Andrew Croome


Author of Midnight Empire and Document Z


Canberra, Australia



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Midnight Empire has all the satisfactions of a skilfully plotted detective fiction, while being something much more... Croome deserves comparison with no lesser figure than Don DeLillo — a fresh and a singular achievement.”

—The Australian

“A nerve-racking narrative of betrayal and vengeance — the finest Australian thriller since David Francis' Stray Dog Winter (2008). Take this book off the shelf (and pay for it) as soon as you can.”

—The Age/Sydney Morning Herald


“Addictive and suspenseful... Andrew Croome knows what he’s doing.”

—Verity La

“A complex, evocative thriller that excels, engages and entertains to the end.”

—The Canberra Times

Midnight Empire

Midnight Empire


Las Vegas, Nevada. Young Australian computer programmer Daniel Carter has arrived at the heart of the American war machine – the drone program at Creech Air Force Base, Indian Springs.

Naive, untested, but keen to make a difference, he is plunged headlong into America's surreal battle against its enemies in the Middle East – a battle fought at a distance of 7,000 miles from a city where nothing is real.

As geographic and political boundaries blur, Daniel enters into an unlikely romance with a professional poker player, Ania. But when the hunt for an Al Qaeda master-mind ramps up in the skies over Peshawar, and American pilots begin to die in the suburbs of Las Vegas, events take a devastating turn.

A novel of a new kind of war, of love and connection in the modern age, Midnight Empire is a powerful thriller that takes us to the troubling epicentre of a foreshortening world. It is a taut and at times terrifying vision of a world without frontiers, a novel about dangerous new realities and how they threaten to transform us.

First chapterGet the book

“There is nothing quite as exhilarating as a superbly written spy novel, and that is exactly what Andrew Croome has delivered with Document Z. Impossible to put down, this is suspenseful writing at its best.”

—South Coast Register

“A fascinating historical chronicle. Croome revisits, with intelligence and flair, a remarkable moment in Australia’s recent history.”

—Australian Literary Review


“Croome’s prose bristles with wry intelligence in a first novel of rare poise.”

—Adelaide Advertiser

“Absorbing, sophisticated and powerful.”

—Cate Kennedy

Document Z


Canberra, 1951. The Cold War is at its height. Into an atmosphere of paranoia, rumour and suspicion, Vladimir and Evdokia Petrov are among a group of new arrivals at the Soviet Embassy in Canberra. Both are party loyalists, working for the MVD, Moscow intelligence.

Yet all is not well in the new city of Canberra. The atmosphere in the Embassy is tense and suspicious; the Ambassador resents their presence, and is secretly working to have Vladimir disgraced and recalled. In the meantime, ASIO are determined to discover who in this new group works for the MVD.

Only three short years later, Vladimir has defected and his wife Evdokia is held prisoner at the Soviet Embassy, waiting to be transported back to Russia to face punishment or death for his crime.

How did it come to this?

Get the book

Document Z

Winner UTS Award for New Writing – NSW Premier’s Literary Awards

Shortlisted Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book

Shortlisted Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction

Andrew Croome

About Andrew


Andrew Croome is a writer living in Canberra. Raised in Hobart and Albury-Wodonga, he has worked as a computer programmer, writing teacher and copywriter.

His first work of fiction was Document Z, a Cold War historical novel. It won the 2008 The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award and the UTS Award for New Writing at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book and the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction. His most recent novel is Midnight Empire. In 2010 Andrew was named a Sydney Morning Herald Young Novelist of the Year.

Andrew's articles and reviews have appeared in various publications, including The Age, The Australian and Meanjin. He holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne.

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News and events

08 Mar 2014

  • news

Space Invaders - New short fiction in Smith Journal

The newly released Smith Journal Volume 10 has a great collection of video-game inspired fiction.

James Franco, Adam Sternbergh, John Birmingham, Rick Bannister and me give dark and comic interpretations of old classics - Zelda, Donkey Kong, Leisure Suit Larry (oh, Sierra!), Mario Bros and Space Invaders.

Those were the days. Available from your local shop or on your digital device.

15 Jan 2014

  • news

Review of Australian Fiction

I have a new story, Two Pound Rainbow, in the first issue of Review of Australian Fiction for 2014. The review is now entering its third year, and has established itself as a unique part of the Australian literary landscape, not least for its fantastic design. I’m pleased to be sharing the issue with fellow Canberran Nigel Featherstone, who I interviewed recently for Island Magazine.

You can read Two Pound Rainbow, which is about a lake and a shack, as well as Nigel’s story, In the Happy No-Time of His Sleeping, by grabbing the review or by subscribing.

