Words by Calasade

Being an author, I read a lot. Comes with the (dream) job of writing. Wise Stephen King says reading is the most important practice a writer can follow. Can’t argue that. Reading in different genres which gets an author out of their comfort zone is especially helpful.

These books by Walter Tevis, however, are exactly dead-center in my comfort zone. Not for writing, mind you, since I normally write Fantasy but in relation to my life. See, I’m a former pool hustler. I was the no-name following the professional circuit; usually 9-Ball tournaments in the States during the early 90s and playing for money before and after said tournaments with the pros and avoiding the limelight. Me, I was the guy who went from city-to-city, town-to-town, never staying too long at any establishment, playing well enough and flashing enough green to fool local sharks into believing I was an easy mark with full pockets and then biting the sharks. I chose the sharks because to hustle John Doe is no challenge. Bad idea no matter who you’re hustling, staying too long in one place. People don’t mind losing their money, but sure hate getting hoodwinked out of it.

So, being an author and former hustler, you can understand why I was attracted to these books by Walter Tevis. You can also understand why I avoided reading them for so long. I figured they would irritate me no end, either because they romanticized the life of a hustler and pool player or because certain nuances of the game within a game might be missed. I was not irritated. In fact, my jaw hung most of the time while reading.

In the Hustler, Tevis presents the life of a hustler in gritty detail, the thrills that come with winning money (won cash is many times sweeter than cash earned) and the heartbreak of losing. He is spot-on regarding the mindset and focus that being excellent requires. He captures the isolation, the feeling of being different than everyone else, cuts through the bullshit and shows a hustler for all he is; both good and bad, strengths and weaknesses of mind, body, and soul. Most impressively, he shows the difference between a loser and winner. The razor-thin line separating the two isn’t so much about being a great shot as it is about thought processes, logic, creativity, one’s character, and possessing that all-important killer’s instinct.

The Hustler, in short, is one of the finest books I have ever cracked open or will ever read. Period.

The Color of Money was nearly was good. Continues the story of our main character, Fast Eddie, from the Hustler. Eddie is now fifty, has sat on his talent for some twenty-odd years. His life is a mess and his passion for pool is dormant. Notice I did not say gone. Someone who’s lived and breathed pool never truly leaves it behind. Pool becomes part of a person’s fabric. It gets and stays forever in your blood.

Like any true art.

And pool, it’s definitely an art-form.

That’s the underlying message of the Color of Money. That and greed, but greed is good. Greed of any kind births passion and life without passion would be boring. As Fast Eddie has discovered. The Color of Money is less about pool than it is about characterization and a man regaining the life he had forfeited. A good read that is unfocused and wandering at times, the Color of Money provides a unique insight into pool as the game existed in the early to mid 80s.

Both books can be had at almost any book retailer, so whatever your favorite is, maybe go there and get both. Either is a great character-driven story.

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