Christine Heaney was born in 1971, the same year that Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali engaged in what is arguably the Fight of the Century at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Although she has never been much of a boxing fan, her radar went up several months ago when she received a list of authors who would be available for book signings.
For the last nine-and-a-half years, Heaney, along with her sister Ellen and mother Sheila, have run A Novel Idea, an independent bookstore in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, New York.
Among the authors who have done book signings there are former Brooklyn Dodger ballplayer Carl Erskine, Steve Schirripa, who plays Bobby Bacala on the HBO hit series “The Sopranos,” Liz Puccillo, who was a writer for HBO’s other mega-hit “Sex and the City,” and yours truly.
As popular as they all were, Heaney cannot believe the interest generated by Frazier, who will sign copies of his new book “Box Like the Pros,” which was written with William Dettloff, the senior writer for The RING magazine, on Tuesday, November 8, from 7:00 to 8:30 P.M.
“I have 300 books in the store, and I hope that’s enough,” said Heaney who described having to present a proposal to HarperCollins, the book’s publisher, chronicling how Frazier’s appearance would be marketed. “We put flyers in many of the neighborhood bars, business establishments, and gyms (including Gleason’s Gym, which is located in another section of Brooklyn), hung a huge banner in our window, and notified all the people on our email lists. The response has been overwhelming.”
Heaney says that an abundance of neighborhood people have dropped in to congratulate her on getting such a prize catch to visit such a small and cozy neighborhood bookstore.
“I always heard the name and think I knew that he beat Muhammad Ali, but I have learned so much about him,” said Heaney. “I learned that he won a gold medal in the Olympics, that his fight with Ali was one of the biggest sports events ever, and that the fight was broadcast in movie theaters all over the world. Of course, I now know all about the Thrilla in Manila as well. I’ve got quite an education in a very short time.”
The education came mostly from regular customers and local denizens, all of whom were elated to hear that the former heavyweight champion would soon be in their midst.
“I was amazed to find out just how historical a sporting figure Smokin’ Joe really was,” said Heaney. “All of the controversy surrounding his bouts with Ali was very interesting. I’ve even watched several of his fights on ESPN Classics and see why people got so excited over him.
“He was a great fighter—and he seems like a real gentleman,” she added. “I think he’d be a really good boxing teacher. I could see how people would want to read his book even if they didn’t want to box. The fitness factor, in and of itself, is amazing.”
Asked if her introduction to the sweet science has made her into boxing fan, Heaney was a bit circumspect.
“I don’t know if I’d call myself a boxing fan, but I certainly am a Joe Frazier fan,” she said. “He was a very good fighter and is a very decent man. I have a lot more respect for the sacrifice that boxers make than I used to. It’s a grueling sport—whether you do it for a living or do it for fun.”
A Novel Idea is located at 8415 Third Avenue (between 84-85 Streets), Brooklyn, NY 11209. The phone number is 718-833-5115. Call the bookstore for subway or bus directions.