) won the 2016 Trillium Book Award. Hardcastle lives in Toronto.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 4, 2017
    Hardcastle’s debut novel (following the story collection Debris), all bare-bones sentences and salt-of-the-earth characters, will find a following with fans of Chuck Palahniuk. Daniel, the book’s scarred but hopeful protagonist, is an itinerant MMA fighter who returns to his depressed Ontario hometown after an injury sidelines him. He is soon jobless and has to become a local thug’s enforcer in order to support his family and pay his mortgage. Once released from that contract, he struggles to get by working as a welder. Before long, his dream to fight in the ring again collides catastrophically with a childhood friend now caught up in the town’s criminal underworld. The brutal, blood-soaked concluding chapters suggest that Daniel’s wife is wholly mistaken when she tells him, “We’ll make do.” Readers less smitten than the novel is with Daniel’s masculine physicality and capacity to inflict harm might find the bleakness of the setting overwrought and the Grand Guignol bloodiness less an insightful account of poverty in contemporary Canada than macho pulp fiction.

  • Kirkus

    August 15, 2017
    A mixed martial arts gladiator falls prey to local hoodlums when he and his family return home to rural Ontario. This debut novel by Canadian writer Hardcastle (Debris, 2016) is a scorched-earth crime story built out of brittle prose and barely suppressed violence. Our protagonist is Daniel, once a renowned cage fighter who has given up the sport due to injury and worries from his wife, Sarah, and young daughter, Madelyn. The first contemporary scene opens on the wreckage of Daniel's truck, stolen and trashed by a perturbed local. Daniel is something of a wreck himself, having returned to his hometown in shame and working odd jobs to get by. We soon learn that he's fallen in with an old friend of his father's named Clayton, a thug up to his ears in drugs, theft, and other crimes. Daniel is just providing muscle, but he finds his craving to fight runs deeper than he imagined. He starts training with Jasper, a trainer at a small gym. Asked if her husband is even fit to fight, Sarah says, "We won't know unless he actually fights....But, whatever he thinks, I don't believe he's the kind of man to just take this back up as a hobby." Finally, Daniel agrees to a competitive match in a local ballroom, with Clayton betting a significant sum on him to win. This is a masterful mashup between genres, matching the masculine violence of the cage match with country-tinged, Mamet-esque dialogue that elevates these characters into rich portraits of desperate people living for sheer survival. A crime novel with the pulse of a sports drama and the bitter toxicity of the best country noir.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Praise for In the Cage

    "The architecture of this first novel is faultlessly conceived; the construction of the storytelling is meticulously crafted ... The characters we love will break our hearts; the low-lifes we fear are no less indelibly rendered. There is an aura of foreboding--of tragic inevitability--to the collision course of their lives."--John Irving, author of The Cider House Rules

    Praise for Kevin Hardcastle's Debris

    "There is a sure-handed display of craftsmanship in these eleven stories ... Everyone gets hurt, but everything makes sense, and the storytelling is so good--the language, a soothing balm for the pain."--John Irving, The Cider House Rules

    "[Debris] has its own strong voice ... smoothly connected by uncompromising settings and Hardcastle's authentic, plainspoken country-noir voice, the 11 stories collected here will appeal to fans of gritty, back-country crime fiction, even those who typically shun short stories."

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