REVIEWS EXCERPT
 

What happens when a young woman, who has known only acclaim and security, abruptly loses everything?

Sedonia Forbes sits in her sports car, parked behind a rundown poolroom.  Three months ago, she was the top amateur woman golfer in the nation.  Newspapers heralded her as an up-and-coming female Tiger Woods.  Now she's a nobody, who can never play golf again.

She's come to this poolroom looking for a hustler named Emilio.  Tears of frustration well, but she blinks them back.  There's been enough of that!  She climbs out of her car, and leaving her country-club life behind, she enters the green-felt poolroom jungle.

Populated by authentic characters and told from an insider's view of professional pool, Stroke is the story of a young woman's quest for redemption and self-renewal.

 

PURCHASE: $15
(Kindle $7.50)

www.amazon.com

www.bebobpublishing.com

Paperback
356 Pages
ISBN-10: 1450536158
EAN-13:  9781450536158

 

REVIEWS:

Stroke is amazing, and Miller gets it right.  He knows the game as well as the pain, sacrifice, and beauty of competitive sports.  A wonderful look at pool and at life.

  • Jeanette Lee, “The Black Widow, ”Women’s Professional Billiard Association

True lovers of pool will fall in love with Stroke.  With a deft touch and a keen eye, Carlos Ledson Miller has captured the sport in all its nuanced beauty.

  • R. A. Dyer, author of Hustler Days

Stroke is really a fun read.  I love Sedonia's heart, guts, and her fearless and ambitious determination to be as good as she can be.

  • Ewa Laurance, “The Striking Viking,” Women’s Professional Billiard Association

Like A River Runs through It and The Hustler, Stroke transcends the central activity of its characters and emerges, not only as a great pool story, but simply a great story.  As a pool player I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I know it will appeal to anyone who appreciates literature, regardless of any prior exposure to the game.

  • Tom Ross, columnist, Billiards Digest Magazine

Stroke stays true to the game.  Inspiring.  Ambitious.  A thoroughly enjoyable book.

  • Kim White,”Lone Star,” Women’s Professional Billiard Association

An awesome, original novel.  Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down.  Sedonia is my hero!

  • Deanna Henson, “The Texas Wildcat,” OB Cues Women’s 9-Ball Tour

An enjoyable book.  I identify with Sedonia’s intense ambition to win an open world championship.

  • Jackie Broadhurst, former BCA Women’s Singles Champion

Good pool fiction is hard to find.  Hence, it was real treat to find a new billiard novel that is well written and a good read.  Most pool players can identify with Stroke, but it is clearly deserving of a wider audience.

  • Sheri Richardson, Chalk and Cue Magazine.

Stroke is very well written . . . more about the polished world and personal relationships of female pros than about the world of gambling.

  • Tom Shaw, editor, Pool and Billiard Magazine

Stroke is a great book and one of a kind.  Truly a must read for the player in all of us.  It spots other pool stories “the six and the breaks.”

  • Michele Thompson, former Valley Women’s Singles Champion

 

 

EXCERPT:

PART I

CHAPTER 1

“UNEVEN SHOULDER” cautioned a temporary, orange freeway sign. Sedonia straightened hers, and a sharp twinge near the base of her neck reminded her yet again of her recent surgery. She flipped on her left blinker and maneuvered her black Mazda Miata away from the six-inch drop-off and into the center lane of the Gulf Freeway. Construction barrels bottlenecked the Sunday afternoon traffic, and her lane change drew a horn blast. She glanced into the rearview mirror and saw the pitted grill of a rusty brown pickup truck too close to her bumper.

“GALVESTON 28 MILES” read a green sign. Sedonia grew uneasy; the League City exit would be next. She drew a deep breath, trying to relax. The rusty pickup rumbled past on her left. Sedonia glanced over and caught a glimpse of the redneck driver, turned sideways in his seat and glaring at her. She suppressed the impulse to extend the one-finger salute.

