Compulsive

Jim Nelson, Author
Jim Nelson, Author Cheshire Moon Publications, L.L.C. $14.95 (271p) ISBN 978-1-889459-16-5
Paperback - 265 pages - 978-1-928971-01-6
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There's not much comic relief in this exacting but schematic depiction of one man's seduction by the compulsion to gamble--a single-mindedness that adds to the tension but also narrows the narrative into a set piece. Accountant Don Curtis can't stand his golf partner, Jeff Stevens, but that doesn't stop him from asking Stevens's advice about betting on football games. Curtis is soon seduced by the prospect of winning big, and he manages to ignore the prospect of losing his shirt. Though Curtis starts losing badly--at poker, at casinos, at the race track--he indulges in heady fantasies about recouping his losses. On a trip to Las Vegas, Curtis veers uncontrollably toward the inevitable rock bottom, which doesn't seem quite low enough for him. He flirts with the expected vices of a loser determined to win everything back: cocaine binges and adultery. Curtis's life before his gambling addiction is not fully rendered, leaving the reader unsympathetic as his behavior becomes more and more desperate and repulsive. His free fall into a world of deceit, denial and addiction is punctuated by dreams and fantasies that are essentially textbook Gambler's Anonymous credo. There are not many surprises in this faithfully observed and competently told story, which never approaches the manic intensity of Donald Barthelme's Bob the Gambler, or rises above the level of a cautionary fable. (Jan.)
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