|Bull in the Ring
by Al Ortolani
ISBN: 978-1-956578-42-3EBOOK: 978-1-956578-43-0
FICTION / Small Town & Rural
FICTION / Coming of Age
FICTION / Historical / General
Armed with only poetry and wit, Danny wears his dead father’s army jacket and copes with the string of losers and abusers brought home by his mother. Will he find direction before he reaches the end of this dead-end road life has handed to him?
What Readers are Saying:
Al Ortolani’s Bull in the Ring manages to conjure other great coming-of-age stories—think The Catcher in the Rye, think The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian—while being “in a football conference all its own.” Danny Prego is an instantly iconic protagonist, masking deep hurt and insecurity with careful bravado and one-liners, with his dad’s boots that make him taller and the dream of a letter jacket that will make him feel like someone. Bull in the Ring is a time capsule of a book that made me nostalgic for an era before I was even born.
—Melissa Fite Johnson, author of Green (Riot in Your Throat, 2021)
Al Ortolani’s crisp prose, peppered with poetry, grabs the reader and doesn’t let go. Will Danny find an exit on that dead-end road? Bull in the Ring is fiction, but its story is true. It takes place in my town. It takes place in yours. Don’t take my word for it. Read it for yourself.
—Michael D. Graves, author of Human Shadow, Pete Stone Private Investigator series
Life to teen Danny Prego is one long series of hard knocks, from an alcoholic single mother and her dangerous boyfriend to finding trouble at school. Danny reads his reality like a football team and game, always getting back up and out of the mud and muck, regardless of how hard the tackles are. Just as he thinks he’s found secure footing in the circle of senior football players, life comes at Danny from all angles, then deals him a blow that will either take him to his knees or show him the way forward. Despite his tough-guy exterior, Danny Prego is a character who is all heart. Readers of all ages will be firmly on Danny’s team and cheering for him as he faces his most difficult decision to try to escape being the Bull in the Ring.
—Julie A. Sellers, author of Ann of Sunflower Lane and Kansas Authors Club Prose Writer of the Year (2020, 2022)
Al Ortolani nailed small town Kansas life in this thoughtful, well-crafted teenage odyssey. It had me eager to see what would happen next . . . right up to the evocative ending. Indeed, I was so captivated by protagonist, Danny Prego, and his hard-scrabble life that I was left yearning for a sequel.
—J.T. Knoll, The Morning Sun (Pittsburg, Kansas)
Al Ortolani knows how to tell a tale so it’s like we’re in Danny’s shoes, trying to keep a few steps ahead of troubles that take it in turn to smash into that bull in the ring who we’re soon-enough rooting for.
—Brian Daldorph, Kansas Poems
Al Ortolani is the Manuscript Editor for Woodley Press in Topeka, Kansas, and has directed a memoir writing project for Vietnam veterans across Kansas in association with the Library of Congress and Humanities Kansas. He is a 2019 recipient of the Rattle Chapbook Series Award. He has been a Kansas Notable Book recipient in 2017 and 2021. His poetry has appeared in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry and in Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. After 43 years of teaching English in public schools, he currently lives a life without bells and fire drills in the Kansas City area with his wife Sherri and their rescue dog Stanley.