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COMPULSION: The True Story of an Addictive Gambler by Robin Moore

COMPULSION: The True Story of an Addictive Gambler


Pub Date: Aug. 7th, 1981
Publisher: Doubleday

Joe Henry Hodges seemed to have everything going for him: Phi Beta Kappa, law degree, smart and attractive spouse. Not the sort of guy who'd expect to wind up in Leavenworth three times. Moore (The French Connection, The Green Berets) tells how he blew it all and--maybe--salvaged it, in a book that's long on the how and short on the why of Hodges' incredible compulsion. Lacking neither brains nor chutzpah, Hodges was capable of amazing rebounds when his luck ebbed--in 48 hours, for example, he moved from a dead-broke stranger in town to city attorney of Irving, Texas. Yet he could also spend an entire day pumping ten grand in loans from acquaintances and blow it in an hour shooting craps. Like most gamblers, he started small (""domino houses"" around Beaumont, Texas in his college days), but soon escalated to big pro-sports betting, fast one-day trips to Vegas (he was so keen for action he'd bypass the airport terminal and race across the tarmac to the taxis), and a debt structure in the hundreds of thousands of dollars--built on personal loans, bank loans, and, in the end, just plain fraud. As bad checks and hot checks floated above Hodges' head, each day became a nightmare with two objectives: pump the money somehow to repay enough debts so he wouldn't be jailed, and build a bankroll for the day's betting. Again and again he and his wife beat hasty retreats from towns and jobs, ""speeding off towards what they hoped would be a new life,"" angry creditors (and sometimes the law) in their wake. Inevitably he wound up in jail, several times, and stood a fair chance of going away for life when Moore (the book deal) and a psychiatrist (the long overdue recognition that Hodges was ""desperately sick"") pulled his chestnuts out of the fire one last time. Moore's account of Hodges' career is painstaking and scary, but so crammed with the day-to-day minutiae of loans, seams, bets, and losses that, ultimately, it numbs. And, despite a tacked-on psychiatrist's epilogue, insight into Hodges' motivation is scant. In all: Moore misses the jackpot, but tells a stark, cautionary tale.