Fat City is a vivid novel of defiance and struggle, of the potent promise of the good life and the desperation and drink that waylay those whom it eludes. Stockton, California, is the setting: the Lido Gym, the Hotel Coma, Main Street lunchrooms and dark bars offer a temporary respite to the men and women whose back-breaking work in the fields barely allows them to make a living.
When two men meet in the gym—the ex-boxer Billy Tully and the novice Ernie Munger—their brief sparring session sets into motion their hidden fates, initiating young Munger into the company of men and luring Tully back into training. Fat City tells of their anxieties and hopes, their loves and losses, and the stubborn determination of their manager, Ruben Luna, who knows that even the most promising kid is likely to fall prey to some weakness. Then again, “There was always someone who wanted to fight.”