This look at the game of snooker begins with the author's own experiences as a teenage pool-room hustler in Montreal and his addiction to the game ever since, leading into a history of the game from its beginnings in the 19th century. He explores the "bad boys" of snooker, from Alex Higgins to Ronnie O'Sullivan, as well as fellow-countrymen CLiff Thorburn and Kirk Stevens, but the central figure of the book is Stephen Hendry. In addition, Richler visits the craftsmen who make the champions' cues, the agents who control the sport and the groupies who follow the circuit to try and get close to the millionaire players.
It is a rare sports book that can be enjoyed even by those with no serious interest in the sport itself. Mordecai Richler's On Snooker
is one such work. While this form of billiards may be a marginal pastime in North America, the award-winning novelist--a self-confessed former "teenage poolroom hustler" in Montreal--brings the game and its players colorfully to life. In the early 1950s Richler relocated to London, the heart of snooker territory, to pursue his writing. Thankfully he wasn't skilled enough with the cue to derail a promising career, but he continued to indulge his other passion by following the enormously popular British snooker competitions, ultimately realizing the sport's literary potential at the end of his life (the book was published posthumously). Subtitled "The Game and the Characters Who Play It," Richler's profiles of the sport's heroes--and villains--are hugely entertaining. Such champions as Alex "The Hurricane" Higgins, Ronnie "The Rocket" O'Sullivan, and Cliff "The Grinder" Thorburn emerge with far more personality than your average professional sportsman. Of Canadian player Bill Werbeniuk (a top 10 player in the early '80s), he writes: "The UK Inland revenue allowed him to claim his legendary intake of beer as tax-deductible.... He had a nervous disorder causing trembling, a disability that could only be suppressed by a measured intake of lager, sometimes running to forty pints a day."
Snooker is the central theme here, but, like a virtuoso jazz sax player, Richler spontaneously riffs on a wide array of topics. These range from the state of the Irish economy to anti-Semitism in sports to the greed of today's athletes. In typically Richlerian style, he even jabs at icon Wayne Gretzky in a digression that castigates champions past their prime as strangers to dignity: "He will do TV promos for just about any product that will have him, except, so far, Tampax." Such is the author's mastery that the reader happily joins the game in all its dimensions without feeling the least bit snookered. --Kerry Doole
“[A] fan of the first magnitude…[Richler] has given us the most interesting and thought-provoking book on snooker ever written.... On Snooker is essential reading.” — Pool & Billiard Magazine
“On Snooker conveys both a sportswriter’s sensibility and a kind of wide-eyed enthusiasm for the game, tempered by Richler’s skewered wit and occasional broadside against the forces of banality, stupidity and political correctness.” — The Hamilton Spectator
“ On Snooker is pure joy.” — The Chronicle Herald
"Unlike snooker and baseball, a perfect book is probably a mug’s dream. But On Snooker comes very close.” — The Edmonton Journal
“ On Snooker is vintage Richler.” — The Globe and Mail
“As with John Updike on golf and Norman Mailer on boxing, so Richler on snooker.” — The Observer
From the Back Cover