18 Oct 2013

  • news

Best Australian Science Writing

I’m excited that one of my pieces on Mt Stromlo is featured in Best Australian Science Writing 2013 from NewSouth Books. Edited by Jane McCredie and Natasha Mitchell, this year’s collection is introducted by Tim Minchin and features a long list of great scientists, writers, journalists, poets and commentators.

As NewSouth say, ‘Read this. Your brain will love you for it.’

Stay tuned for details of launch events in both Sydney and Melbourne soon.

03 Aug 2013

  • events

Writing the Australian Landscape

I’m looking forward to attending the National Library’s Writing the Australian Landscape conference in August, where I’ll be chairing a panel with Geoff Page, Matthew Higgins and Paul Daley. Our topic will be ‘Imagining the Capital: Words about Canberra’.

The NLA’s conferences are great events - not least because the all the sessions occur in the same space, which keeps everyone on the same page and allows for some discussion and back-and-forth in and between the panels. If you’re in Canberra, definitely consider coming along.

Saturday and Sunday, 3 - 4 August, National Library of Australia, Canberra

17 May 2013

  • events
  • festivals

Sydney Writers' Festival

I’m looking forward to heading to Sydney for the Sydney Writers’ Festival, where I’m appearing on a panel with John M. Green, Dawn Barker and Tom Wright entitled Fiction on the Edge of Reality. If you’ll be at the festival, please come along.

Friday 24th May 4pm - 5pm. Sydney Dance 2, Pier 4/5, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay

14 Mar 2013

  • events
  • festivals

You Are Here Festival

Thanks to Scissors Paper Pen I’ll be joining a panel at the You Are Here festival entitled ’We’re all in it together (in the same plague pit)’:

Profound work or a splash of words in a journal — Canberra is arguably a small pool when it comes to its artists. Does that oblige writers, musicians, painters and dancers to come together to create artistic strength and community, or are we better off believing it’s every artist for themselves, and the rest comes down to tidy PR and a keen audience? Is there a better, wiser, or other, option?

On the panel will be Shane Breynard (director of Canberra Museum and Gallery), writers Ryan Lindsay and Tara Cartland, as well as Scissors Paper Pen’s Duncan Felton.

Sunday 17 March, 1:30-3pm, Smiths Alternative Bookshop, 76 Alinga St, Canberra City.

04 Mar 2013

  • news

Perspective on Mt Stromlo in Meanjin's Canberra Issue

I have a piece on the Mt Stromlo Observatory in Meanjin’s recently released Canberra Issue.

I was lucky enough to visit Mt Stromlo for a two-week residency as part of the National Year of Reading, with the help of Libraries ACT, and I wrote the piece during my time there.

In March, Meanjin visits Canberra in the city’s 100th year to take the pulse of our elusive, much-maligned Capital.

Gideon Haigh takes an in-depth look at a burgeoning Australian phenomenon—The Prime Minister’s Library, and how this American tradition of venerating past leaders is being adopted on our own shores. Lorin Clarke takes a holiday to Canberra and finds a city at a tipping point, where the old clichés ring hollower than ever before and Andrew Croome visits Mount Stromlo, remade and reinvigorated after it’s destruction in the tragic 2003 Canberra fires.

André Dao takes us behind the brutal façade of the High Court building into the struggle over how the law should be represented in bricks and mortar and Frank Bowden invites us into the infectious underbelly of Canberra’s clean streets and healthful citizenry. Drusilla Modjeska talks to Anne-Sophie Hermann about the particular opportunities and responsibilities that come with being a diplomat’s wife and Paul Daley delves into Canberra’s murky past and addresses that age-old question, what exactly does the word ‘Canberra’ mean, anyway? And in Meanjin Papers, David Headon takes us on a journey with Walter and Marion Griffin.

Marion Halligan remembers the first years of what was meant to be a brief affair with the city, Sonya Voumard remmebers the strange life of a journalist in the middle of the action, but far from home and Yolande Norris is tired of having the same old conversations about the place she loves.

There is fiction by Canberrans whose names you’ll know, like Dorothy Johnston and Alan Gould, alongside powerful new voices like Melanie Joosten. We present a vibrant collection of poetry from around the territory from John Foulcher, Elizabeth Lawson, Adrian Caesar and much, much more.

26 Feb 2013

  • news
  • interviews

ABC Radio National 'The List'

With drones making their way into art and popular culture, I joined Jason Di Rosso and Cassie McCullagh for an episode of The List on ABC Radio National - featuring hip hop, games and other things.

12 Feb 2013

  • news
  • interviews

Interview on the craft of writing with Verity La

Nigel Featherstone at Verity La has been generous enough to ask me a few questions about my writing and craft.

