(Low)life: A Memoir of Jazz, Fight-Fixing, and the Mob

Hamilcar. Jun. 2021. 304p. ISBN 9781949590197. $30. CRIME
In this somewhat convoluted memoir, a musician–turned–crooked boxing manager reflects on his life. Growing up in Boston, Farrell was a talented jazz pianist who played gigs in mob-run clubs, gambled, and ran scams that included taking the SATs for well-off students. After an argument over money, he left the music business and became a boxing manager, whose clients included Mitch “Blood” Green and Fernely Feliz. The title (Low)life is fitting, as Farrell describes bribing boxing officials and fixing fights. Readers with a passing familiarity with Farrell’s name probably know him for his boxing schemes, but this memoir gives equal weight to his stories of odd bars, talentless musicians, and shadowy figures he encountered in Las Vegas, Florida, and New England. Humorous and at times bordering on crude, Farrell’s narrative is jarring—he jumps from discussing how he played with musician Sonny Rollins to unrelated accounts of club owners or gigs gone wrong. Still, Farrell is an insider in a world that few know; his experiences, particularly as a musician, are revealing, and he insightfully relays the frustrations of a talented artist stymied by his surroundings, his choices, and, on occasion, circumstances beyond his control.
VERDICT A meandering deep dive into entertainment underworlds.
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