Perhaps the best thing about Titanic Thompson, the book, is the fondness it creates for the world in which Titanic lived. A nostalgic America where civilisation wasn’t surrounded by wires, phones and the internet. Times were simpler and it was this reason that Titanic became the world’s finest gambler and hustler.
You know the name Titanic from the ship. It’s unlikely you know of the Titanic in this tale, because he was a man that never wanted any fame. Titanic Thompson was an expert gambler who travelled the United States parting people from their money the only way he knew how, by outplaying them or outright cheating them. By rights, Titanic should be a name on everyone’s tongue, seeing as he managed to con Al Capone, he ran with Minnesota Fats and was a part of George McManus murder trial. Most notably, the character of Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls was based on the Gambler.
The book tells his story and allows you, the reader, to join him on the road as he lived his life. Titanic and his feats of skill are so unbelievable that you could mistake it for a work of fiction, but Titanic was a talented man in both dexterity of hand and mind. He lived a life on the roads of America travelling from town to town playing high stakes poker, games of horseshoe, bowling and most importantly, golf. Golf takes up a large part of the book as Titanic learns how to play both left and right handed to take on the worlds best.
Titanic perfected everything he did and over his life won, and spent, millions of dollars. Despite his successes, the author, Kevin Cook, paints a turbulent picture of a man that you can both love and hate. The story of Titanic will inspire readers to chase a dream even if it seems unobtainable. Titanic lived his life the way he wanted and he loved it, he earned more money gambling in golf games than the PGA champions of the time. He drove the newest sports cars, rubbed shoulders with celebrities and revelled in the high life.
It can be an interesting book, as well, as Cook explains the history of the games that Titanic played. He delves into the origins of Poker, Dice games and the like with enthusiasm that pulls you in wanting to know more.
But while his journey drifts onwards, the reader remembers that this man was, in essence, a con man. There are moments of thrill and excitement as Titanic swindles gangsters and cheats them to show how much more powerful he is than them. But, then Titanic lived a lonely life. As the cover says, he married five times, each one a teenage girl and killed five men. So, as lovable as he was, in this day and age he would be tarnished as a pervert and a five time murderer.
This causes a stir of emotion and therein is the true beauty of the book. It’s a tale of humanity, whether right or wrong, the life story of this man asks you to walk in his shoes. What the author has created is a work of emotion, it sounds stereotypical, but it’s a rollercoaster ride of feelings. It’s hard to have a pride in this man one minute and then watch him walk out on his family the next because he didn’t want to be tied down.
The book does slow a little towards the end and doesn’t hold as much interest as the opening half. As Titanic’s life draws out Cook begins to refer to a lot of other gamblers and stars in the golf world. This brings a few too many stars to the book and the story of one man drowns a little in sea of information. It ends as if you’re reading an issue of Sports Illustrated, rather than a life story.
There’s no doubting that Titanic was a talented man and his stories have lived for years in golf clubs and casinos. It’s a story that needed to be told, to remind us how the world once was. To garner emotions and feelings in us that will cause conflict. Regardless, his story couldn’t be made up if you tried and it’s one that shouldn’t be missed.