Peerless Jim: Book review

  • Alexander Cordell, Peerless Jim(Hodder and Stoughton Ltd, London, 1984)

    Base of the Jim Driscoll statue in Cardiff

    Base of the Jim Driscoll statue in Cardiff

Alexander Cordell, the prolific novelist and author of such works as Rape of the Fair Country and the Hosts of Rebecca, turned his attention to the great Jim Driscoll for one of the later books of his career, Peerless Jim.

Billed as a ‘story of the early 20th century that moves between south Wales, London and the USA’, the novel is a fictional account of Driscoll’s life and times, but the author claimed that:

“A very few names have been altered to protect the living, but it includes known facts from the ring career of perhaps the greatest boxer who has ever lived.”

Cordell’s style is too over-blown for my tastes, but the book captures the colour and community of Cardiff’s Newtown area in the early twentieth century.

The author gives entertaining descriptions of the lost world of the boxing booths, of fighting at the National Sporting Club, and of Driscoll’s legendary showdown with Freddie Welsh.

However, many doubt the veracity of Cordell’s claim that the book is based on ‘known facts’ and there are many problems with the descriptions of boxers, the timeline of events and a variety of other ‘facts’ presented in the work.

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