This latest in the Fight Card series (with David Foster behind the Jack Tunney byline for a second time) is another case where a rousing fight climax is cleverly interwoven with historical events and people --- such as most recently done with the JFK assassination and a fictionalized extension of the life of pulp writer icon Robert E. Howard.
This time around, the historical figure – as clearly indicated by the title – is Australia's infamous, romanticized, Robin Hood-like outlaw/folk hero, Ned Kelly. Although author Foster manages to incorporate much of Kelly's brief, violent history (he was hanged at age 25) via a "framing" device in which Kelly is talking to a priest before going to the gallows, the main thrust of the tale involves a bare knuckle fight between a young Ned and another rowdy Irishman named Isaiah "Wild" Wright. In an Afterward, Foster reveals that the fight actually did take place, although it may not have been on as grand a scale as re-told here. Kelly and Wright would go on to become good friends and Wright would even become a member of Kelly's gang in later years.
Foster (an Australian himself) clearly knows and has a fondness for his subject matter. His writing style is fast-paced, with frequent cuts in and out of different scenes building up to the prolonged and exciting climactic big fight. A strong sense of time (late 1800s) and place is conveyed, enriched by the use of local slang and a wide range of colorful characters.
All and all, an exciting, rollicking good tale that leaves you feeling as if you were given some real insight into Ned Kelly and the hard, harsh circumstances of the time in which he lived, fought, and rebelled.
You're sure to have a good time with this one.