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Pocket Kings Paperback – March 27, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books (March 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565126203
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565126206
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,331,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Heller’s novel about a failed writer offers an unlikable protagonist, vivid writing and a comic depiction of our most disgraceful inner states.”—The New York Times Book Review, Editor’s Choice list

“Highly entertaining . . . Pocket Kings is, in spirit, the comical sequel to Frederick Exley’s Fan’s Notes, the classic and psychologically tragic depiction of machismo mediocrity.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Ted Heller’s brazen, often hilarious and always disturbing new novel, Pocket Kings, is a hybrid love letter and suicide note to 21st-century publishing . . . What seemed at first to be a smart if limited satire about publishing and online gambling becomes an illuminating and fully realized story about identity and reputation in the digital age. At its best, Pocket Kings explores authentic existence and the desperate extremes to which a man will go to be recognized in an industry that he, like so many others, despises and loves.”—The Washington Post

“[A] recklessly funny, sparky satire of our obsession with the virtual world.”—Vanity Fair

“Pocket Kings is the kind of reading fun that offers nutritional value and not just empty calories. Ted Heller’s third novel is a satirical, charming literary ride.”—Buffalo News

“A poignant, funny satire ... Heller’s prose is razor sharp and his cultural reference points are spot on. In fact it’s all so believable that you have to wonder about Mr. Heller’s own online poker credentials. Watch out for him at the virtual tables.”—CultureMob

“Heller (Slab Rat, Funnymen) seems to have inherited the satire gene from his father, Joseph.”—New York Post

"The pace is fast, the plot twisty, and the satire bites viciously."—Library Journal

"Laugh-out-loud funny . . . There is a certain Everyman quality to Frank, whose hopes gradually fade away but whose self-deprecating humor helps carry him through his midlife angst and denial of addiction; you want to wish him well."—Booklist

“A well-crafted and entertaining satire.”—Publishers Weekly

About the Author

TED HELLER is the author of Slab Rat, which GQ magazine called “diabolically witty” and the Washington Post called “uncommonly smart, funny, and dead on” and named as one of the 10 best novels of the year. He is also the author of Funnymen, which the Guardian of England called “a masterpiece of comic invention” and the Times of London called “one of the most satisfying books in years.” Previously a senior writer at Nickelodeon Magazine, Heller lives in New York.

More About the Author

Hey, Reader, before you get to all the biodegradable biographical data below, let me tell you that as of May 2, 2013, I will have a new book out. It's called West of Babylon and it's being published by none other than me. I've got no publisher, no publicist, no marketing department, no regional sales manager. It's just me. (Although my wife DID design the cover, for which she got a $50 Gap gift card.)

West of Babylon is about a once successful rock & roll band that's been together for almost forty years, through thick and thin. (Lately, though, there's been a lot more of the thin.) One of the band members has fallen seriously ill, another wants to break up the group for good, and they decide to take to the road one more time. I think West of Babylon will make you howl and cry at the same time. That's what I was doing as I was writing it.

I hope you will buy, read, enjoy, and then spread the word about West of Babylon. YOU are my advertisers!

And now back to my regularly scheduled bio:

* * * * * * *


Ted Heller: born in, raised in, beaten up in, arrested in, still lives in New York City. I've had three books published: Slab Rat, Funnymen, Pocket Kings. The exact number of books I have written which have NOT been published is known only to God: I myself lost track about twenty novels ago. Or maybe it was twenty-four.

According to the latest data on Amazon, 79.2% of my readers love my books, 10.3% don't, and the remainder really wants to kill me. Oh well. You can't win them all.

I have held many jobs in my life but being an author is my favorite. You get to make your own hours, begin and end when you want, be alone and snap at anybody who interrupts your writing or your napping, and after about thirty years of this you are immune to rejection, bad reviews and lousy sales. WHAT A LIFE!

I have worked at the New York Times as a menial copy boy, in the clothing business, been a messenger, worked in the magazine business (Spy Magazine, Nickelodeon Magazine). I often tell people I was a towel boy at Plato's Retreat in the Seventies but this is not true.

Many of the things I write about are the result of either personal experience or serious daydreaming. Readers and reviewers often say that I make them laugh out loud. I love hearing that! But sometimes the stuff that I write that makes you laugh out loud is stuff that actually happened to me that wasn't so funny at the time. But I guess this is what the creative experience is all about. Maybe. What do I know. I also sometimes hear that characters I've created that are based on me are not likable. My wife and child, though, seem to love me and so do my friends and strangers on the street. So this confuses me.

I invite you, the potential reader, to hop aboard the accident-waiting-to-happen that is my literature. Thank you for coming and please sit back and enjoy the ride.

