Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bob Randisi's gamble pays off

Several years ago Robert J. (Bob) Randisi decided to start writing books larger in scope to build more of an audience for himself. If you've been on any of the reviewing sites--or picked up a newspaper--lately you'll know how well he's succeeded with his novel Everybody Kills Somebody Sometimes, a book set in the Las Vegas of the early Sixties and starring the Rat Pack no less.

On top of that comes The Picasso Flop (Mysterious $24) which Randisi has co-authored with World Poker Tour TV host and commentator Vince Van Patten. This is another "insider" book, the world of professional poker playing laid out for the reader in colorful and suspenseful scenes as protagonist Jimmy Spain (recently relased from prison) is hired by a Texas gambler (and former cell mate of Spain's) to teach his daughter how to play poker. Unfortunately, murders start piling up at the casino and the young woman Kat finds herself the chief suspect. Some of the character sketches rival Elmore Leonard anti-heroes in their larky downscale lives.

Randisi builds his story with masterful tension, showing us how the poker tour system really works but never forgetting to turn the suspense screws tighter, either. The climax is a beauty and a surprise and certainly invites a second and even third book set in the world of Vegas poker.


Caught the first episode of HBO Extras' second season last Sunday. So far my favorite episode is still the one with Ben Stiller as the crazed and egotistical film director who keeps quoting his box office numbers to everybody. But in a quieter way the episode last Sunday came close to hitting that high mark. This season Millman (Gervais) manages to sell a sit-com to the BBC which then proceeds to "take it to committee." What was once an original and unique show is now just another sit-com. Millman tells off the BBC show runners and threatens to quit. Will he? This season benefits from Gervais' partner Stephen Merchant being on-screen, too. He has an odd presence that manages to be irritating and amusing at the same time. This guy has no principles at all. He'd kill your mother for $1 if he knew how to load the gun.

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