Mick Foley's greatest strength and weakness as a novelist is that
people know who he is. Foley used to make his living as a
professional wrestler, in multiple personas such as "Cactus Jack
Manson," "Mankind," and "Foley", which were alternately malevolent
and (from a fan standpoint) benevolent but always slightly wacky.
Foley retired a few years ago but is apparently mulling a return to
the ring; in the interim, he has made the transition to author.
Foley has written two nonfiction bestsellers, HAVE A NICE DAY and
FOLEY IS GOOD, and has written a couple of children's books, but
TIETAM BROWN is his first foray into the world of written
TIETAM BROWN is a surprisingly confident work for a first novel. It
is primarily the story of a couple of months in the life of
Antietam (Andy) Brown, a high school senior who is largely
unpopular but for the winsome and improbable attentions of Terri
Lynn Johnson --- cheerleader, minister's daughter, and most popular
girl in town. Brown is slightly off-kilter, deserted by his father
at birth (an event that also resulted in the death of his
Brown has been in and out of foster homes and detention centers
when his long-lost father finally makes contact and bring him home.
Antietam Brown IV is hardly a role model, parading a series of bed
partners in front of his son and adhering to the "three strikes"
rule. Johnson would appear to be Andy's salvation and, indeed, in
many ways she is. She also, alas, has the power to destroy him, a
process that Andy seems to almost haplessly encourage. There
additionally are surprises in store for both father and son, few of
which are pleasant. It is as if their lives are salted.
TIETAM BROWN is hardly an uplifting story; the violence is graphic,
brutal and at times gratuitous, and a majority of the sexual
couplings have an air of oneupsmanship and forced activity as
opposed to true sharing of passion. This is a world however that
definitely exists, though relatively few of us know of it. Foley
also does a first-rate job --- does he ever --- of capturing the
angst of the teenage high school male. Although TIETAM BROWN is, at
least as I understand it, non-autobiographical, some of the
passages certainly have the ring of truth about them.
While TIETAM BROWN is not CATCHER IN THE RYE, it is an interesting,
and at times riveting, coming-of-age novel from a writer who may
have a depth of talent that has yet to be plumbed.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011