*Tambakis, Anthony. Swimming with Bridgeport Girls. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017. 320p. ISBN
. $26. Fiction
Ray Parisi, divorced but still deeply in love with his ex-wife, is a former ESPN analyst turned gambling addict who owes his bookie $52K and is on the run for attacking a jockey on the track after the guy cost him a $90,000 payday by easing up at the wire. Ray tries to see himself as a man nobly facing adversity, but the reality of his self-destruction makes that difficult. When he inherits $602,500 from his father, Ray heads to Las Vegas, convinced he can increase the pot to two million and use the earnings to win back his spouse by buying a property they both love. Using jocularity to mask his more troubling traits, Ray addresses himself and the reader throughout, creating sympathy for his plight despite the reader often wanting to whack him upside the head. Blindly self-aware, blithely stupidsmart, Ray believes that hope is everything in life. VERDICT Tambakis's outstanding debut is entertaining and sometimes sad, a superb portrait of a troubled but wisecracking gambler. Think Carl Hiaasen meets Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Gambler.