Jersey boy’s hardscrabble rise from local pool-hall hustler to tournament pro, in slavish detail.
Dilated from a recent Sports Illustrated article by senior writer Wertheim (Transition Game: How Hoosiers Went Hip-Hop, 2005, etc.), this effusive book profiles young Danny Basavich, an ungainly, overweight boy who, in 1993, dropped out of high school at the age of 15. He descended into a depressive pattern of crying, sleeping and overeating, symptoms of a bipolar disorder that would plague him throughout his life though he largely ignored it. Casual grifting and hanging out at Elite Billiards in Marlboro led to a passion for pool that chased away his blues. Basavich loved Elite’s grubby atmosphere and the faintly menacing hustlers with monikers like Neptune Joe and Mark the Shark. He gained skill and at 17 found his own nom de guerre: Kid Delicious. Playing the sticks at Chicago Billiards, a “hustlers’ finishing school” in West Haven, Ct., he met Bristol Bob, a practiced perfectionist as clean-cut and middle-class as Kid Delicious was scruffy and working-class. Together they took their act on the road, using assorted ruses to lure the locals into games at increasingly higher stakes. Wertheim follows the team’s shenanigans from one unsavory pool hall to another across the country. They were wildly successful for a while, until Bristol became a crystal-meth addict. Delicious went solo, joining such pro tours as Florida’s 2000 USA-Billiards Challenger, which he won. The road action dried up after this newfound fame blew his cover, so he turned pro with reasonable success. Wertheim, an enthusiastic pool fan, offers plenty of nitty-gritty details and notorious characters along the way.
An enjoyable vicarious descent into the world of pool hustling.