From the time he was able to body slam a pillow, Michael dreamed of becoming a professional wrestler, vanquishing imaginary enemies and nagging self-doubt with every drop kick he landed. As his buddies hit the books, Michael got hit. When they left for college, he enrolled in Shane Stratford's Wrestling Academy, where cash -- and a particularly punishing "audition" -- afforded him a first look into a world part circus, part sport, and all spectacle. From penny-ante matches to national notoriety, Michael rises through the ranks of professional wrestling. Hopped up on speed, pumped up on steroids, and fueled by a frustration he can't quite name, he adopts and discards identities in a bid to find the "gimmick" that will make him complete. His search will bring him in contact with people weird and wonderful: athletes and actors, crazy fans and crooked managers, the full rich range of folks who revel in the ring. Combining elements of sports narrative a la "North Dallas 40, " the behind-the-scenes authenticity of "Pumping Iron, " and a flair for the bizarre that recalls John Irving, "Living the Gimmick" is a novel not soon forgotten.