In an interview on a recent episode of "WWF Smackdown," World Wrestling Federation superstar Mankind spoke with typical bluster and braggadocio about how he had just decimated his competition.
But it wasn't a typical WWF foe such as the Rock or the Undertaker that he was running down. Instead, Mankind was talking about the literary leg-lock he'd recently applied to such authors as former President George Bush, former Sen. John Glenn, the Dalai Lama and Frank McCourt.
Last Sunday, Mankind, also known as Mick Foley, wrestled his way past McCourt's "Tis" to the top of the New York Times best-seller list with his autobiography, "Have A Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks"(Regan Books, $26).
As if that weren't enough, Foley is also about to add "movie star" to his resume. He is one of three pro wrestlers featured in "Beyond the Mat," a documentary tentatively scheduled for a February release.
Until now, Foley, 34, a 15-year veteran of the mat wars who also wrestled under the names Cactus Jack and Dude Love, was best known for the real physical damage he would endure in his scripted matches; the book opens with him recounting the night his ear was torn off in a bout.
The success of the book, however, suggests that the pen is mightier than a body slam or steel folding chair. (In fact, Foley used a pen to write the 503-page book; he didn't know how to use a computer.)
In "Have a Nice Day," Foley offers not only an uncompromising account of his life in the bizarre world of pro wrestling, but the humorous and sometimes touching story of a kid from Long Island who overcame long odds to fulfill a childhood dream.
The Sun spoke with Foley after he topped the Times' list:
Originally there was a ghost writer for your book. Why did you decide to write it yourself?
At first it wasn't a matter of conviction, it was just that I read a few chapters of what the writer came up with, and his vision of my life and my vision were completely apart. I remember when I broke the news to the writer. I told him, "Look, I'm not saying I can write any other book in the world, but I can write this book." Honestly, I never dreamed it would be as good as it is. And that people would like it as much as they do.
In the past, some publishing companies have shied away from books about wrestling because they didn't think wrestling fans read books. Does this prove the publishers wrong?
Yeah, it proves that the book people don't know quite as much as they thought they did. I have run into hundreds of people who are telling me this is the first book they've read in 10 years. And if I can introduce literature to people who otherwise wouldn't have gone that way, I think I've done the world a very small favor.
How long did it take you to write the book and how did you find the time with your demanding schedule?
I had a seven-week deadline [this summer] to produce what the publisher wanted -- a 60,000-word book. But I didn't know anything about pacing a book so I just started writing until the story was completed, and when it was completed it was 200,000 words. It was a major undertaking. I was pretty much writing anywhere and everywhere I could -- on planes, in dressing rooms, lying in bed or at the kitchen table.
What was the best thing you'd written prior to this book?
I'd written a couple songs. I was actually a pretty decent creative writer in high school and college. Unfortunately, I had a teacher who kind of took away my love for writing by continually stressing grammar over substance. I've been waiting 15 years to find something I love as much as wrestling, and I really did love doing this book.
Have you read Frank McCourt's book, "Tis," the book that you knocked from the No. 1 spot on the Times best-seller list?
I didn't read "Tis," but I did pick up "Angela's Ashes," specifically so I could tell people it wasn't all that good, but actually it is very good. But I hear "Tis" isn't nearly as good and, honestly, I think that my adventures in the world of wrestling are probably more interesting than him coming to America and teaching school.
Will there be another book?
Yeah, I think definitely. I'm writing down notes and just a couple of words that remind me of a story whenever I think of it because there's a lot of things I didn't include. Also, my mom really impressed upon me that she felt like I really had a gift for writing and I should probably try my hand at fiction at some point.
What would have happened if you had tried to write a book like this, which is brutally honest about the wrestling business, 10 or 15 years ago?
I would have been like Benedict Arnold, whereas now, the [other] wrestlers love the book. There's no doubt in my mind that a non-fan is going to have a lot more respect for what we do after reading this book. Sure, we're trying to put on an entertaining show, but the guys do suffer far more than the average fan would ever realize.