Friday, July 22, 2011

Book Review: Kicking Ass and Saving Souls

Media Type: Print Book
Title: Kicking Ass and Saving Souls
Author: David Matthews
Publisher: Penguin Group
Pages: Hardcover; 288
Release Date: July 21, 2011
Source: TLC Book Tours
Intended Reading Group:


HDB Rating:
4 Keys to My Heart

The story of a boy from Baltimore who evolves from a safecracking, jewel-heisting, deep-sea diving, ultimate-fighting, international playboy into a globetrotting humanitarian.

Stefan Templeton was born a child of extremes. The son of Ebba, an aristocratic Norwegian love child, and Roye, a militant African American philosopher, Stefan spent his early years shuffling between the discipline of his father's house and dojo in decaying west Baltimore and the eccentricities of his mother's life as a healer and artist in the wealthiest enclaves of Europe. The confusion formed a singular man who had nothing but his own abilities. By age eighteen Stefan was a skilled fighter, philosopher, lover, horseman, and swimmer who exuded confidence and competence.

His highs came from adventure, always. He hunted in Macon, France; brawled in Oxford, England; lived as a kept man off the Champs-Élysées; served as a medicine man in Colombia; escaped death on the Amazon; and trained to serve on Cousteau's Calypso in Marseilles. Love of the mother of his first child temporarily settled Stefan in Norway, but poverty and adrenaline addiction soon kicked in.

Eventually, Stefan found himself in a labyrinthine criminal world-where he pulled off one of the biggest jewel heists in Scandinavia's history as a player in a smuggling consortium. He eluded capture, but the downward spiral continued until he hit bottom one night in Tokyo.

The synopsis above pretty much says it all. Kicking Ass and Saving Souls is a memoir of sorts, following Stefan's crazy and slightly unbelievable life. The twist is, that it is written from his friend, David Matthew's point of view, as he is being told the story. I guess that would make it more of a biography? Not certain, but it was categorized under memoir when I researched it so that is what I labeled it! Semantics, eh?

I can't even begin to express my feelings properly for this book. Stefan's life is nothing like I've ever seen before. From the inner city of Baltimore, to a castle in France, to the wilds of Africa, and back to a tiny one bedroom apartment, Stefan is literally everywhere. His travels alone were mind boggling and fascinating. Ferried back and forth between two very different parents, from a very young age Stefan was a world traveler. He went wherever his life happened to take him. Reading about him being 8 years old and travelling through Norway was utterly engrossing to me. At the age of 13 he was in France and quite a playboy. Are you seeing what I mean? It's almost unbelievable how rich this man's life was with travel.

If that isn't enough to draw you in, take a look at the darker side of Stefan's life above. He was a boy growing up in Baltimore and learning to protect himself from the violence around him. A master at martial arts at a very young age. Deeply stoic before he understood what it meant to be stoic. Then he spiraled out into all sorts of different endeavors, including ones that were illegal. Watching Stefan float through his life from job to job, heist to heist, city to city, became a bit unnerving after a while. He never actually finished anything. Every time he got close to making something of himself he was drawn on to something more exciting, and often more sinister. David Matthew's shows us that this man was extremely multi-faceted.

I know I'm rambling. As I said it's hard for me to explain exactly how intense this book is. Stefan's life is colorful. It's vivid, and dark, and gritty. There is no room for fluff here because the way his story is told is no-nonsense, just like his personality. What is built for the reader is the lifetime of a strong person who lets himself be lead astray. By the time I reached the end of the book and saw Stefan slowly start to figure out a path to retribution, I was emotionally exhausted and yet still intrigued. 

I'm not sure what else I can say! If you are a fan of memoirs, or biographies as the case may be, you need to give Kicking Ass and Saving Souls a read. It's most definitely not a light read, but it's utterly engrossing nonetheless.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.


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