You don’t have to play, or even understand, poker in order to love Ted Heller‘s third novel, Pocket Kings. In this dead-on satire of online obsessions, a novelist with writer’s block finds a new–and very lucrative– stream of income in a virtual world that appears to give him everything he lacks in the real one. The disheartened writer, Frank Dixon, finds a new sense of self worth in playing, and winning, online poker. In this virtual world, Dixon becomes Chip Zero, a talented player who amasses a fortune and builds romantic relationships with women players.
Heller doesn’t disappoint, however. Dixon is forced to face the reality that the players in his “virtual” world are real humans. His friends and lovers actually exist, as does one rival player who is very unhappy that Dixon has won all his, also very real, money.
Praise for Pocket Kings:
“Highly entertaining . . . Pocket Kings is, in spirit, the comical sequel to Frederick Exley’s A Fan’s Notes, the classic and psychologically tragic depiction of machismo mediocrity.” –The New York Times Book Review
“Ted Heller’s brazen, often hilarious and always disturbing new novel, Pocket Kings, is a hybrid love letter and suicide note to 21st publishing. What seemed at first to be a smart if limited satire about publishing and online gambling becomes an illuminating and fully realized story about identity and reputation in the digital age. At its best, Pocket Kings explores authentic existence and the desperate extremes to which a man will go to be recognized in an industry that he, like so many others, despises and loves.” — Washington Post
“[A] recklessly funny, sparky satire of our obsession with the virtual world.” –Vanity Fair
“A satire with something for everyone: gambling addicts, narcissistic artists beset with workshop angst, veteran attendees of literary readings, literary agents who are clever enough to create a twin to avoid face-to-face meetings with clients, pompous publishers needing help with their declension letters–all wrapped up in smart literati humor and urban savvy.” –The Washington Independent Review of Books
“A poignant, funny satire by the author of Slab Rat and Funnymen, this promises to be as zeitgeisty as the spring’s books are likely to get . . . Heller’s prose is razor sharp and his cultural reference points are spot on. In fact it’s all so believable that you have to wonder about Mr. Heller’s own online poker credentials. Watch out for him at the virtual tables.” –CultureMob
“Pocket Kings is the kind of reading fun that offers nutritional value and not just empty calories. Ted Heller’s third novel is a satirical, charming literary ride.” –Buffalo News
Read an Excerpt: