Preston L. Allen’s witty, charming, and very likable school bus drivernamed Pis a desperate gambler. He has blown the hundred thousand dollars he won at the casino six months ago, but his wife and family still think he’s loaded. P spins out of control on the addict’s downward spiral of dependency, paranoia, and depression, as he must find ways to keep coming up with the money to fool his family and fund his growing addiction. The bets get bigger and bigger, until finally, faced with the ultimate financial crisis, he hits it really big. Yet winning, he soon learns, is just the beginning of a deeper problem.
The one constant for Pwho rises from wage-earner to millionaire and back again in his roller-coaster-ride of a lifeis that he must gamble. That his son has died, that his wife is leaving him, that his girlfriend has been arrested, that he has no money, that he has more money than he could ever have dreamedare all lesser concerns for P as he constantly seeks out new gambling opportunities.
While other books on gambling seek either to sermonize on the addiction or to glorify it by highlighting its few prosperous celebrities, All or Nothing is an honest, straightforward account of what it is like to live as a gamblerwhether a high-rolling millionaire playing $1,000-ante poker in Las Vegas or a regular guy at the local Indian casino praying for a miracle as he feeds his meager life savings into the unforgiving slot machine. All or Nothing is the first novel to dig beneath the veneer to explore the gambler’s unique and complex relationship with money. If you’ve ever wanted to get into the heart and psyche of a compulsive gambler, here is your chance.
Preston L. Allen is a recipient of a State of Florida Individual Artist Fellowship and author of the thriller Hoochie Mama, as well as the collection Churchboys and Other Sinners. His stories have appeared in numerous magazines and journals and have been anthologized in Brown Sugar (Penguin) and Miami Noir (Akashic). He lives in South Florida.
New York Times Book Review, Sun., June 15, 2008
"As a cartographer of autodegradation, Allen takes his place on a continuum that begins, perhaps, with Dostoyevsky’s Gambler, courses through Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano, William S. Burroughs’s Junky, [and] the collected works of Charles Bukowski and Hubert Selby Jr Like Dostoyevsky, Allen colorfully evokes the gambling milieu Like Burroughs, he is a dispassionate chronicler of the addict’s daily ritual, neither glorifying nor vilifying the matter at hand. Yet he never wallows like Lowry nor amuses like Bukowski. His spare, efficient prose could be called medium-boiled."
Library Journal, Nov. 15, 2007
"Allen's new novel poignantly depicts the life of P . . . 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."
Kirkus Reviews, Sept., 15, 2007
"A gambler's hands and heart perpetually tremble in this raw story of addiction . . . Allen's brilliant at conveying the hothouse atmosphere of hell-bent gaming."
ForeWord, Jan/Feb. 2008
"All or Nothing is funny, relentless, haunting, and highly readable."
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About the Author
Preston L. Allen is a recipient of a State of Florida Individual Artist Fellowship and author of the thriller Hoochie Mama, as well as the collection Churchboys and Other Sinners. His stories have appeared in numerous magazines and journals and have been anthologized in Brown Sugar (Plume Penguin 2001) and Miami Noir (Akashic 2006). He lives in South Florida.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Wow. I hadn't come across this book through publicity, just found it at the library. But I couldn't put it down. It's a fast-paced, gut-wrenching tour through gambling addiction, family destruction, success and demise. The book follows the amazing ups and downs of a 'degenerate' gambler called 'P' as he proceeds to destroy his marriage, finances, career. It will probably find its way into the canon of books used by psychologists or psychiatrists trying to understand the phenomenon of gambling addiction. Not having experience in this behavior/lifestyle it was eye-opening to say the least, and also painful to read. Fortunately the author gives us something other than just more pain, shame, destruction and insanity in the second half of the book, or this book would have really sucked me into a mild depression due to tragedy. I was convinced during reading this book that this must be autobiographical in some way as the main character's voice was so pitch perfect, it couldn't be otherwise. However the more the book progressed the more I thought perhaps this is just a really talented writer amalgamating from experiences, friends, and other sources and flattening it all into a soulful single note that leaves echoes even after the book is over.Unfortunately, the book is risque/sexual at times, so I would be hesitant to recommend it without constraint. I wouldn't begrudge that aspect to the book, as I am sure it is needed to make the story true to life, and perhaps it's truly reserved and conservative compared to what really goes on among the residents of this lifestyle. The book is a haunting portrayal that will stick with me for some time.
This book was given to me as a reading assignment. And I must say, it's been the most enjoyable assignment all semester. The story is told though the perspective of P, a bus driver with an addiction to gambling. What makes this story different is that you get to see the mindset of a gambler. How they think, how they act, what they do and why they do it. You get an inside view of what it's like to be a addicted to casinos, and how scary it can truly be. The characters a memorable, and P himself is a well designed and lovable character. You will find yourself rooting on for him, in hopes he can find his way out of this horrible lifestyle. The dialog is interesting, entertaining, and funny. It's very believable, to the point where you will ask if it's based on fact or fiction. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a memorable story, and I look forward to reading more from Mr. Allen.
This dark, yet poignant account of the devasting effects of a gambling addiction through the eyes of a truly lovable character, P, made it impossible to put down the book. Allen describes in detail what drives the gambler and the itch that he or she never succeeds in scratching. I found myself cheering for P. and his salvation, whatever that might be.