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Drawing Dead
Pete Hautman
First Publication: 1993
Publisher: Pocket Books (1997)
Pages: 306
ISBN: 0-671-00302-X
Reviewed 1/99

There hasn't been a lot of good fiction about poker. Drawing Dead isn't really about poker per se (in the way that Rick Bennet's and Jesse May's books are), but it comes from the author of Short Money and The Mortal Nuts, and features a semi-professional poker player as its protagonist.

Drawing Dead is a deliberately plotted book that carefully tracks several closely intermeshed plotlines involving Crow, a drug-addicted stockbroker and his nymphomaniac wife, two con men, a mobster and his towering stooge, a musicians' agent in leather and chains, and a bunch of other bit-players.The characters are all a bit cartoonish, as is the plot, but the book is not really supposed to be great literature. It's supposed to be fun reading, and to some extent it succeeds. The chapters flow together relatively easily, the text reads well and the plot holds together for the length of the book (just long enough). The book manages to be mildly to moderately entertaining throughout, if not deeply stimulating.

Because I know it's the first criterion by which a lot of poker players evaluate fiction, I can report that the poker scenes did not seem any less realistic than the rest of the book. Hautman isn't faking it. However, unlike with some other recent poker-related fiction, Hautman's goal seems to have been to write a novel, not to write a poker novel. He is successful in telling a story, and poker plays a significant role, even if the book's poker scenes are confined to a few pages. That's really okay. Lots of fine books written throughout history have had no poker content whatsoever.

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