Quirky collection of pieces on the shadow side of risk from the anthology duo (White Lines, p. 1097).
In the age of the bear market, when many a 401(k) has turned out to be a crapshoot, it’s nice to be reminded that shooting craps has a long and dishonorable history. In “The Story of Dice,” Ricky Jay argues that man's propensity to load dice is one of the overlooked triumphs of civilization. The best pieces here are essays, like Jay's, or slices of hard-to-find memoirs. An excerpt from Kent Walker's Son of a Grifter, for instance, paints a bloodcurdling portrait of his mother, a serial murderer who in collaboration with Kent's younger brother David finally went too far by murdering Irene Silverman, an 82-year-old apartment owner on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Mostly, however, this collection riffs on the softer side of riff-raff. A historical essay by Al Alvarez (from Poker—Bets, Bluffs, and Bad Beats) stands in nice contrast to John Molyneux's portrait of a quintessentially British poker palace, “Poker in the Strand.” Rufus Jarman wrote “The Spanish Prisoner, the Beautiful Senorita and You” decades ago, but it outlines a get-rich-quick con game that is obviously the ancestor of the famous Nigerian coup e-mails received by thousands of Internet users every day. (In the postal version, a letter outlining the dubious situation of a Mexican or Spanish businessman, his beautiful daughter, and a lot of unclaimed cash waiting around for a suitable rescuer apparently attracted a regular supply of victims eager to mix chivalry and the profit motive.) The fiction, not as recherché as the rest, includes Kipling's “The Man Who Would be King,” a selection from Jim Thompson's The Grifters, and a portion of Dostoevsky's The Gambler: beautiful pieces, but a bit too easy. Surely editors Hyde and Zanetti could have found more arcane gems.
Some predictable choices, then, but generally an idiosyncratic and enjoyable mix.