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The Ballad of a Small Player


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A riveting study of risk and obsession, from a writer of effortless grace and menace

About the Author

Born in England, Lawrence Osborne is the author of the critically acclaimed novels The Forgiven, The Ballad of a Small Player, Hunters in the Dark and Beautiful Animals. His non-fiction ranges from memoir through travelogue to essays, including Bangkok Days, Paris Dreambook and The Wet and the Dry. His short story 'Volcano' was selected for Best American Short Stories 2012, and he has written for the New York Times Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, the New Yorker, Forbes, Harper?s and other publications. He lives in Bangkok.


"A modern Graham Greene.... into this relatively quiet period for British fiction, someone remarkable and unexpected has emerged fully armed with a formidable, masterly grip on the British novel. At precisely the point where most novelists start to show signs of flagging, Osborne has hit his creative, fictional stride...and has arrived as a thrilling, exceptional talent in British fiction's landscape." -- Robert Collins * Sunday Times *
"A perfectly written existential thriller, a spooky, gripping, heart-in-your-mouth read that has profound things to say about the only god who rules human affairs - chance." -- Neel Mukherjee * New Statesman, Books of the Year 2014 *
"Damn. Another writer I have to care about... dark, brilliant and about as ignorable as a switchblade. " * New York Times *
"The Ballad of a Small Player shares the exoticism and East-West disconnect of The Quiet American, the unresolved supernaturalism of The Heart of the Matter and Loser Takes All's bittersweet relationship with the gaming tables. If Osborne's book is a love letter to gambling, it's the kind written at 3am to an indifferent ex after an evening at the bar -- an ode to self-destruction. A brisk, electrifying read... the most ambiguous, and therefore the most enjoyable, kind of ghost story. The Ballad of a Small Player remains elusive, and is all the better for that." -- Adrian Turpin * Literary Review *
"Hypnotic, razor-sharp in its insights, compelling... in Osborne's hands, the moments of suspense are handled with so much skill that we sometimes read them more as memoir than elements of a thriller." -- Tash Aw * NPR *
"A searing portrait of addiction and despair set in the glittering world of Macau's casinos.... the novel's energetic portrait of the highs and lows of a gambler's fortunes are as good as anything in the literature of addiction. Osborne's intriguing Chinese milieu and exquisite prose mark this work as a standout." -- Starred review * Publisher's Weekly *
"With its ex-pat angst and debauched air of moral ambiguity set amid the sinister demi-monde of the Far East's corrupt gambling dens, Osborne's darkly introspective study of decline and decay conjures apt comparisons to Paul Bowles, Graham Greene, and V. S. Naipaul." * Booklist *
"The beauty of this novel is in the elegance and precision of its prose, which renders the glaring kitsch of Macau into a series of exquisite miniatures, and draws on Osborne's reserves as a travel writer." -- Gerard Woodward * Guardian *
"Lawrence Osborne's latest will leave you breathless... [It] will screw up your guts with anxiety, fill you with hope and then kick you hard in the b****cks all in one well-weighted read. No need to gamble -- it's an absolute winner of a book." -- Jon Wise * Weekend Sport *
"A brisk, electrifying read, as elegant in negotiating the rackety world it depicts as its bow-tied narrator" -- Rachel Cooke * Observer *
"Compelling... following Doyle's drift from card table to hotel to humid streets is immersive and will leave you restless, looking for stamps in your passport..." * Emerald Street *
"A bleak and enjoyable account of someone who, perhaps through unacknowledged guilt, finds bitter solace in losing and in driving himself towards extinction." -- Simon Baker * Spectator *
"Just as Doyle's game of choice, Baccarat, urges him to keep turning over one hand after another, Osborne's sharp, compelling prose is equally addictive - just one more page, one more page" -- Jim Dempsey * Bookmunch *
"Osborne shows an impeccable facility for capturing the sweat-soaked suspense of the high-stakes card table" * New Yorker *
"This is a good, fast read about what it is to win, and what it is to lose" -- William Leith * Evening Standard *

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