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The Ballad of a Small Player

by Lawrence Osborne

This is meditation on a life of loneliness and futility. Lord Doyle, a gambler, is unable to make any form of human contact, any friendship, any relationship except through baccarat. He wreaks devastation in his own life and on others that he meets, because he has no empathy except with cards. His run of luck, both good and bad, leaves havoc behind him. Not as grim as it sounds – and the writing is compelling and beautiful.

Extract

When I went to the Galera for lunch there was a frost in the air. The waiters eyed me coldly and their politeness was formulaic. In the lobby the staff gave me a similar treatment, though I daresay it was preferable to being hunted like a rat in debt. Of course, one can too easily become paranoid, and I was perhaps too sensitive after the strange events of the preceding night, which could be chalked up to the fluctuations of chance and nothing more. But the Chinese, I knew, wouldn't see it that way.

Parallels

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
Taipan by James Michener
 

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