The interview is here and you can also subscribe to Verity La from their front page.

23 Jan 2013

  • events
  • festivals

Perth Writers' Festival

I’m excited to be able to travel west for the Perth Writers Festival in February, where there’s a great line-up, including Margaret Atwood, China Miéville, Anna Funder and many others.

Sessions:

In the Dead of Night

Parker Bilal’s Dogstar Rising is an atmospheric mystery set in Cairo; Andrew Croome’s Midnight Empire is a powerful thriller based in Las Vegas; while The Midnight Promise by Zane Lovitt is an intriguing collection of mysteries peopled with colourful characters. Three rising stars of the crime genre discuss their noirish new novels.

The Devil is in the Details

From poker dens to emergency rooms, researching a novel can take you to strange and unusual places. Andrew Croome and Natasha Lester discuss the intriguing details they needed to perfect while writing their new novels.

Thrill Me

The gripping new thrillers by Andrew Croome, LA Larkin and Steve Worland will keep you up late at night. They talk about building and maintaining suspense in their new books.

13 Oct 2012

  • news

Peter Pierce reviews Midnight Empire for The Age/SMH

Peter Pierce, editor of the Cambridge History of Australian Literature, has given Midnight Empire a great review in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald.

Here’s a little of what he said:

a nerve-racking narrative of betrayal and vengeance… Midnight Empire is the finest Australian thriller since David Francis’ Stray Dog Winter(2008). Take this book off the shelf (and pay for it) as soon as you can.

25 Sep 2012

  • news
  • interviews

'Whose eyes are in the skies?' - article for ABC's The Drum

I’ve written a short article on drone technology and surveillance for The Drum.

25 Sep 2012

  • news
  • interviews

Radio National Sunday Extra interview

It was great to be able to speak about Midnight Empire and drones with Jonathan Green for Radio National’s Sunday Extra program.

The audio can be found here.

21 Sep 2012

  • news
  • interviews

Lowy Institute drones event video - watch now

On 19 September, the Lowy Institute hosted a panel, ‘THE DRONES ARE COMING: BORDER PROTECTION, PRIVACY, WAR AND MORALITY IN THE REMOTE-CONTROL AGE’, featuring ABC Foreign Correspondent Mark Corcoran, The Interpreter editor and blogger Sam Roggeveen and myself.

Video highlights are available at vimeo.com/lowyinstitute, including Sam speaking to Mark and myself, and the full event, in which Mark recounts his experience commandeering a drone to use as an ABC camera platform.

All posts >

Midnight Empire - First chapter

One of the men Daniel met was Dmitri. Dmitri was twenty-eight and from the Sverdlovsk region to the east of Moscow. He was slender, but had a confident look. He was the son of a mechanic named Boris. Boris had drowned in 2002, swimming in a stream while drunk. Before becoming a mechanic, Boris had been a chess champion, spending his twenties in Moscow at a special academy. Dmitri’s game of choice wasn’t chess but StarCraft. He was a top-ten player in Russia, a specialist in the Protoss race. It was an impermanent achievement, an achievement that took practice, ten to sixteen hours a day, playing and strategising; a real investment of his time. Yet it didn’t pay. When Boris drowned, Dmitri, his sister, Katerina, and their mother, Dasha, were forced to sell their house and move into an apartment in a block that was grey and cracking and had the feeling of nuclear poison.

For a while they did well enough. Dasha kept at her job, working as an electronic book keeper for an accountant, but it turned out that the accountant, Maxim Suvorov, had long had desires for Dasha, for her beautiful blue eyes, he told her. And now that Boris was out of the picture, he made these desires known, first in subtle ways, then more forcefully. But Dasha rejected him, saying it was too soon after Boris, and anyway, as potential lovers they were not suited (Maxim Suvorov, Dmitri heard Dasha explain to Katerina, was not only ‘potato faced’ but a ‘bore’). And so Dasha was sacked, without ostensible reason, and without an income—Katerina was still in school, while Dmitri had his StarCraft—the family’s finances quickly became desperate, so desperate that Dasha, watching bronze sunlight creep across the dusty carpet of the flat, considered exploiting Suvorov’s affections to obtain a loan.

1

Instead, she gave her last fifteen hundred rubles to Dmitri. He had been chatting to another, small-time StarCraft player, Samani5, who idolised Dmitri and who had recently switched games, amassing what he would only tell Dmitri was a minor fortune playing online poker. Dmitri had heard of poker, but it hadn’t occurred to him that he should play it. But of course he should play it, because Dmitri was of the opinion, as Boris and his academy instructors had been, that in intellectual games of any kind, the Russian was the superior race.