“LEAGUE CITY 1 MILE.” She flipped on her right blinker, and a woman in a gray Suburban slowed to let her change lanes.  Moments later, Sedonia exited onto the feeder road, then caught the green light and passed through a busy intersection. Ahead she saw a large weathered sign that read “Champ’s Billiards.” Beneath the sign stood a building that looked like a rundown hunting lodge. It seemed out of place, set in front of an aging freeway strip mall. There were no empty parking places in front, so she pulled around to the rear. That lot also appeared to be full, but she found a place in the far corner that was wide enough for her Miata.

She parked, then sat for a moment, having second thoughts about her mission. A sigh escaped. Three months ago, she’d been the top amateur golfer in the nation and about to join the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour. Just three months ago. Now she was a nobody, looking for a pool hustler named Emilio. Tears of frustration welled unexpectedly, but she blinked and forced them back. There’d been enough of that.

She quickly slid a twenty-dollar bill and her driver’s license into a rear jeans pocket, then pushed her purse under the car seat. As she climbed out, she looked around. No one in sight. She started across the potholed asphalt. Parking in remote areas always made her uneasy, and now she glanced from side to side as she hurried through the jumble of dusty vans, pickups, and cars. She made a mental note to be on her way before dark.

At the front of the building, she hesitated, then pushed open the door and stepped inside. She’d expected a large room, filled with pool tables, but instead found herself in a small outer bar, with a baseball game blaring from a big-screen TV. Several men occupied the only table; two others slouched at the bar. They all turned and looked at her with interest.

Through open doorways to the right and left, she saw rooms with pool tables. Uncomfortable under the male scrutiny, she turned and headed through the doorway on the right. Nine pool tables, arranged side by side, filled the rectangular room. The faux lodge decor had been carried into the interior. Several deer heads hung high on the wall; they looked as dusty as the exposed rafters above them. The mixed smell of cigarette smoke and stale beer saturated the air.

Games were in progress on each table, and Sedonia noted that all the players were women. Her foreman had told her that in addition to the main tournament for men, there would be a satellite tournament for the ladies. Spectators lined the walls. She found a good vantage point beside a young man with a sparse growth of facial hair.

At the closest table, a slight woman in her mid twenties, Sedonia’s age, was playing a heavyset woman who was at least well into her forties. Both wore faded jeans and T-shirts, and displayed humorless expressions. Sedonia recognized the game: Nine-Ball. It was one she and her father had often played.

The older woman walked around the table to where Sedonia stood, and brusquely gestured for her to move back, so she’d have room to shoot. The young man next to Sedonia gave her a tentative smile, then moved a half step to his left. Sedonia had to crowd against him to get out of the shooter’s way. As they waited for the shot, the young man stroked his wispy goatee with one hand. Sedonia felt the back of his other hand resting strategically against her backside. She couldn’t risk moving without disturbing the player about to shoot.

The woman lined up on the green 6-ball. With a smooth stroke, she drove it into the gold-striped 9-ball, which in turn rolled into a side pocket for the win.

Sedonia stepped away from the man’s hand and gave him an angry glance, then told the player, “Nice shot.”

The woman looked over her shoulder with a frown, and responded with a curt nod.

Okay, Sedonia thought, lesson one: no talking.

As the loser racked the balls, Sedonia shifted her gaze to the next table. Two women in their thirties also were engrossed in a serious game. Sedonia’s eyes began to sting from the cigarette smoke. A sharp crack! like a rifle shot, caused her to jump. The older woman had broken the rack, and balls now scattered about the table. The blue 2-ball slammed into a side pocket and a moment later the maroon 7-ball rolled into a far corner pocket.

“Do you play?” asked a nasal voice behind her. It was Sneaky Hand.

“A little,” Sedonia said. “I’m looking for Emilio Sepulveda. Do you know him?”

“I know an ‘Emilio’, but I don’t know if his last name is . . . whatever you just said.”

“He’s supposed to be a well-known pool player.”

“That’s probably the guy I know. We just call him ‘Emilio’. He’s over on the men’s side.”

Sedonia nodded, and then squeezed past him and worked her way through the spectators.  As she passed through the bar, the men at the table again looked up with interest.

