One wouldn’t probably guess it, but Bangkok has a fascination with pool, as in billiards. Author Tom Crowley, an American expat with a passion for it as well, has spent the last 12 years watching a budding community of talent, hustlers, and pool culture evolve here in the Big Mango. His latest book, Bangkok Pool Blues published by Mettavisions is a fascinating look into that subculture. But if you are expecting just a hum-ho treatise on the game, you’ll be getting more than you bargain for. It’s all there: the short history of the game in Thailand, the rules and strategies of play, and the author’s story of how he found himself part of it all. Pretty much what one might expect. But within just a few pages the colorful characters emerge: the most ambitious madame in Bangkok. The hustlers. The gamblers. The corrupt.
“The pool scene touches on all aspects of Thai culture,” writes Crowley. Crowley has a love of anecdotes and tells them well. Bangkok Pool Blues strings them all together with the theme of the game, but in the end the book paints a picture of Thai culture. Anyone who’s never been to Bangkok will learn much to help them relate to the locals and their social mores and spiritual beliefs. Readers who have been there done that will commiserate and enjoy the parade of characters around the felt-covered tables.
Crowley likes to keep a low profile and his part in this narrative is as a guide standing behind your shoulder, keeping his voice low, and allowing the scenes to take place without his involvement. In addition, Yoonki Kim, a Korean photographer living in Bangkok since 1994 provides some great black and white photography that captures the mood.
For anyone who actually plays the game and is planning to call a few pockets in Bangkok, this is required reading. Beneath the surface of this friendly barroom game is a complex world of rules, risks, surprising disappointments and unexpected pleasures.
Tom Crowley provided the recommendations for NileGuide Bangkok’s Best Places to Shoot Pool in Bangkok.
Bangkok Pool Blues is available in most Bangkok bookstores and on Amazon.com.