So Dmitri took his mother’s money, and through an exchange service which charged three per cent commission, deposited forty-eight US dollars and fifty US cents into an online account. Then he began to play. He had read a few articles on basic strategies and played a thousand hands alone using a deck of cards that the family had once used on holidays, yet after an hour’s play online he was down to fifteen dollars. He forced himself to stop and regroup. He went for a walk around the building, rolled a cigarette and smoked, staring at the horizon.

Then he went back indoors and drove his balance up to ninety dollars without so much as thinking about it. Really, this should have worried him, as he hadn’t changed his strategy or done anything in particular to deserve it. Instead, he chose to believe that he was already better than the other players. As in StarCraft, he was a master tactician, and by the day’s end, when he was ready to stop, he was up five hundred and three dollars. He told Dasha, who was watching television in the apartment’s cramped living room, that their money problems were over. He would play poker and make five hundred US dollars per day. Dasha kissed her son on the forehead and he felt real excitement in her body, a shake in her limbs. He showed her the balance on the screen. She got a drink for them both and they sat down at the kitchen table. ‘Boris was always very proud of you, Dmitri. He would never tell you but you can believe me. He would boast about StarCraft: “My boy is top ten in all Russia, and one day he will be the best.”’

2

Dmitri went to bed feeling warm and loved, and the next day he lost two hands with flushes to higher flushes and his balance dropped to zero. He could hardly believe it. It was a moment of despair and he sat for a long time.

The first resolution he made was to tell nobody; his second was to get the money back.

He opened a chat connection with Samani5 and asked to borrow five hundred dollars. Samani5 explained that that was more than he held in his account.

What do you have? typed Dmitri.

$231.

Give it to me, typed Dmitri. I am a better player than you. I will return it to you five-fold.

There was a long pause. Samani5 wrote, OK.

Dmitri didn’t play straight away. Rather, he sat for two days with pen and paper and a deck of cards. He found his father’s chess books packed away in a box and read them, looking for anything he could use. One he had never noticed before was inscribed by the grandmaster Anatoly Karpov. Stay ruthless, it said, Karpov 1978. Dmitri thought about how to apply Karpov’s advice to two hole cards, five on the board, and a system of points. He considered various chess theories, opening moves, gambits and counter-gambits, forms of defence. Everything pointed towards merciless attack: bet, raise and re-raise, depending on the skill level of the opponent, on what mettle they had to call you down. But he could also see that this was a game of deep mathematics, itself unyielding. He thought that what was needed was a middle ground, the ability to fold the opponent’s behaviour into the maths, to find the optimal play and to execute it without sympathy. Dmitri soon realised that what he knew was nothing. That it would take effort to master this game. But that would all be in the future. He could still win right now, as long as his opponents were worse players than himself.

3

Thankfully, they were. He took Samani5’s two hundred and thirty-one dollars and in two days calmly played it up to more than a thousand. At this point, he withdrew five hundred dollars to give to Dasha. Then he kept going. By the week’s end, he’d collected over three thousand dollars, and he paid Samani5 one thousand, one hundred and fifty-five dollars as promised, by transfer and without comment, staying off the messaging system and ignoring the man’s emails.

Then Dmitri really went to work, seriously and using straight profit, money for which he didn’t have to fear. He played in short two-hour bursts, four tables at once, and he paid for software that tracked his opponents’ moves, showing how often they played, raised and won. Dasha brought him his meals, pelmeni and bowls of stew, and it was while eating that he reviewed his strategies, revising and interpreting and trying to see beyond, to visualise the game’s landscape as would God, to take each play—the win and lose—to its limit. He began to play eight tables at once, then twelve and finally sixteen. On his monitor the cards shrank in size but he was multiplying what he felt was his growing edge.

After a month, he had won more than ten thousand dollars. He shut down his computer and stretched his shoulders and announced this to his mother. In the grim dusk they drank vodka and she asked quietly what he felt. ‘Contentment,’ he said. ‘There is no excitement and there is no thrill. It feels simply as if the world has been made right.’ She nodded and said that his father had been the same, all the way up to the academy where, when he finally encountered players he couldn’t beat, he held them in a reverential awe, as if he himself were an amateur. Yes, despite whatever failings these few men had—and some were bastards who kicked their dogs, hit their wives and molested their daughters—Boris thought they could do no wrong; they had so transcended the ordinary world.

4

Six months later, Dmitri, Dasha and Katerina moved from the flat into a house. Word had spread through the StarCraft community of Dmitri’s successes and he was contacted by a casino in Moscow that wanted to fly him west to participate in games there.

