Saturday, April 28, 2007

Pg. 99: Ted McClelland's "Horseplayers"

Today's feature at the Page 99 Test: Ted McClelland's Horseplayers: Life at the Track.

About the book, from the publisher:
This fun and witty exposé of horse racing in America goes behind the scenes at the track, providing a serious gambler's-eye view of the action. Ted McClelland spent a year at tracks and off-track betting facilities in Chicago and across the country, profiling the people who make a career of gambling on horses. This account follows his personal journey of what it means to be a player as he gambles with his book advance using various betting and handicapping strategies along the way. A colorful cast of characters is introduced, including the intensely disciplined Scott McMannis, "The Professor," a onetime college instructor who now teaches a course in handicapping, and Mary Schoenfeldt, a former nun and gifted handicapper who donates all of her winnings to charity. This moving account of wins, losses, and personal turmoil provides a sobering look at gamblers, gambling, and life at the track.
Among the praise for the book:
"Ted McClelland's Horseplayers ... is a zippy, fun and well-written romp around the racetrack. The book includes portraits of all sorts of characters McClelland meets through his habit. And McClelland, a staff writer for the Chicago Reader, also offers novices a thorough glossary of terms to help them understand how to watch and even bet on horse races. So not only is this a lively telling of a live subject, it's educational, too."
--New York Post

"EVER wondered if you could cut it as a professional punter? Ted McClelland, a columnist for the Chicago Reader, spent a year at racetracks and American off-track betting parlours to see if he could make a living from betting on horses, using as a bankroll the $4,000 he received from his publisher as an advance on the project. Regardless of the outcome, it was money well spent. This is a fine book, a witty examination of life among the community who inhabit the track on a daily basis, trying to scratch a living from playing the horses. Along the way, McClelland encounters a fascinating cast of diverse characters on the Chicago circuit, among them 'Professor Speed' Scott McMannis, a time-figures expert who hosts seminars at the racetrack and despairs of pupils ignoring his precepts. This immensely readable account, by a brutally honest writer who never pretends to any finer feelings or sentimentality when a bet is involved, is a gambler's book that is well worth a punt."
--The Racing Post
Ted McClelland's stories and essays have been published in Salon, Utne, Mother Jones, the Chicago Tribune, Slate, and Potomac Review. Many of his articles are available online and at his website, including "How Obama learned to be a natural" (Salon, February 12, 2007) and "Horse Racing's Plastic Surgery" (Slate, April 12, 2007).

Visit Ted McClelland's website and read an excerpt from Horseplayers.

The Page 99 Test: Horseplayers: Life at the Track.

--Marshal Zeringue