Hagerstown MD Herald-Mail – July 23, 2000
By Tara Reilly
It’s often the high risk moves, in-ring theatrics and on-going story lines that attract people to pro wrestling.
But what’s sometimes hidden behind the entertainment elements are real-life struggles of living on the road, spending time away from loved ones and dealing with temptations, according to Howard Whittington of Smithsburg.
Whittington, a case manager at the Maryland Correctional Training Center and Washington County native, sets out to enlighten wrestling fans — and even those who don’t watch it — about the out-of-ring tales in his new novel, “In the Ropes.”
The novel centers around a 20-something man named Eric Justice, who Whittington created after watching former World Championship Wrestling and current World Wrestling Federation wrestler Chris Benoit. Justice gets a shot at becoming a pro wrestler but soon re-evaluates his dream after he falls in love with a Baltimore nursing student.
“Both want to pursue their dreams, but yet, they’re in love and they’re separated,” Whittington said. “It’s a neat story that men and women will be interested in.”
Whittington also sidesteps the frequent “shock TV” tactics of wrestling plots by keeping his story clean.
“In the book they’re not allowed to use steroids, because the wrestlers don’t want a bad image,” he said. “It’s very limited in obscene language. It’s kept very clean, and Eric is somewhat religious.”
Whittington said writing a book has always been a goal, and he came up with the idea for “In the Ropes” about a little less then four years ago.
“I was watching wrestling, and I wondered what their lives must be like,” he said. “Then I thought, “That’s my book.”
He said after he had the idea, he would rush home from work, grab something to eat and then spend all evening writing. He finished the book in about a year.
“Once I started it, I was obsessed,” Whittington said. “I started working on it as soon as I got home from work. Before I knew it, it was eleven or twelve o’clock at night.”
He said many people will enjoy his book because it deals with humanity, not just the rowdy side of pro wrestling.
“There’s a little bit about us in it,” Whittington said. “Most of us go and perform a job that is a legitimate job. We know that wrestling is not real, but we have to give them a lot of credit to do what they do. I think it’ll make one hell of a movie. That’s what I’m hoping – that the right person sees it and says we must do something with this.”
In addition to his job as a case manager, Whittington also works part-time as an instructor of a program called Personal Assessment and Career Exploration, which helps about-to-be-released inmates find jobs. He also works part-time as a disc jockey. Whittington has a bachelor’s of science degree in social science and served four years in the Air Force. He graduated from North Hagerstown High School.
He says anyone interested in the book can order a copy from Borders or Books & Things by asking for issue number 158721458x, or they can order or download a copy from The 1st Books Library web site at http://www.1stbooks.com.
Whittington has also written a sequel to “In the Ropes” called Submission.”