Customer Reviews

Failed novelist Frank W. Dixon stalks his literary agent.
Virginia
It's the first time in a while I've actually laughed out loud while reading a book, and also not wanted to put the book down.
Tom Woodward
The characters are funny, with just the right amount of depth to keep them interesting but keep the pace flowing.
Nora mann

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kay Adams on March 19, 2012
Format: Paperback
I literally laughed out loud many times while reading this book -- especially the "road trip" sections. I laughed so hard I woke up my husband. This is a great skewering of both online culture and the publishing world. I never played poker, but after reading this book I feel the need to learn, then go to Vegas and win a ton of money. Bravo to Heller. Another hysterical and frighteningly real satire. Looking forward to more books.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. S. Libman on March 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
I loved this book! Pocket Kings is a hilarious tour de force that had me laughing so hard I was literally grabbing people around me so I could read Frank Dixon's rants to them. Not only is it the funniest thing I've read in years, but the book is a solid page turner with great characters and a compelling, twisty story to boot. Anyone interested in contemporary literature and/or feels its discontents will find succor in the pages of Heller's book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Rob Mattheu on April 21, 2012
Format: Paperback
Ted Heller has done what sounds impossible. He's written an engaging and funny book about online poker, a game where people sit in glorified chat rooms with avatars and watch a few cards pop up over and over again.

Frank Dixon (no relation to the Frank A Dixon who never existed but had his name on Hardy Boy Books) is the author of one well received book, another that tanked, and a wealth of ideas for the Great American Novel that he is dying to get published. His agent won't talk to him, his books are dropping like a rock on the Amazon sales chart, and Dixon gets increasingly desperate as his aspirations dashed as he watches other lesser (in his mind) authors succeed.

Frank soon sinks himself into the world of online poker where he meets a wealth of motley characters who soon become more important than his actual life. And most importantly, Frank keeps winning. Tens of thousands of dollars.

Frank plows ahead playing poker while trying to sell his new novel Dead On Arrival, a bleak novel nobody wants, and his mood becomes more dour and desperate while he just keeps winning, always setting a higher dollar threshold for when he'll put down the computer and write again. But each day draws him more into a world of foreigners, locals, and even a virtual mistress that he vows to meet in person. And with each turn, as his online poker winnings grow, his professional life faces an ever increasing stack of hilarious humiliation.
Read more ›
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Nora mann on April 8, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Laugh out loud is not usually something that attracts me to books. Good thing I ignored my instincts and read this - I did laugh out loud and enjoyed every minute. The characters are funny, with just the right amount of depth to keep them interesting but keep the pace flowing. Our hero is, well a mess, but one we can relate to and root for. I know nothing about poker, or, really about publishing, so I can't tell you how realistic any of it was, but it made me laugh and, when it was over, I was wanting more.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By shannon k. on March 25, 2012
Format: Paperback
at last someone has captured the schizophrenic fallout of the internet driven life. heller is a terrifc writer. and he has skewered us all with his tale of an anti-hero who escapes his disappointing reality by morphing daily into chip zero, a virtual poker king who manages to earn a better living as an avatar than as a flesh and blood novelist. i laughed and cringed (with recognition) as i gobbled up this well crafted, darkly comedic prose. the characters are amusingly flawed and realistically disappointing. in other words: wonderful. the most fun i've had in bed this year!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By vj cruise on March 26, 2012
Format: Paperback
A funny funny novel about being down and out in cyberspace. Killer title, killer book. Loved it and highly recommend Pocket Kings.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By S Yingling on March 26, 2012
Format: Paperback
Ted Heller's "Pocket Kings" should usher in a new online acronym, a twin to LOL called "ROL" for "Reading Out Loud"**. As the professional jealousy of Heller's flop-sweaty Frank Dixon spread and bloomed like black mold, I developed an increasingly urgent need to share aloud more and longer passages from the book to the point that I could have been named the runner-up narrator for the audiobook.

I can't think of another author who can make me laugh with references to "In Cold Blood". Or Fantastic Four's The Thing. Or Joyce Carol Oates.

Heller's protagonist Dixon remains fully (and painfully) three-dimensional whether as the avatar of an online poker player or as a member of a hapless group of road trippers. It's hard not to root for Dixon, who is a compelling combination of the panic-stricken "Out of Towners"-era Jack Lemmon and self-righteously furious "Network"-style Peter Finch, with a little "Twilight Zone" Everyman thrown in to keep it ominous.

Super-fun read. I hear George Clooney is interested in the film...

**Alternate option: ROLWAH, or Reading Out Loud While Also Howling.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stacy Helton on November 29, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is Ted Heller's third book - I did not read FUNNYMEN but thoroughly enjoyed 2000's SLAB RAT and it makes me wonder what he's been up to in 12 years - although maybe he answers lie in POCKET KINGS, a novel about a novelist whose first two books have middling sales stats while the third is continuously passed over. Even though the bitter life of a not-so-successful novelist could easily fill a book, this one is actually about said author and his decent into the world on online poker. Did Heller suffer the same distraction? I'm sure the information is out there somewhere. I did like this book - I liked Heller's characterizations, dialogue and avoidance of certain gambling clichés. Heller's protagonist Frank W. Dixon, aka Chip Zero, rails against the current literary establishment of authors like Franzen and Foer (the Jonathans) and the business of publishing, with swipes at agents, publicists, editors and the like. What I found fascinating about the book was the online poker world, a world of avatars and the people behind the avatars - what's real, what isn't. In a world where fellow players are known only as "Second Gunman," "Toll House Cookie" and Dixon's alter-ego, "Chip Zero," the rules can fudge and emotions can blur - especially when money's involved. SLAB RAT took place in the world of magazine publishing, so I found it easier to follow, but you don't have to be a card shark to enjoy Heller's (son of Joseph) new novel.
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