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The Ballad of a Small Player: A Novel
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Random House Publishing Group 2014
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Description

A riveting tale of risk and obsession set in the alluring world of Macau’s casinos, by the author of the critically acclaimed The Forgiven.
 
As night falls on Macau and the neon signs that line the rain-slick streets come alive, Doyle – “Lord Doyle” to his fellow players – descends into his casino of choice to try his luck at the baccarat tables that are the anchor of his current existence. A corrupt English lawyer who has escaped prosecution by fleeing to the East, Doyle spends his nights drinking and gambling and his days sleeping off his excesses, continually haunted by his past. Taking refuge in a series of louche and dimly lit hotels, he watches his fortune rise and fall as the cards decide his fate.
 
In a moment of crisis he meets Dao-Ming, an enigmatic Chinese woman who appears to be a denizen of the casinos just like himself, and seems to offer him salvation in the form of both money and love. But as Doyle attempts to make a rare and true connection, all that he accepts as reality seems to be slipping from his grasp. 
 
Resonant of classics by Dostoevsky and Graham Greene, The Ballad of a Small Player is a timeless tale steeped in eerie suspense and rich atmosphere.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
04/01/2014
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780804137980
ASIN:
B00FO60AUU
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Lawrence Osborne. (2014). The Ballad of a Small Player: A Novel. Random House Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Lawrence Osborne. 2014. The Ballad of a Small Player: A Novel. Random House Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Lawrence Osborne, The Ballad of a Small Player: A Novel. Random House Publishing Group, 2014.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Lawrence Osborne. The Ballad of a Small Player: A Novel. Random House Publishing Group, 2014.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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Date Added:
Jun 12, 2018 17:11:50
Date Updated:
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        LAWRENCE OSBORNE is the author of the bestselling novel The Forgiven and six books of nonfiction. His short story "Volcano" was selected for Best American Short Stories 2012, and he has written for the New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker, Forbes, Harper's, and several other publications.

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The Ballad of a Small Player
fullDescription

A riveting tale of risk and obsession set in the alluring world of Macau’s casinos, by the author of the critically acclaimed The Forgiven.
 
As night falls on Macau and the neon signs that line the rain-slick streets come alive, Doyle – “Lord Doyle” to his fellow players – descends into his casino of choice to try his luck at the baccarat tables that are the anchor of his current existence. A corrupt English lawyer who has escaped prosecution by fleeing to the East, Doyle spends his nights drinking and gambling and his days sleeping off his excesses, continually haunted by his past. Taking refuge in a series of louche and dimly lit hotels, he watches his fortune rise and fall as the cards decide his fate.
 
In a moment of crisis he meets Dao-Ming, an enigmatic Chinese woman who appears to be a denizen of the casinos just like himself, and seems to offer him salvation in the form of both money and love. But as Doyle attempts to make a rare and true connection, all that he accepts as reality seems to be slipping from his grasp. 
 
Resonant of classics by Dostoevsky and Graham Greene, The Ballad of a Small Player is a timeless tale steeped in eerie suspense and rich atmosphere.

reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Tom Shone, New York Times Book Review
      • content: "Slim but insistent...A vivid and feverish portrait of a soul in self-inflicted purgatorio."
      • premium: False
      • source: New Yorker
      • content: "Osborne, a travel writer, renders the atmosphere of casinos, hotels, and restaurants seductively...[and] shows an impeccable facility for capturing the sweat-soaked suspense of the high-stakes card table."
      • premium: False
      • source: Tash Aw, for All Things Considered
      • content: "Hypnotic...Macau and Hong Kong feel vivid and true in the novel, yet also otherworldly: Well-known landmarks and weather conditions are captured with a stillness and beauty that make them feel haunting and melancholy...But ultimately it is the uncertain fate of Doyle and the others that made me as a reader feel strangely fulfilled. The decisions they make seem connected to the thrilling and terrifying changes taking place around them. Old ways collide with a brash new world, and in this game, it is not yet clear which will emerge the winner."
      • premium: False
      • source: Publishers Weekly (starred review)
      • content: "A searing portrait of addiction and despair set in the glittering world of Macau's casinos...Osborne's intriguing Chinese milieu and exquisite prose make this work as a standout."
      • premium: False
      • source: Library Journal
      • content: "Osborne's The Forgiven, an Economist Best Book of the Year (and one of my personal Bests from last year, too), is as brilliant, unsentimental a rendering of contemporary East-West conflict and the imperfect human psyche as you are likely to find. His new work proceeds in that tradition...Don't miss"
      • premium: False
      • source: Sunday Times (UK)
      • content: "A modern Graham Greene... Osborne is a thrilling, exceptional talent in British fiction's landscape."
      • premium: False
      • source: Irish Examiner
      • content: "Unavoidable comparisons will be drawn with Graham Greene's work...[Osborne] has a masterful touch with creating mood, and a swirling, world-weary foreignness pervades the story. The Ballad of a Small Player is a layered work, a novel about addiction, love and class but given an allusive face by the way it perches constantly on some supernatural brink."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from February 3, 2014
        The latest from author and journalist Osborne (The Forgiven) is a searing portrait of addiction and despair set in the glittering world of Macau’s casinos. “Lord Doyle,” as he’s known to the other gamblers, is an English lawyer who has embezzled from a client and fled to Asia. Doyle spends his days and nights playing baccarat, which he calls “a game of ecstasy and doom.” At the tables he drinks fine wine, handles his cards wearing kid gloves, and slowly but surely loses. Doyle’s descriptions of the tables, the players, and the game’s siren allure are by turns touching, acid, and depressing. A fellow gamer has eyes that reveal “worlds of private pain.” A particularly garish casino inspires Doyle to muse, “There is something in kitsch that reminds you there is more to being alive than being alive.” But Doyle’s jaundiced eye barely masks his monstrous compulsion; indeed, the novel’s energetic portrait of the highs and lows of a gambler’s fortunes are as good as anything in the literature of addiction. Just when it seems Doyle’s luck may have at last run out, he’s rescued by Dao-Ming, a beautiful prostitute, whose genuine concern for him seems to rouse Doyle from his dissipation and downward spiral. But the novel subverts an easy storybook ending and reveals something much bleaker. Osborne’s intriguing Chinese milieu and exquisite prose mark this work as a standout.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        February 1, 2014
        The titular "small player" of Osborne's (The Forgiven, 2012, etc.) new novel gambles at the casinos in and around Macau--and exclusively plays the high stakes game of baccarat. Doyle, our narrator and frequently known as "Lord Doyle"--especially when he's coming off a winning streak--has attained his money dubiously; he's an English lawyer who embezzled a pile of cash from a vulnerable and trusting older woman. Doyle doesn't dwell on this part of his past, however, instead fixating on the smoky rooms and betting parlors of Macau, where he's surrounded by other equally obsessed gamblers. We meet an intimidating woman known as "Grandma," who every night drops thousands of Hong Kong dollars to get revenge on her philandering husband. Doyle's most important connection is to Dao-Ming, a call girl with a proverbial heart of gold, the only truly human relationship Doyle is able to establish. His preoccupation--and at times his obsession--is the game of baccarat. We learn that each hand is inherently short, and the drama emerges from the enormous sums won and lost on the turn of a card. We witness Doyle's status change radically from loser to winner; since a "natural nine" is the best possible hand in baccarat, Doyle becomes something of a celebrity when he starts putting together hand after hand of these nines--and the proprietors of the casinos develop an understandable interest in this increase in his "luck." With his fortune mounting, Doyle plays one final hand--and decides to bet everything on the outcome. Osborne masterfully recreates the atmosphere of casinos as well as the psychology of baccarat players--and leaves readers eager to try their luck at the game.

        COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        March 1, 2014
        Having hastily decamped from the stuffy legal courtrooms of London to the smoky back-alley casinos of Macau, Lord Doyle tries to capitalize on the ill-gotten gains that forced his flight from his homeland by gaming the system at the island's glitzy baccarat tables. His fortunes rise and fall on a whim, the excesses of success mitigated by the depression of defeat. Always one to put on a good show, however, Doyle maintains his aura of invincibility until a local call girl offers him refuge when his money runs out. Robbing her to get enough of a stake on which to make a comeback, Doyle achieves a run of unprecedented good luck, but at what cost? With its ex-pat angst and debauched air of moral ambiguity set amid the sinister demimonde of the Far East's corrupt gambling dens, Osborne's (The Forgiven, 2012) darkly introspective study of decline and decay conjures apt comparisons to Paul Bowles, Graham Greene, and V. S. Naipaul.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2014, American Library Association.)

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        November 1, 2013

        Osborne's The Forgiven, an Economist Best Book of the Year (and one of my personal bests from last year, too), is as brilliant, unsentimental a rendering of the contemporary East-West conflict and the imperfect human psyche as you are likely to find. His new work proceeds in that tradition. The ethically challenged English lawyer Doyle has fled to Macau and thence Hong Kong, where he drinks and gambles his life away as he watches his finances sail high and low. A beautiful Chinese woman named Dao-Ming promises both love and money, but will Doyle's shady past smother him first?

        Copyright 2013 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        March 1, 2014

        In his newest novel, Osborne (The Forgiven; The Naked Tourist) unpacks Nietzsche's concept of the eternal return through the melancholy figure of Lord Doyle. Hiding out in Hong Kong, finding solace in alcohol, and burning through his embezzled wealth at the baccarat table, the British lawyer is searching through his past and trying to make sense of his present. At the nadir of his gambling addiction, he meets a prostitute who changes his fortune forever. The intersection of statistical probabilities and superstition are invisible forces that provide depth and meaning to both characters as well as a dramatic context to explore fundamental questions of human value. VERDICT Osborne's novel is seemingly a fictional composite of his own interests in drinking, traveling, and Southeast Asia. But the work is more than a personal diversion. It speaks to a larger, more disturbing universal truth embedded in the culture of gambling: one is always forced to act with or against the cards that are dealt. [See Prepub Alert 10/4/13.]--Joshua Finnell, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH

        Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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A riveting tale of risk and obsession set in the alluring world of Macau’s casinos, by the author of the critically acclaimed The Forgiven.
 
As night falls on Macau and the neon signs that line the rain-slick streets come alive, Doyle – “Lord Doyle” to his fellow players – descends into his casino of choice to try his luck at the baccarat tables that are the anchor of his current existence. A corrupt English lawyer who has escaped prosecution by fleeing to the East, Doyle spends his nights drinking and gambling and his days sleeping off his excesses, continually haunted by his past. Taking refuge in a series of louche and dimly lit hotels, he watches his fortune rise and fall as the cards decide his fate.
 
In a moment of crisis he meets Dao-Ming, an enigmatic Chinese woman who appears to be a denizen of the casinos just like himself, and seems to offer him salvation in the form of both money and love....

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