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Titanic Thompson: The Man Who Bet on Everythingby Kevin Cook
Synopses & Reviews
Born in a log cabin in the Ozarks, Alvin "Titanic" Thompson (1892-1974) traveled with his golf clubs, a .45 revolver, and a suitcase full of cash. He won and lost millions playing cards, dice, golf, pool, and dangerous games of his own invention. He killed five men and married five women, each one a teenager on her wedding day. He ruled New York's underground craps games in the 1920s and was Damon Runyon's model for slick-talking Sky Masterson. Dominating the links in the pre-PGA Tour years, Thompson may have been the greatest golfer of his time, teeing up with Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Lee Trevino, and Ray Floyd. He also traded card tricks with Houdini, conned Al Capone, lost a million to Minnesota Fats and then teamed up with Fats and won it all back. A terrific read for anyone who has ever laid a bet, recaptures the colorful times of a singular figure: America's original road gambler.
"Cook (Tommy's Honor), a former Sports Illustrated editor, introduces his portrait of the larger-than-life 'Titanic' Thompson (1892 — 1974) as a self-made man from the Ozarks who loved games of chance and had a knack for winning incredible sums of money. In a lyrical account of the gambling legend who inspired Damon Runyon's character Sky Masterson (Guys and Dolls), Cook describes Thompson as a 'rogue wind that lifted girls' skirts and turned gamblers' pockets inside out.' Thompson possessed the steel nerves of a card shark, the bravado of an outlaw, and the staying power of a satyr, preferring his girls young and pretty. Rumor has it that he drove a swank Pierce-Arrow (driving from town to town to ply his hustling trade), carried a gun (he reportedly killed five men) and a suitcase full of cash, and rubbed elbows with Houdini, Capone, and gamblers Arnold 'the Brain' Rothstein and Nick the Greek. Thompson excelled at golf before PGA Tours began, competing with professional golfers Ben Hogan and Sam Snead. Cook's raucous narrative introduces readers to an eccentric, fascinating personality. 20 illus. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Whether a colorful trickster or amoral predator, Thompson becomes an irresistible folk legend in Cook's capable hands." Kirkus Reviews
"Readers will revel in every rambunctious page about an outlaw spirit who lurked on the frontiers of society, sports, and fair play." Booklist
Book News Annotation:
The model for Sky Masterson in Damon Runyon's Guys and Dolls, Titanic Thompson was a consummate gambler, a man who'd bet on anything and everything and who never knowingly gave a sucker an even break. This book follows Thompson from his birth in a log cabin in the Ozarks through a long career that saw him marry five times, kill at least five people, and win (and lose) millions of dollars. Readers who are fond of games of chance will find this book especially interesting, but even those who dislike gambling will be fascinated by a life story that includes characters such as Houdini, Al Capone, golf legends Ben Hogan and Sam Snead, and legendary gambler Nick the Greek. Includes 16 pages of black-and-white photos. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Capturing the spirit of a freewheeling era, this rollicking biography brings to life the gambler-hero who inspired the musical Guys and Dolls.
About the Author
Kevin Cook's Tommy's Honor — a Sports Illustrated book of the year — won the USGA's Herbert Warren Wind Award in 2007. A former editor at Sports Illustrated, Cook has appeared on ESPN and CNN. He lives in New York City.
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