For generations they have known how to deal, when to fold, and how not to get backed into corners. They communicate with signs and quiet symbolism, and what they say is not what they mean. Like his father and brother, Charlie spends his young life manipulating everyone he meets into handing over just what he needs of them. But he's still playing in the kinds of games that leave scars. And he has just pushed one mark too many - a little further than he should
The hero of G.W. Hawkes's third novel is a card shark--just like his father, his grandfather, and his great-grandfather. In fact, no Halloran within recent memory has held down an honest job. You might say the family has gambling in their blood--or, to be more precise, in their genes: "The double helix of our DNA is a gambler's rose," Charlie says. "You couldn't have become anything but a sharp" is how his father (the wonderfully named Music Halloran) puts it. "Someone or something else rolled those dice first." With or without marked decks and shaved dice, the profession still has its risks: Charlie's grandfather was killed with a welding torch and his cousin Dex was beaten with shovels until no one knew whether he'd wake up. Washed ashore in Hawaii after a run of bad luck, Charlie seems well on his way to upholding this part of the family tradition as well.
But then at a Honolulu hotel, he meets up with a professional mathematician (Charlie, naturally, is charging drinks to someone else's tab). A believer in the "rigid order in apparent randomness," Lia O'Donel studies turbulence, so of course she and Charlie fall in love. The pairing is odd but also oddly believable, and for the first time he thinks of going straight. To do so, however, he needs a stake, and there's only one way he knows how to earn it. Enter his father, brother, a stunning yacht named Music Hall, and a very high-stakes poker game. As all the players lay their cards on the table, Gambler's Rose combines some heavy thinking about chaos, fate, and design with rat-a-tat-tat Chandler-style dialogue and a stylishly cinematic plot.
From Publishers Weekly
Cheating at poker may be a risky business, but Hawkes shows it's even trickier to play straight in this story of a father and two sons, card sharps all. Building his tale around a series of suspenseful poker games, Hawkes (Surveyor) captures the lexicon and atmosphere of the world of professional gambling, where the twitch of an eye, or the positioning of one's body at the card table supply more information than the uninitiated could ever imagine. It is 1971, and after an exchange of cryptic notes, family patriarch Music Halloran and his sons, Charlie and Reggie, meet in Honolulu. Music has won a beautiful sailing vessel and has set up a mark he wants to fleece in a high-stakes game at sea. The mark, a perfume manufacturer named Vince Arthur, is accompanied by his daughter, Bobbie, who immediately seduces Reggie, and a professional gambler whom Arthur has hired to keep the Hallorans honest. Meanwhile, Charlie is having doubts about the family profession, and when he falls in love with math professor Lia O'Donel back on shore, his anxieties are compounded. Another high-stakes bet may give him the means to exit the game, but the question is whether he really wants out. Hawkes's setup is dynamite, and his prose is sharp and clean. But after the novel's promising beginning, with each Halloran going his own way, the story begins to lose focus. There is a scheme to sink the sailing boat; there are long-unresolved issues among the three Hallorans, dark secrets that are forced to the forefront as the boys cope with the possibilities of settling down. Hawkes may strive too hard for profundity at times, overloading his gambling metaphors, but the force and wily integrity of the tale ultimately win out. (Mar.)
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About G. W. Hawkes
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Published December 3, 2009
by MP Publishing Limited.
Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Children's Books, Parenting & Relationships.