- Hardcover: 296 pages
- Publisher: Lyons Press; 1st edition (November 1, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 156731807X
- ISBN-13: 978-1567318074
- ASIN: 1592281044
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 37 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #236,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Hustler Days: Minnesota Fats, Wimpy Lassiter, Jersey Red, and America's Great Age of Pool Hardcover – November 1, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
This lyrical, profane ode to the irresponsible life explores the dissolute romance of pool through the lives of legendary hustlers Minnesota Fats, Wimpy Lassiter and Jersey Red. Journalist Dyer follows the fluctuating fortunes of the hustler demimonde from its Depression-era heyday, when unemployed men flocked to pool halls looking to make a quick buck ("idle men...surge like lifeblood into poolrooms"), to the doldrums of the years after World War II, when these men had jobs, families and mortgages to absorb their time and money and a "black plague infected pool," to the explosion in pool's popularity in the 1960s, after the movie The Hustler glamorized it for a new generation seeking escape from propriety. Following sociologist Ned Polsky, Dyer appreciates the pool hall as the last redoubt of the "permanent bachelor," a classless, defeminized zone where "men argued and spat and threw money across green felt" and evaded the burdens of respectability and domesticity. Dyer brings this subculture to life through many colorful anecdotes about his three anti-heroes, examining their childhood opposition to chores, their unfitness for gainful employment, their titanic tournament duels, where their human deficiencies become virtues, and the sad denouement-especially for pool demi-god Wimpy Lassiter-of a lonely old age. His prose can shade toward the purple ("Jersey Red came at the other fellow ferociously...his young lion heart pounding with every soft thud of the nine-ball,") but connoisseurs of urban decadence will enjoy soaking up the rich atmospherics. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Every great countercultural moment lives longer in analysis than in real time. Adding to a slow-growing canon, Dyer explores "America's second great age of pool" (roughly 1960-72) and the players who defined it: self-inventing bloviator Fats; shambling, hypochondriacal, shot-making genius Wimpy; and Red, gifted but a perennial also-ran. Pool hustlers, like con men, tap into an especially American envy of those who literally refuse to play by the rules. Dyer knows this, even as he, too, is seduced by the film noir quality of these lives: predatory masters of an obscure craft, the hustlers' greatest triumphs are little-known and most die broke and alone. One senses that the prose has been bullied in an attempt to make it sing, and one wonders if, despite his long research, the author is a bit too credulous when stories are too good to be true (he cites Fats' fanciful autobiography too often). Yet this labor of love has much to recommend it. Pool players leave no troves of correspondence for researchers, only great stories, and maybe that's enough. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Again, I believe this is a good introduction to a great era in pool, covering the old school players in a way that made them seem personable. However, the book does a lot in a few pages and left me wanting more coverage into some of the player's life (especially Wimpy) and the decline of the era of pool post WWII. The writing itself made me feel like I was having a conversation with an old school player retelling the stories of this bygone era of pool.
The author doesn't attempt paint a flowery picture of pool. He writes about the gambling, the hustle and its infamous legal troubles. The old school pool rooms and its patrons are not a pretty bunch. He also reminds us of the beauty of the game and its characters - the amazing tournament wins and the runouts. Pool is an indelible part of America and the author does a great job reminding us of this fact.
But I was a player not a hustler. What Dyer gave me was the full and colorful history of the era that I saw ending. This is a beautifully written account covering the 1940s through the 60s. The story is told with the steely, merciless attitude of their game, but with a great deal of humor and affection.
Dyer has written about the game in various publications and he appreciates the astounding skills of these men: the hustle was in the fact that if you were not in their world, you had no idea of the abilities that could be brought to bear against you if you went to the table.
Anyone who saw "The Hustler" with Paul Newman has some idea of all this. But Dyer digs deep into their lives, sometimes painfully so. The canvas is not just New York but all the towns, big and small, where the action was. Such as Norfolk, Va., the Naval and shipbulding hub which during WWII was a pool hustler's paradise and a regular stop on the circuit.
Once tournaments began to be televised, another chapter in the hustler's life opened and Dyer has it covered, shot by excruciating shot. Big-time pool is all about pressure, and with Dyer you can feel it taking the air out of the room.
I loved reading this book and look forward to reading it again.