A gambler's hands and heart perpetually tremble in this raw story
of addiction. "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. (Kirkus Reviews)
'All or Nothing' is an honest account of what it's like to live as
a gambler. Allen digs beneath the veneer to explore the gambler's
unique and complex relationship with money.
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