||Jan 1, 2007
A lowly Miami bus driver, the optimistic gambler P, leaves his wife and family for the bright lights and games of chance of Las Vegas where he hits it big only to learn that winning at gambling is not so different from losing.
Barnes & Noble.com
All or Nothing
From Lexi-Nexis News
"By day, P drives a school bus in Miami. But his vocation? He's a gambler who craves every opportunity to steal a few hours to play the numbers, the lottery, at the Indian casinos. Allen has a narrative voice as compelling as feeding the slots is to P. The driven driver wins small, he loses small, borrows from the check-cashing stores, searches in the school bus seats for spare change, wins big, dribbles it away. Loses his wife and kids, moves to Vegas, becomes a professional.
"Allen describes all this in a - dare I say - poker-faced style. P is a frustratingly likable man who does terrible things and knows it, yet is too busy borrowing and lying either to get all remorseful and moralizing or its opposite, to get all grandiose even when he becomes a legend in the green baize desert. The conclusion is contrived - what precedes it is the true conclusion, when P inevitably stops getting a kick out of gambling. But the other 98 percent of the novel is fascinating even to those who think of gambling as a mug's game."
Betsy Willeford is a Miami-based freelance book reviewer
"The only addiction stronger than gambling is charity."
From the Kirkus Review--
"We gamble to gamble. We play to play. We don't play to win." Right there, P, desperado narrator of this crash-'n'-burn novella, sums up the madness. A black man in Miami, P has graduated from youthful nonchalance (a '79 Buick Electra 225) to married-with-a-kid pseudo-stability, driving a school bus in the shadow of the Biltmore. He lives large enough to afford two wide-screen TVs, but the wife wants more. Or so he rationalizes, as he hits the open-all-night Indian casinos, "controlling" his jones with a daily ATM maximum of $1,000. Low enough to rob the family piggy bank for slot-machine fodder, he sinks yet further, praying that his allergic 11-year-old eat forbidden strawberries—which will send him into a coma, from which he'll emerge with the winning formula for Cash 3 (the kid's supposedly psychic when he's sick). All street smarts and inside skinny, the book gives readers a contact high that zooms to full rush when P scores $160,000 on one lucky machine ("God is the God of Ping-ping," he exults, as the coins flood out). The loot's enough to make the small-timer turn pro, as he heads, flush, to Vegas to cash in. But in Sin City, karmic payback awaits. Swanky hookers, underworld "professors" deeply schooled in sure-fire systems to beat the house, manic trips to the CashMyCheck store for funds to fuel the ferocious need—Allen's brilliant at conveying the hothouse atmosphere of hell-bent gaming. Fun time in the Inferno."
Allen's (Hoochie Mama; Churchboys & Other Sinners) new novel poignantly
depicts the life of P, a likable guy who drives a school bus and lives
with his wife and four sons in a pleasant house; a guy with brains but no
discipline. He lives to gamble, and he is barred from casinos when the IRS
catches up with him for not paying his taxes. This doesn't stop P, who
disguises himself and continues visiting the casinos. He eventually loses
his wife, job, and home. He neglects his sons, and the eldest is killed in
a drive-by shooting after joining a gang. At this point, P goes to Las
Vegas, and his luck changes: he strikes it rich. He puts millions in the
bank, gives money to various girlfriends, joins Gamblers Anonymous, and
begins doing charity work. This pacifies P's itch to gamble for a time,
but he can't overcome it, and the story ends in tragedy. Told without
preaching or moralizing, the facts of P's life express volumes on the
destructive power of gambling. This is strongly recommended and deserves a
wide audience; an excellent choice for book discussion groups.—Lisa
Rohrbaugh, East Palestine Memorial P.L., OH
Allen’s dark and insightful novel depicts narrator P’s sobering descent into his gambling addiction. P, a Miami native, is a school bus driver and desperate gambler who spends his nights (and many of his days) in south Florida casinos. Both a surprisingly likable and an often despicable character, P is a perpetual loser with a $1,000-a-day habit who lies to his wife and scrounges in the seats of his bus looking for loose change the kids left behind. He takes the small amounts of cash that his destitute, dying mother offers him to support his obsession. P knows he’s sick, but he doesn’t want any help; he lusts for the next big score. Finally, his luck begins to change, transforming him from a broke degenerate into a legendary professional gambler in a signature black cowboy hat. The well-written novel takes the reader on a chaotic ride as P chases, finds and loses fast, easy money. Allen (Churchboys and Other Sinners) reveals how addiction annihilates its victims and shows that winning isn’t always so different from losing.
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