This was my first time attending ThrillerFest, the annual conference of thriller writers held in New York City, created by the International Thriller Writers organization, of which I’m a member. As my book was released in the year leading up to this conference, I was part of the Debut Authors panel, and was given the opportunity to briefly speak about my journey as a writer to the entire conference. It was a magnificent experience. Both being back in New York City, a place I love, after several years away, and meeting so many wonderful, interesting, and welcoming writers. The panel, the parties, the networking, the awards ceremony, it was, to put it simply, a great and valuable time for me. My fellow debut authors are people I hope to be friends with for a long time.
This sharp review succinctly captures so much of Undercard, especially its visceral intensity. From The Minerva Reader:
A visceral no-holds-barred novel that’s as tight and strong as the bodies that populate it. The book grabs you from the get-go, it’s a compelling, character-driven tough-guy revenge story about life’s disappointments and the self-acceptance of being a bench starter. There are lots of sporting analogies for the failed relationships and scars of the wars of adult life, both figuratively and literally. It’s a gritty and powerful read and the characters will leave you hoping there’s a sequel in the works. This is a true Vegas tale of winner takes all – but do they really?
This profile over at CJN gives great detail on my background, and how some of the things that I was exposed to growing up helped shape the themes and focuses of Undercard.
Here’s an excerpt from the article:
For Albertyn, blending sport and literature has been decades in the making. He started writing short stories at age six, in his native South Africa, inspired by stories his mom wrote when she was that young.
“I always thought, as a kid, it was a foregone conclusion that I’d be a bestselling author,” he recalls.
But those dreams fell by the wayside when he fell into the sporting life. His father loved competition, and would challenge his son to road and swimming races. When the family moved to Toronto in 1993, his father bought him a punching bag and hung it from the rafters of their garage. Albertyn didn’t learn any proper techniques, but he did learn to love exercise. Tennis coaching came as naturally to him as cross-training in the boxing ring.
For the full profile, feel free to visit CJN here.
This podcast interview with Njoroge Mungai is much longer than any of the interviews I’ve done to this point, and in a relaxed atmosphere with great questions, I was able to go into considerable depth on how Undercard came to be, my writing process, and how my writing career developed. It was a really enjoyable experience for me, and I think that comes across in how many jokes there were and how much I laughed.
“Colourfully descriptive with a charm that persists throughout, Undercard brings new life to a genre of storytelling that’s popularity has seen peaks and valleys… We’ve never seen a boxing story quite like this one… But Undercard isn’t just a boxing novel; it’s a thriller, with twists and turns that will leave you breathless… When a book like Albertyn’s comes along, it reminds you why you fell in love with sport stories in the first place.”
The review by The Post Millenial is a lot longer than the previous ones and gives a much fuller picture of the book and its strengths. Worth reading if you want to learn more about the book or see how it has been received. Definitely a piece I will cherish.
So excited to be participating in this event by First Book Canada. Raising money to provide books for young people. Racquet sports, books, and social outreach, this event was made for me. You can find out more about Pongapalooza here.
The Globe and Mail reviewed Undercard along with five other thrillers in this article. What was thrilling for me was seeing my name and book in the paper. I would’ve been excited enough about that, but for the review to be so favourable, it was a special moment. “Albertyn is a writer to watch.” To see that written in Canada’s foremost newspaper was definitely a validating experience.
Here’s Margaret Cannon’s full review:
If I were to rank my favourite sports from one to 100, boxing would come in at about 512. The two men or women beating each other to a pulp is so far from my idea of entertainment that I managed to skip seeing Rocky for decades. So when I say that a mystery about boxing and boxers kept me reading intently, you know it has to be better than good. Undercard, a debut novel by Toronto author David Albertyn, is that book.
The setting is Las Vegas, and the centrepiece is a championship match at a glittering casino. The match will be broadcast live, attended by the rich and beautiful, and make fortunes for promoters and cable companies. Three local men are loosely involved: Tyron Shaw is a decorated Marine just returned after 11 years in assorted wars; Keenan Quinn is a Las Vegas cop who has just been acquitted in the death of a local black teenager; and Antoine Deco, a boxer and an ex-con.
At a family gathering to welcome him home, Tyron gets updates on his two childhood friends and old friends of his parents urge him to to lend his stature as a decorated war veteran to bolster the protests in support of his old pal. His other friend, Antoine, is on the undercard for the championship bout. Pals can get ringside seats. Tyron is urged to ask although he and Antoine haven’t been in contact. The entire story covers just 24 hours, including the the bout and the protest, and more than one murder. The action is fast, the dialogue crisp, and, while the end is a bit contrived, there’s a good tight plotline to follow. Albertyn is a writer to watch.
It was definitely exciting when I learned that I was going to be on Global’s The Morning Show. The experience reminded me of the first time going on a ski lift. My publicist and I are waiting in the wings, the broadcast cuts to commercial, and I’m led out onto the set to meet the hosts. Are you in the right spot, are you ready, doesn’t matter, the chair lift’s here, and you’re whisked away to zip down the mountain. Like skiing it was exhilarating and over very quickly. Ironically I was more nervous the following day when I watched the recording. Like the billboards, a surreal experience.
I was very grateful to be featured in Humber College’s ad campaign on university campuses across southern Ontario. These billboards promoted Humber’s School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCAPA), which includes the Humber School for Writers, where I developed Undercard. When they asked me to do a photo shoot, I was told it was for their brochure. I had no idea I was going to end up on billboards. I only found out when friends started sending me pics of my face on bus stops. It was surreal to say the least.
Here I made a list of Canadian sports books, fiction and non, that manage to combine sports with great storytelling. These books also document struggle and engage with societal issues. Exactly what I tried to do in Undercard.