Zakk reviews “Turning Face” by Terry M. West. 133 pages published by Pleasant Storm Entertainment, Inc.
Overall score: 5/5
“‘Tojo, I can’t tell you why the devil wants this,’ Mr. Blickenderfer said. ‘The script is written in the pits and we are all given our roles to play, programs to work and angles to maintain. It is for the good of the business, eh? You have used that term enough in your career. We are all merely pawns.'”
Between the early 80’s and early 90’s I was a pretty big wrestling fan. My father introduced me while watching on a weekend afternoon during one of his rare sober moments. The family was living in Oklahoma, on one of our numerous location changes. I don’t remember exactly who was wrestling, a regional outfit I’m sure, but I remember enjoying that moment with dad, one of our few moments, and one of the even fewer enjoyable moments, together. Pop’s explaining the sport to me, the nuances of the characters and the crowds. It was magic.
My fandom developed more after permanently moving in with my grandmother. Staying up for the “Saturday Night Main Event” program, trying to anyway, or the rare prime time special. And then with the advent of ppv, Wrestlemania. Which my grandmother would order for my birthday, along with all other subsequent ppv’s. Cheering for the Hulkster, Andre the Giant, JYD and Ricky Steamboat. Jeering Rowdy Roddy Piper, Big John Stud, King Kong Bundy, Nikolai Volkov, Iron Sheik and the Macho Man Randy Savage. Secretly I rooted for the heels, and secretly I had a crush on Miss Elizabeth, but really, who didn’t?
I knew that matches were scripted, but in the moment, it was all real. You could tell by the faces and reactions of folks in the audience, everyday people just like me who were all-in, all the time. Anything could and would happen. There was an electric charge, an excitement generated when the theme music for a favored character queued up, a bitter anger when a villain, a heel, pulled brass knucks out of his drawers to turn the tide. But as the years moved on, as the spectacle of professional wrestling became more outlandish and less organic, my interest waned.
The highest praise that I can give “Turning Face” is that it made me miss being a wrestling fan. Made me miss that moment with my father, and again the moments with my grandmother. It brought a strong feeling of nostalgia for the 80’s breed of professional wrestling, before sports entertainment, before Titantrons, before Vince “MackMahon”. It sparked the memory of the electrical current that ran through every spectator, and in turn, through me.
“Turning Face” is classic Terry M. West. Naturally and immediately engaging, highly captivating and purely entertaining. With a main character that is instantly lovable. You follow numerous organic characters, in-ring and out, and outlandish demonic characters, through their lives, through the business, through the orchestrating of matches and story lines. But when the bell rings, it all feels real. Mr. West makes it all feel real again, once again anything can and will happen.
When the final battle erupts, when the real players (the obvious & not so obvious) reveal themselves…. it’s electric, and exciting, and awesome. Ring the bell, throw your hands in the air & go buy a T-shirt.
Do you need to be a wrestling fan to enjoy “Turning Face”? I don’t think so. Be prepared to look up some wrasslin’ jargon, I did and I’m not ashamed to admit that. Mr. West has a way of making everyone feel welcome while capturing their attention. Just know that this is written by a man that loves wresting, and while the story is charming and, for the most part, lighthearted, it gives the subject matter of professional wrestling complete and unadulterated respect.
“Turning Face” is a main event headlining novella with a final act that hits with the force of a Jackknife Powerbomb. You’ll erupt from your seat chanting “Tojo, Tojo, Tojo.” Ring the bell! WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Zakk is a big dumb animal… and a wrestling fan again.