Playing Off the Rail: A Pool Hustler's Journey
, 1996 - Games
- 367 pages
When David McCumber armed himself with large amounts of cash and hit the road with ace pool player Tony Annigoni, he transformed himself overnight from journalist to "stakehorse" - a guy who provides financial backing to a pool hustler in return for a share of the winnings. Alternately hair-raising and hilarious, Playing off the Rail is McCumber's account of their coast-to-coast odyssey on the trail of fun, intermittent danger, and occasional profit. In the manner of the old-time pool hustlers who rode the rails from town to town, McCumber and Annigoni (a vegetarian martial artist who wields his cue with Zen-like concentration) set off by train. Rambling through San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, New York, Miami, and dozens of other places, they travel in a twilight world where people with names like Cornbread Red and Kamikaze Bob play serious pool for serious money. From elegant snooker rooms in Vancouver to high-pressure tournaments in Reno to chancy dives in the middle of nowhere, McCumber depicts the billiards scene with a keen eye, introducing us to the most colorful characters this side of Damon Runyon and decoding the psychology and the secret language of the hustle. David McCumber has written an homage to the game, recognizing the "incredible discipline of movement, of thinking, of emotion" that it demands of its experts. Here is an insider's look at a little-seen subculture with its own heroes and codes of behavior, an exclusive preserve of camaraderie and competition, of honor and underhandedness. Playing off the Rail occupies a unique part of the American mythos, where dreams of glory, fast money, and adventure are fulfilled or dashed every day.