‘It is mostly rich businesspeople,’ the manager explained. ‘They are not experts but betting small amounts is not thrilling for them. No limit. Two-hundred-and-fifty-dollar blinds.’ Dmitri considered it. To sit at that table he would need twenty-five thousand dollars, an insane amount to risk all at once. To date, he had won just over one hundred thousand dollars, only fifty thousand of which was in free cash. But if the game was with businesspeople, he might easily come home with that much again. He watched from his window Katerina lying on a plastic recliner in the front yard studying a biology textbook, her face the very picture of dogged concentration, of ferocious Russian aptitude, and he wanted so much to help her, to get her to university.

The flight was smooth, the accommodation luxurious, the afternoon in Moscow (his first time) wonderful. He visited the old chess academy, now the headquarters of an American bank, and felt there an affecting sense of the old masters—Bronstein, Kotov and Boleslavsky—their great intellects, and also a sense of his father, the young Komsomol leader from Sverdlovsk with the strategic, practical mind. In some way, Dmitri felt that he was carrying the flame. But that evening, after only an hour at the table, he had lost his twenty-five thousand dollars. The problem was that the businessmen were not, as the manager had advertised, bad players. They were truly terrible players. When Dmitri tried to bluff a five-thousand-dollar pot he was called by an industrialist from Omsk with the bottom pair. Then he lost everything to a local criminal—a man who probably cooked drugs and whored underage girls—who did not understand that when drawing to a straight, you do not call for your entire stack when your chances of winning are one in five.

5

That night Dmitri did not sleep. The sunrise he watched on the plane back to Sverdlovsk was the brightest, the most piercing and revelatory he had ever seen, and he resolved never to play in Moscow again. Not until he could give twenty-five thousand dollars away without thinking twice.

For that entire winter, he played on the computer at home ten to twelve hours a day. Snowstorms and sleet and blizzards and every combination of temperature and wind went on outside but for as long and as hard as he could, he concentrated on the screen.

Dasha eventually told him that it wasn’t healthy. ‘Get a girlfriend,’ she said. ‘Get out of the house.’ And he did have a few romances. Zoya, the daughter of the lawyer who had mounted an unsuccessful prosecution of the local authorities over Boris’s death, a girl who was ‘perfect for marriage’ (said Dasha) but who, when they made love, lay as still in bed as if she wasn’t breathing. And Aljena, a ‘slut’ (said Katerina) who wanted Dmitri to take her only to the two best restaurants in town and not to the cafés that ‘any other boy could afford’ (said Aljena). But neither Zoya nor Aljena lasted long. To truly excel—to be as great as Mikhail Botvinnik or Vasily Smyslov and to die content after an autumn twilight surrounded by grandchildren and a long dynasty of dogs—it was necessary to pare back one’s life to its essentials, to its defining rubric. A woman, for the time being, could only be a distraction, not something he actually required. What he required was perfection: perfection of mind, its precise and indelible rewiring.

And he might have achieved it too, had his body not let him down, if the world was not so cosmically cruel a place as to sow within his success the seeds of his eventual destruction. The pain began as an ache along the ridge of his right index finger, a sometimes twinge. It was his mouse hand. Of course he ignored it for a long time, believing that he could simply battle through.

6

But after two months the pain was crippling. He could play for an hour, no more, then his hand refused to obey and his neck and shoulders joined the protest, entering into sharp and agonising spasms that left him wailing in his chair. The doctor, whose name was Borodin, diagnosed de Quervain’s syndrome or Dupuytren’s contracture: he wasn’t certain. But whichever it was, it was an injury of repetitive strain, and it would not heal until Dmitri ceased his gaming—and perhaps not even then.

And so Dmitri spent a week playing left-handed, but it was terrible; he could not keep his concentration, and he gave away money in a string of losing sessions that left him questioning everything he knew about the game and also the nature of his soul. What you do is who you are, he heard on a television program, and who is a losing poker player but a nobody—a wholly vacant space?

He drove to the spot where his father had drowned. By the river, the air had a startling freshness, sharp, cool, gusty. He walked along the bank, away from the swimming spot, to the place where they’d pulled Boris from the water, the spot where a worker from the slaughterhouse had tried to perform CPR. Then he cried, the first time since the day of the funeral. Strictly, it wasn’t sadness about his father, but sadness about change; the fact that nothing stayed the same, that the water that went by here was water never seen again.

He went home then and did not touch his computer. Instead, he began to frequent the cafés that Aljena had thought so commonplace. There, he read books and he smoked. In the afternoons he went to see films. It was, he knew, a search for meaning. