In the Cage – A Novel

“The architecture of this first novel is faultlessly conceived; the construction of the storytelling is meticulously crafted. Hardcastle has an abiding sympathy for the neglected rural poor. The characters we love will break our hearts; the low-lifes we fear are no less indelibly rendered. There is an aura of foreboding — of tragic inevitability — to the collision course of their lives. And, speaking strictly as a former wrestler, the details are true.” – John Irving

“He fought on a reserve outside of Vancouver and there he had his nose broken by an illegal headbutt that the referee didn’t see and he gobbed blood and filth out of his mouth between rounds and his ear hurt where it had been torn under the lobe by the ridge of the other man’s glove. Not a minute into the second round that man was prone and senseless from a left head kick and Daniel’s shin stung as he walked the cage-perimeter with his hands in the air, his corner man trying to plug his nostrils with gauze.

“He fought in Olympia and Portland and outdoors on a ranch in Montana, cowboys and rednecks sitting in wooden bleachers drinking beer as if they were watching high school football. He and another man went through the cage door in Lincoln, Nebraska and didn’t know what to do when they got up on the cold concrete with the sparse crowd pulling away. In the cage again he dropped the man with a wild overhand right and the man had a lot of trouble coming around and Daniel was terrified. He went to a small town outside of Kansas City, Missouri that he couldn’t remember and he had to sneak out of the back door of the community hall and he never fought that far south again. There were fights in Quebec now and he fought there often and won twice in televised bouts. In Ontario there were no sanctioned fights but he fought on the Akwesasne and Rama reserves and then he went west…”


At 27 years old, Daniel has fought his way through amateur and regional Mixed Martial Arts circuits, and has become one of the most feared fighters in the game. His luck runs dry in a cage out west, where he suffers a career ending injury in a fight that he is winning. Damaged and beaten, Daniel’s returns to Ontario, and Simcoe County, where he takes piecemeal work as a welder, and he and his wife battle each day to keep a roof over their daughter’s head.

In going back to his roots, Daniel finds a thriving world of small-time criminality where his skills are at a premium. He retreads old wounds and connects with an old friend of his father, a part-Mohawk gangster, who puts him to work. And this at a time when crime in the region is evolving, becoming more deadly and vicious by the day.

Caught between this world, his family life, and a swell of momentum to return to fighting, Daniel finds himself bound to a life of difficult decisions, most of which risk financial and physical ruin. All leading to a trick of chance that pits Daniel against a returning criminal, an exceedingly dangerous man who wants to take everything from the ex-fighter, and anyone not committed to the new criminal order in the county.

In the Cage is a forthcoming novel by Kevin Hardcastle, to be published in Fall 2017 by Biblioasis (edited by John Metcalf). Following the aesthetic of the short fiction collected in Debris, In the Cage is a book concerned with working class life, the pressures of poverty, the trappings of rural communities, and the destructive and transformative nature of violence. The novel looks plainly at people and regions in that are sparely represented in Canadian literature, and almost never explored in depth. In the tradition of works by writers like Daniel Woodrell, Donald Ray Pollock, and Cormac McCarthy, In the Cage, blends stark violence, humour, and honest sentiment, in a narrative driven by characters with a universal desire to survive, and willing to take on great risk to protect the people they love.