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.
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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 DooleFrom the Back Cover:
Outrageously funny, passionate and thoroughly researched on snooker tables from Montreal's The Main to Dublin, On Snooker is a book that lovers of Richler and of great sports writing will cherish. It is not just a lifelong fan's memoir: it takes us on an entertaining journey through the story and world of snooker, from the odd origins of the game - born the illegitimate child of billiards on a British Indian Army base in the nineteenth century - to the now wildly popular World Championship at the Crucible in Sheffield, England (even at its first televised inception in 1985, 18.5 million viewers stayed up past midnight to watch). On the way we meet the great players - the central figure of the book is Stephen Hendry, probably the most talented snooker player ever - and snooker's bad boy champions. On Snooker is a brilliant, witty and compact look at the game of snooker - past and present - from a masterful storyteller. (6 1/4 x 9 1/4, 214 pages)
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