The room on the other side of the building was smaller, holding only five pool tables. Spectators circled the perimeter. Men’s games were in progress on each table, but none of the players looked Latino. Those waiting to shoot sat perched on stools, focusing on their respective games like birds of prey.

Sedonia found a place beside an elderly man. “Excuse me,” she whispered, “I’m trying to find Emilio.”

The man tapped the shoulder of the person sitting in a chair in front of him. “She wants to talk to you.”

A thin Latino, perhaps thirty, looked back with a frown. “Yes?”

Sedonia leaned forward, so as not to disturb the nearby players. “Are you Emilio, Raul Garcia’s nephew?”

The Latino gave a quick nod, then stood and said, “Come.”  He led her back into the bar area. “What do you want?”

Sedonia again felt uncomfortable under the scrutiny of the men in the bar. She asked Emilio, “Could we talk outside?”

He gave another curt nod, and led her out the front door and around to the side of the building. Traffic roared past on the nearby freeway.

Sedonia took a deep breath. “Whew. It’s smoky in there.”

Emilio waited. Dressed in a nondescript pair of jeans and a faded sports shirt, he might well have been one of her house painters, reporting for work. Apparently, clothes didn’t make the player.

“I’m Sedonia Forbes,” she began. “I was talking to Raul at work the other day—”

“I have no time for a long talk,” Emilio interrupted in accented English. “In a few minutes, I have to play again.”

“Raul told me you’d be here this weekend,” Sedonia said quickly. “I want to learn how to play pool. Good pool.”

Emilio studied her for a moment. “Your name is Forbes?”

Sedonia nodded.

“Forbes Painting Company?”

“Yes.”

“My uncle works for your father?”

“He did. My father passed away.”

Emilio’s frown indicated he didn’t understand.

“My father’s dead,” Sedonia said. “Heart attack, three months ago. I own and operate the painting service now. Raul’s my foreman.”

Emilio responded with a look of resignation. “Why do you wish to play pool?”

From his manner, Sedonia sensed he was only continuing the conversation because she was his uncle’s employer. “I . . .” she began, but suddenly felt emotion threaten her eyes. She looked over at the freeway for a moment, then turned back and said, “I’ve been a golfer since I was a little girl. A damned good golfer. I was about to turn pro a couple of months ago, but I hurt my shoulder. I’ve had surgery on it, but . . . it can’t be fixed.”

Emilio gave a tentative nod.

“My father also taught me to play pool when I was little,” Sedonia said, “and he and I played a lot while I was growing up.”

“So,” Emilio said with a tolerant smile, “you played pool with your father.”

“And also in college, and at . . .” She hesitated, then finished uncomfortably, “the Bay Oaks Country Club.”

Emilio responded with a patronizing chuckle.

Sedonia knew how silly she must sound to him, but pressed on. “I need to replace golf. I need something I can do . . . something competitive that I’m good at. It’s . . . important to me.”

Emilio frowned. “And you want me to show you how to play pool?”

“If not teach me” Sedonia said, “at least see if you think I’m any good.”

Emilio hesitated, then said, “There is a poolroom on the NASA Parkway called Buster’s. Do you know it?”

“No, but I live in Nassau Bay. I’m sure I can find Buster’s.”

“I can meet you there tomorrow . . . about three o’clock.”

“Tomorrow, I’ve got appointments all day. But from Tuesday on, I can meet you wherever and whenever you have time.”

“Bueno,” Emilio said. “Tuesday at three o’clock. But right now, I have no more time for you.”

Sedonia extended her hand. “I’ll see you on Tuesday, then. And thanks.” His grip was firm, but his palm was as soft as hers. Professional pool players apparently avoided calluses.

He released her hand, turned, and headed back inside. Sedonia watched him disappear around the corner of the building. “Emilio is one of the best pool players in this area,” his uncle had told her. “Everyone knows him by just his first name . . . like Elvis.”

Sedonia considered going back in and watching the rest of the matches, but then decided to leave while the ominous parking lot was still bathed in sunlight.