Monday, June 11, 2007


I’m no longer Mistress of the Ponies, Queen of the Pick Sixes, or Proprietress of the Superfectas. I’ve had to let Giovanni and Paulo go to break knees for others, and I’ve erased all the names in my book (good news for all y’all who didn’t think to the bet on someone other than the filly in the Belmont Stakes).

In other words, my reign as a Bookie is over, and my time in homework land has begun. Also, it means I have no excuse to clean my house.


I had a dream last night that one of the regulars called, a very sweet older man who bets with a partner, and I was reading off his regular requests: morning line odds, weights of the jockeys and the distance of the race in furlongs. In the middle of reading the list, I realized that the track had something like twenty horses running, something unusual for an American track—but not for a British or Japanese race—and I almost commented that this didn’t seem like his sort of race. Instead I just converted furlongs to miles* for him and sent him on his way, turning to my cubicle mate after I hung up to crack a joke about one of the horse’s names.

I woke up to the realization that I’d absorbed way more horse racing knowledge than I’d previously thought, and I was going to miss most of those guys and gals.

In honor of my former profession, it seems only right to compile a list of books that revolve gambling of some sort. Off the top of my head I can think of two nonfiction titles—Positively Fifth Street and Bringing Down the House—and one fiction title—Get Shorty had gambling elements didn’t it?—but none of them revolve around horse racing.

Luckily I know some readers.

So know any books with gambling as a theme or element (horse racing as either wins you double points)? If so put them in the comments below.**

*Eight furlongs equal a mile.

**Or comment other sundry gambling related entertainment (movies! Songs!). Just build a list people. I’d hate to have to rehire Giovanni and Paulo to force compliance. Although they could probably use the work.


stephanie said...

"Somebody Owes Me Money" by Donald E. Westlake, in which a cab driver gets involved in a murder mystery when he tries to collect his horse race winnings.

And just about any Dick Francis book, yeah? Those taught me lots of ways you can rig horse races.

lady t said...

Tilly Bagshawe's last book was all about horse racing-Showdown. I know that Jane Smiley wrote a novel about horses,too but I don't know if racing was involved.

Angelle said...

I know it won't get me double points, but Frank Baldwin's 1998 book Balling the Jack was a pretty sharp little novel about gambling, the Irish darts mafia, and being young in the big city.

Also, incidentally, it contained one of the most visceral evocations of what it's like to see live music in a small bar I've ever encountered on the page. I'll always hold it in a special place for that.

Shanna Swendson said...

I was also going to mention just about every book by Dick Francis (though his later books have been more tangential to horse racing).

I would list specific titles, but that would mean pulling them off my shelf to make sure which one was which, and then I'd start reading them, and then I wouldn't be able to stop until I'd re-read all the ones I have and then raided the library. I find those books strangely addictive. And I've never even been to a horse race!

quichepup said...

Oh man, all I can come up with is "A Day at the Races," a minor Marx Brothers movie. Not one of their best but still funny.

Miri said...

The best thing I can think of is The Quillan Games by D.J. MacHale. Not only is gambling (for the very highest stakes) a huge element in that book, it's darn creepy. I love creepy. (No horses, I'm sorry to say.)

The only problem with it is that I'm not sure how well anyone would understand it without reading the six books before it in the series...sigh.

ORION said...

I also vote for Dick Francis! Although my book Lottery has a little gambling! No horse racing though...shucks!

Carey said...

Well we must count Guys & Dolls in the gambling movie mix. Great show. And I know I'm stretching but I gotta mention "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, World" and the recent remake "Rat Race" as hilarious gambling movies.

Have a great day and I'm going to miss your stories about the ponies and your customers.


Kerry said...

Maggie Estep's Ruby Murphy mysteries take place at the track.