The last of the crop of Walter Tevis books I have direct access to in audiobook form. This is a sequel to the first novel The Hustler and the book that the sequel to that film is based on. I don’t recall a lot of the Martin Scorsese movie and maybe it’s good, but the changes that he made as filmmaker are so incredibly boring compared to how very very good this book is. It far surpasses the first book, really gets at the heart of mortality and aging, and tells a much more compelling story than either the first book, or either film.
Fast Eddie Felsen is back, and he’s fifty, feels fifty, and sees himself on the outside looking in. He’s been away from pool for awhile but with the rise of televised sports, especially anticipating ESPN, he jumps back in to play a series of games against his old rival Minnesota Fats, whom is now old friends with. Fats still has it, and Felsen is lagging, despite Fats’s being the older man by a decade.
This foray gets him back into pool and he quickly comes to learn that straight pool is no longer the game, because 9-ball has taken over. It’s faster, requires more force, is easier to bet on, and reads more clearly on television. (I greatly remember watching hours and hours of 9-ball on ESPN summer afternoons in the 80s and 90s).
But the novel throws us a curveball. Eddie falls in love with an arts dealer and a good deal of the book takes place in the back roads of Kentucky as they look for folk and outsider art to open a shop as they think about their potential life together. So out of nowhere, the book kind of turns into Junebug.
Anyway, it’s all very good and more skilled and masterful than The Hustler and even serves as a kind of sequel to his other great novel Queen’s Gambit.