Positively Fifth Street by James McManus

June 4, 2004 at 12:00 am | Posted in 3 stars, Book Reviews | Leave a comment

Fairly enjoyable magazine-article-turned-nonfiction-book about a journalist descending into the poker world for a week to cover the World Series of Poker and a Las Vegas murder trial. It’s in kind of the classic New Yorker fixup mode, although the article was for a different magazine, where a story too long for an article but too short for a book is padded out to novel length with some difficulty. The good news, though, is that in between the filler (and there isn’t a huge amount, just a little too much for its own good) the story is quite compelling. It’s a very participatory narrative since the writer decides to compete in the World Series as well as cover it, and has a lot of personal interaction with some of the big players in the murder case (and fictionalizes and speculates when he doesn’t). If you are interested in Poker or the Las Vegas casino lifestyle, this is a good book to pick up. Otherwise, it is mainly notable for the surprisingly unsympathetic portrait of himself the writer chooses to paint (basically, a poor poker player and a poor husband) because his choice in filler tends toward angst.

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