Thursday, March 30, 2006

Hustler Days, by R. A. Dyer

Hustler Days: Minnesota Fats, Wimpy Lassiter, Jersey Red, and America’s Great Age of Pool, by R. A. Dyer

I like to shoot nine ball, but I’m not very good. Reading this almost makes me glad of that fact; these guys would see me coming from miles away! Minnesota Fats, Wimpy Lassiter, and Jersey Red are three of the greatest pool hustlers this country has ever seen. This book is more than simply a biography of these sharks, though; it is the story of the fall and rise of pool through the twentieth century. The narrative jumps around a lot between the three players making it occasionally hard to follow; eventually they start to show up at the same tournaments and it all comes together.

I was surprised to find that the man known as Minnesota Fats didn’t take that name until after the Hustler was released. The movie was a hit, and an aging hustler that bore a strong resemblance to Jackie Gleason’s character hijacked the name. The newly minted Minnesota Fats then parlayed that into fame and popularity. Imagine, the only pool player that most people can name isn’t famous because of his prowess at the table!

First Sentence:
On January 19, 1913, at an hour uncertain, the child who would become Minnesota Fats took his first gasping breath in this world.

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