People like to talk about their favourite gambling movies, but not so much their favourite gambling books. And we're not talking about Poker: For Dummies either – we're mean those great novels where gambling is an essential part of the story's conflict. There are, surprisingly, quite a few. So instead of playing that mobile slot for the billionth time, why not curl up with a good book this autumn and read some great novels based on the enticing world of gambling?
1. Casino Royale
Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel has stood the test of time – not only being one of the best spy novels ever written, but also featuring one of the most famous fictional games of baccarat ever put to page. You're probably more familiar with the film outing starring Daniel Craig as the famous spy and perhaps even the earlier adaptation way back in the sixties. But this original story all started with the written word.
In this installment, Bond pits himself against the French communist Le Chiffre, leader of a sinister Soviet killer group SMERSH. The game they play is a 50 million franc baccarat session (poker in the film) which reaches its chilling peak with that famous torture scene. We're not going to spoil the story any further, so be sure to pick up your copy and give this one a read, because it is seriously a classic!
2. Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas
Another book better known by its film counterpart, this story is a much more internal and autobiographical one. Exploring the American psyche through the point of view of a drug-addled Thompson, we get to see what the true American Dream really is as the hero of the story ventures to Las Vegas for a spot of serious gambling at a grand casino. To say the book has a plot is missing the point – it is much more of a commentary on American society.
However, if we had to give it a synopsis, the basic events are Thompson and his attorney arriving in Las Vegas in 1971 to pursue a story for a magazine involving a motorcycle race only then to have a series of bizarre hallucinogenic experiences in which they smash up hotel rooms and cars, and have conversations with animals in the desert. It's strange to say the least, but we love it because of that.
3. An Occupational Hazard
Set in a 1970s London casino, this delightfully dark and mysterious book is a great mix of fact and fiction, featuring the staff of the ill-fated casino. All that happens in the story is often the result of the characters' naïvité of the gambling world and the troubles that it can invoke. The book takes place across several years and ends in the present day, making it almost like a Gothic horror novel only centered around a casino.
This book may be more unknown than the others on this list, but it's certainly one to look out for. With riveting prose and engaging characterisation, this book perfectly blends fiction and reality together, so that even the reader is unsure what actually happened. We love it when a book plays with our perceptions this way.
4. Loser Takes All
You're hooked on this novel simply from reading the title. A clever twist on the phrase “winner takes all”, Loser is a novel written by the cult British writer Graham Greene, who is also responsible for books such as Brighton Rock and The Quiet American. Each of his works have controversial themes and Loser Takes All is no different. The novel's protagonist has his wedding's location changed from England to Monte Carlo by a powerful benefactor and the story goes on from there with a topsy-turvy tale of revenge and financial decadence.
There's no particular moral here, except perhaps that you should always marry someone you love rather than someone who's ludicrously rich. But, again, we love the book because of this! Not every story has to have a good or bad guy or a lesson to be learnt. Stories can just be as confusing and weird as real life and oddly enough, gambling is easier to predict.