A Mystery Series Betting on the changing world of sports betting

When I grew up in West Chicago, Tom FarrelI was immersed in sports: he was a member of his high school golf, basketball, and soccer teams, and he worked as a golf starter at the local St. Andrews Country Club in the late ’60s and early ’70s. And when he wasn’t playing himself or helping manage the flow of politicians and corporate outings on the golf course, he read about the intricacies of sports handicap. The way pundits play the odds would become a lifelong fascination that eventually inspired his series of murder mystery thrillers, including 2021’s. Difficult betting

“It’s not about betting on a horse because you like the horse’s name,” says Farrell, explaining the practice of handicapping. For him, the trick is to examine a multitude of factors and look at different information to make a prediction that goes beyond an educated guess.

Farrell kept track of sports and handicaps even during a diverse career. He worked as a chemist after graduating from Knox College and then went on to practice law in Denver, Colorado, while writing. And whether you’re on the golf course or track, as a handicapper and sports enthusiast you will inevitably come into contact with the (previously illegal) world of sports betting.

“Growing up in Chicago, the Outfit, as the Chicago mafia was known, was a part of everyday life,” Farrell says. “Corruption was the price of doing business.” Since sports betting has long been a big money cow for the mafia, writing about handicaps and betting seemed like the perfect starting point for Farrell to explore his interest in writing a mystery novel. In Difficult bettinghe puts readers in the shoes of handicapper and gambler Eddie O’Connell, who is deeply indebted to the Chicago Burrascano crime family, and combines Farrell’s love of sports with writers such as Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly and George Pelecanos.

Difficult bettingThe clever twist is that the Mafia is using its power against Eddie, not to get the money he owes them, but to hire him to solve a murder. Eddie isn’t necessarily a homicide detective, but he and his retired homicide detective uncle often conduct Mafia investigations (with the caveat that anyone they catch is turned over to the police rather than face mafia-style justice). In Difficult bettingHowever, the bosses only force Eddie out and send him to Denver, and the matter is personal as he and his uncle knew the victim, Zany, a mob-backed bookmaker and former jockey.

Kirkus reviews called Difficult betting one of the best indie books of 2021, calling Farrell’s “perfect ear for the intricacies of the no man’s land Eddie inhabits.” With sharp, first-person narration, Farrell gets inside Eddie’s head when he finds himself out of his element in Denver, trying to track down suspects by collecting from the gamblers who owed Zany:

They acted as if Zany had done them a favor by taking their bets. But I was not allowed to walk into the club, introduce myself and lay down new rules. I had to hold the reins. The collection of gambling debts, a debt based on an illegal activity, was a bluff. You didn’t want to push the debtor to the authorities. It was a different story in Chicago, where collectors operated under the protective umbrella of mafia rumors and innuendo. Run to the police and they would laugh at you and club you with a club to cure you of stupidity. But here in Denver?

The idea of ​​placing Chicago mobsters against a backdrop of Rocky Mountain views came in part from Farrell’s local poker group in Denver, where he had a friend who was a bookmaker. The two would exchange books, especially sports betting, and talk about the local scene. “The idea that there is no mafia in Denver and that they have no corruption here in this city is certainly not true,” Farrell said.

Farrell himself first moved to Denver in 1979 after studying law at DePaul University in Chicago. He mainly practiced commercial law until his retirement in 2012 and devoted himself to writing. while token Difficult bettingSet in 2014, he conducted extensive research to advance his knowledge by interviewing detectives and sportsbook executives in Las Vegas and attending sports betting conferences.

Farrell was already working on a second book in 2017, Easy betting, when the Supreme Court heard pleas about legalizing sports betting. By the time the decision was made in favor of sports betting in 2018, Farrell was already deep in a world that was suddenly changing by the minute. “The big question isn’t just how the states are going to structure sports betting laws,” Farrell explains, “but” [also] what will happen to the bookmakers? How are they going to survive?”

The legalization of sports betting did not stop Farrell from continuing the adventures of Eddie O’Connell. In fact, his early ideas for Easy betting proved to be quite prescient, so he incorporated the Supreme Court decision into the story and published that book first, deciding against a strictly chronological series. Currently, Farrell is finalizing a third Eddie O’Connell mystery set to take place in Las Vegas, and Farrell is eager to continue exploring the changing landscape, especially as issues of interstate regulation make it even easier for the former attorney to pursue his interest. arouse in the law in his thrillers.

No matter where the series or sports betting goes from here, Farrell thinks that Difficult betting and Easy betting making beautiful bookends about how sports betting has changed in America over the past decade. They also show that there are problems and many dramatic possibilities with sports betting, be it illegal or legal. “A lot of people think that legalization will contribute to the integrity of sports betting,” Farrell says. “I’m just not convinced that’s true.”

Rhett Morgan is a writer and translator based in Paris.