The View From Down Here – Book Review ‘Dungeon Of Death: Chris Benoit And The Hart Family Curse’ by Scott Keith

 It’s been a while, so I thought I’d go with another book review, this one by a fellow writer here at the Pulse. Dungeon Of Death: Chris Benoit And The Hart Family Curse by Scott Keith (2008) is the next one.


This took me a long time to finish reading. Not because it was badly written or anything like that – just the opposite, in fact – it’s just that it depressed me so much. But I was writing something else that required some research on a topic touched on in this book, and this book actually became one of my 5 main references. Which means I finally finished it.




Okay, to start with, I feel the title is misleading. Having recently gone through a title discussion for something of my own, however, I can see why the title was chosen – things need to make an impact at the time they are first released, when they make their first impact. If that title seems ill suited in retrospect, so be it, but the majority of sales come from those first few months of promotion and post-release hype.


Still, the book is not about Chris Benoit. He is merely a jumping off point to the actual thrust of the book – those people whom professional wrestling has chewed up and spat out. This is a book about death. Not one man, not one family, but too many people to really feel comfortable about.


It is a tough read for a fan of long standing, as I watched (albeit from quite a distance) these guys on my screen as well, oiver the course of 30 years, and their deaths hit me as a fan. Despite that – and any negativity is more to do with the subject matter than anything else – the book itself is very well written. I personally think Tonight… In This Very Ring was a better book, but that was because it more closely followed the style of Keith’s reviews which I enjoyed so much. However, that’s not to say this is bad. His style is easy to read, and the text and narrative flow well from one situation to the next. It is written with intelligence and wit where appropriate. He makes a topic such as this actually readble.


There are times when opinion dominates in the middle of a factual recount, and there are some scenarios put forward in here that I have read since have been disputed by those involved. These are minor things, however, when reading the book as it does draw the reader in to a universe that the majority of the world can only guess at. His knowledge of wrestling is really quite impressive and expansive, and it is put to good use here.


To give you an idea, though, about the true nature of the book, the section/chapter titled ‘Death And Wrestling’ takes up 65 of 210 pages, and he only looks at certain wrestlers who have died. The book then finishes with ‘Drugs And Wrestling’, and… well, it’s just depressing.


The usual humour of Scott Keith’s writing is missing for the most part here, but that is to be expected. This is not a subject easy to joke about, and considering it was written soon after the verdicts in the Benoit case were handed down, I’m pretty sure you would not want to be making ‘hanging around’ jokes at the time.


Having finally read this (and I am pretty sure there was a review of this on the Pulse when it was first released), I can also understand why Scott Keith has started to move away from wrestling. When so many people you have enjoyed watching as a fan have died so stupidly young, it must certainly suck some of that joy out of things.


Having now read this, I would like to think that things have changed, but I look at the physiques of some of the guys in WWE, the injuries these guys are coming back from, the stuff they still do outside the ring which I know hurts (even if the high spots have been toned down), and wonder if things have really changed… And then I look at TNA and what I see there, and I realise that some things never change.


So this is a good book, and it feel much easier reading it now that these events are four years in the past. The distance borne of time does make it a little easier to deal with. A little. But that list at the end of the book… damn that’s depressing. As to whether you should get it, I would say I recommend it now, but don’t expect the fun and joy of Scott’s earlier works. Still, read it. Especially for anyone who wants to be a wrestler: read it.


No, let’s be honest. This is a great book and well worth anyone’s time.


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