Walter Tevis was born in San Francisco in 1928 and lived in the Sunset District, close to Golden Gate Park and the sea, for the first ten years of his life. He remained immensely proud of being born in that city. At the age of ten his parents placed him in the Stanford Children's Convalescent home for a year during which time they returned to Kentucky, where the Tevis family had been given an early grant of land in Madison County. Walter traveled across country alone by train at the age of eleven to rejoin his family and felt the shock of entering the Appalachian culture when he enrolled in the local school. He made friends with Toby Kavanaugh, a fellow student at the Lexington high school, and learned to shoot pool on the table of the recreation room in the Kavanaugh mansion, and to read science fiction books for the first time in Toby's small library. They remained lifelong friends and Toby grew up to become the owner of a pool room in Lexington.
At the age of seventeen, Walter became a carpenter's mate in the Navy, serving on board the USS Hamil in Okinawa. After his discharge, he studied at the University of Kentucky where he received B.A. and M.A. degrees in English Literature and studied with Abe Guthrie, author of The Big Sky. Upon graduation he taught everything from the sciences and English to physical education in small-town Kentucky high schools. At that time he began writing short stories, which were published in The Saturday Evening Post, Esquire, Redbook, Cosmopolitan and Playboy. He wrote his first novel The Hustler, which was published in 1959 by Harper & Row and followed that with The Man Who Fell to Earth, which was published in 1963 by Gold Medal Books. He taught English Literature and Creative Writing at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio for fourteen years, where he was a distinguished Professor, and left that post in 1978 to come to New York and resume writing. He wrote four more novels - Mockingbird, The Steps of the Sun, The Queen's Gambit and The Color of Money - and a collection of short stories, Far From Home. He died of lung cancer in 1984. His books have been translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Icelandic, Greek, Slovak, Serbo-Croatian, Israeli, Turkish, Japanese and Thai.
Member of the Authors Guild
To Fast Eddie Felsen, a young pool hustler, there was only one thing that mattered: to make the big time and the big money in the world of pool by beating the best in the country. Hustling suckers in small towns for good stake money was practice for his goal and when he felt ready he went to Bennington's pool hall in Chicago to look for Minnesota Fats. Eddie and Fats pit nerve against skill in a fantastic match over an unbroken thirty six hours. This contest shows Eddie some things he did not know about guts, stamina and "character " - the difference between winners and losers. It proves a hard and painful lesson to learn. It takes an interlude with Sarah, an alcoholic student and a born loser, to give the lesson meaning, and the shrewd advice and backing of Bert, a professional gambler, to put it into practice. Bert knows that talent without character is nothing and stakes Eddie to a climatic return match for all or nothing. When it is over, Eddie knows a great deal more about big- time pool, about money, and about himself. In beating Fats he became the best in the country.
"A fine, swift, wanton, offbeat novel." The New York Times
"Opens the door on a world that books have not yet made commonplace...scenes in which a smoky, seedy world becomes sharply alive and crises are intense..." Time
The Hustler was first published by Harper & Row. Copyright 1959 by Walter S. Tevis
The 20th Century Fox Film produced and directed by Robert Rossen was released in 1961
Eddie walked out on his talent and for the next 20 years ran a pool room, got married and watched pool games on television. One evening he watches a fat pool player who reminds him of Fats and the night he played him. When the television show ends, Eddie gets up and goes to his poolroom to play straight pool alone for hours, missing dinner for doing it, playing with the old excitement. And finally he allows himself to feel the feeling that has nagged at him since watching the show on television. "It was grief. The best part of him had died and he grieved for it" Leaving his poolroom and his marriage, Eddie once again goes in search of Fats and finds him retired in the Florida Keys. He persuades him to join him in a tour, going around the country playing each other for cable TV. His old nemesis becomes his mentor and encourages him to play eight ball and nine ball, and to improve his rusty skill enough to play in tournaments where the big money now is. Eddie also meets Arabella, a smart, good looking British woman, who too is recently divorced, and soon he moves into her apartment. Fats dies suddenly on the tour and Eddie goes on the road to hone his game for a tournament in Lake Tahoe where the prize is $30,000. After an uphill battle competing with arrogant young players who are just as determined to win as he is, Eddie reasserts his supremacy and wins the prize.
"Tevis writes about pool with power and poetry and tension. From the opening scene of this fine book, the reunion between Eddie and Fats 20 years after, the staccato beat of the prose and finely drawn characters grab the reader and don't let go. You don't have to like pool to like this book, to appreciate its sense of living on the edge." - Washington Post
The Color of Money was first published by Warner Books. Copyright 1984 by Walter Tevis, Inc.
The Touchstone Pictures film directed by Martin Scorsese was released in 1987. The screenplay by Richard Price bears no resemblance to the novel.
