As anyone who has read our book reviews section will know, the power of a good book is the ability to create a sense of magic, excitement and even glamour around virtually any topic. Novels that do this effectively are written by authors who have extensive experience with the subject matter, know what they’re writing about, and have had their lives shaped in some way by the experiences that they’re putting onto paper.
Whether the reader can relate or not is usually not of great importance. What matters is whether the reader can truly escape into the world the author has created, and feel truly engrossed in every sense of the word. One subject matter that has been a favourite of authors for centuries is gambling.
From the heady days of pre-revolution France up to the modern-day Gomorrah that is Las Vegas, gambling and the culture of casinos has provided limitless subject matter for talented writers. With that in mind, here are the very best novels about gambling that you should read.
The Gambler, Fyodor Dostoevsky
Sometimes the most powerful novels are the result of the author’s circumstances. The iconic Russian writer Dostoevsky wrote this sprawling masterpiece to pay off his own gambling debts, accrued due to his own fondness of roulette. The author was often seen gliding across the floors of St Petersburg’s and Baden Baden’s most glamorous casinos, which inspired him to write this telling of an aristocratic love story, which begins when the protagonist places a roulette bet on behalf of the women he adores. Expect plenty of twists and turns, as well as a good amount of black Russian humour.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson
Thompson’s Fear and Loathing is madness in print form. It follows the misadventures of the protagonist, Raoul Duke, as he embarks on a Las Vegas blowout to end all blowouts, in pursuit of the elusive “American Dream”. The novel is absolutely absurd and, at times, hilarious, but it also cuts deep into the heart of the American psyche during a critical moment in the country’s post-war history. Definitely a read you won’t soon forget.
Casino Royale, Ian Fleming
Is there anything that sums up the glamour of the casino more succinctly than Mr Bond himself? Ian Fleming’s first ever Bond novel is enjoyable for the lush and decadent descriptions of high-glamour casino life in the diamond-studded enclave of Monte Carlo. Since then the sleek descriptions of truly luxury casinos have been replicated the world over, even in the promotional imagery of purely digital platforms such as Mr Green casino, which often uses the allure of high-class casinos to entice players with their twitter imagery. It’s a true testament to the impact that a single work of fiction can have on the world.
Monsieur X, Jamie Reed
To round things off with a more recent entry, there’s no better contender that the 2018 novel Monsieur X, which follows the true story of a wealthy and highly intelligent Frenchman, who beat the state-run betting systems in France with his cleverly devised tactics, raking in millions and enjoying a life of unbelievable luxury. The French state even changed the rules of betting just to avoid losing more money from him, making Monsieur X an icon of French underdog culture.
If you have any suggestions for gambling novels that you think our audience should be reading, let us know in the comments below.