Thomas Jerome Newton, an extraterrestrial from the planet Anthea, which has been devastated by a series of nuclear wars, lands on Earth, in Kentucky, disguised as a human, with the intention of saving his own people from extinction. He arrives laden with gold and diamond rings which he pawns in local pawnshops to acquire some start up money. On Anthea he had learned the language and customs of the United States by watching our television. Antheans are twice as intelligent as human beings and with some capital from the sale of the rings in hand, Newton visits the office of Oliver Farnsworth, the best patent lawyer in the country and through him licenses the patents for some very advance Anthean technology. He amasses a fortune and begins to build a space ship to help the last 300 Antheans migrate to Earth. Along the way, he acquires a hillbilly housekeeper, Betty Jo, who introduces Newton to alcohol. He also attracts the attention of Nathan Bryce, a chemistry professor in Iowa, who is intrigued by some of the new products Newton's company brings to the market, and already suspects that Newton may be an alien being. Bryce tracks him down and Newton offers him a job running his laboratory, working from a very advanced portfolio of technical specifications on the spaceship.. Newton has also attracted the attention of the FBI and the CIA who arrest him and accidentally blind him during their examination of him. When he is released after months of confirement, he sinks more deeply into alcoholism and abandons his spaceship.
"Beautiful science fiction...(Newton) acquires a moving, tragic force as the stranger, caught and destroyed in a strange land... The story of an extraterrestrial visitor from another planet is designed mainly to say something about life on this one." The New York Times
"An utterly realistic novel about an alien human on Earth... realistic enough to become a metaphor for something inside us all, some existential aloneness." Norman Spinrad
The Man Who Fell To Earth was first published by Fawcett Gold Medal Books. Copyright 1963 by Walter Tevis
The British Lion film directed by Nicholas Roeg was released in 1976.
Beth Harmon becomes an orphan when her parents are killed in an automobile accident. At eight years old, she is placed in an orphanage in Mount Sterling, Kentucky, where the children are given a tranquilizer twice a day. Plain and shy, she learns to play chess from the janitor in the basement.and discovers that she is a chess genius. She is adopted by Alma and Allston Wheatley and goes to a local school where she is an outsider. Desperate to study chess and having no money she steals a chess magazine from a newspaper store and she steals some money from Alma Wheatley and a girl at school, so that she can enter a Chess tournament. She also steals some of Mrs Wheatley's tranquilizers to which she is becoming addicted. At thirteen she wins the Chess Tournament. By the age of sixteen she is competing in the U.S. Open Championship and like Fast Eddie, she hates to lose. By eighteen she is the U.S. Champion. Then she goes to Russia to face the Russians....
"What Walter Tevis did for pool in The Hustler, he does for chess in The Queen's Gambit." Playboy
"A psychological thriller." The New York Times
"Don't pick this up if you want a night's sleep." The Scotsman
"More exciting than any thriller I've seen lately; more than that, beautifully written." Martin Cruz Smith
"The Queen's Gambit is sheer entertainment. It is a book I reread every few years - for the pure pleasure and skill of it." Michael Ondaatje
"Gripping reading … Nabokov's The Defense and Zweig's The Royal Game are the classics. Now joining them is The Queen's Gambit." The Financial Times
The Queen's Gambit was first published by Random House, Inc. Copyright 1983 by Walter Tevis, Inc.
Rafford Films acquired the film rights to The Queen's Gambit in 1987. As yet, no film has been made.
A world where humans wander, drugged and lulled by electronic bliss. A dying world of no children, no art, no reading. A strange love triangle: Spofforth, the most perfect machine every created, whose only wish is to die; Paul and Mary Lou whose passion for each other is the only future. Some still refuse to surrender.
"Every so often a science fiction novel emerges which belongs in the mainstream of literature and Walter Tevis's Mockingbird is emphatically one such." The Observer
"Tevis understands the craft of story telling better than many more illustrious figures in the literary firmament. Mockingbird is a novel set in the future rather than straight science fiction.... has many echoes of Orwell.... Tevis writes with wit and understanding which ought to ensure Mockingbird a much wider audience than the SF fraternity." The Times
"Because of its affirmation of such persistent human values as curiosity, courage, compassion, along with its undeniable narrative power, Mockingbird will become one of those books that coming generations will periodically re-discover with wonder and delight." The Washington Post
Mockingbird was first published by Doubleday & Company, Inc. Copyright 1980 by Walter Tevis
Wardenclyffe Entertainment has optioned Mockingbird for film.
In a time when America's power has been eroded by energy depletion, and world control has been virtually given over to the Chinese, only one man has the courage to seek new mineral resources among the stars. He is Ben Belson, one of the richest men in the world, a man haunted by the memory of a loveless childhood and driven by needs and desires he can barely understand or control. His dream is to find the means to help America break the stranglehold of the corrupt interests who are keeping it a second class power.
"Warmly involving....Tevis" delivery is agreeably fluid and deadpan ; and narrator Ben Belson has enough craggy, amiably sardonic appeal to hold the reader's interest." Kirkus Review
"Engaging and effortlessly readable." Publishers Weekly
The Steps of the Sun was first published by Doublday & Company, Inc. Copyright 1983 by Walter Tevis
A collection of short stories
Part One: Far From Home
Part Two: Close To Home
"The poetic imprints of a fine writer's trail." The Times
"SF writing of a rare quality. " Time Out
Far From Home was first published by Doubleday & Company, Inc. Copyright 1981 by Walter Tevis.
Eleanora Tevis, Trustee
Walter Tevis Copyright Trust
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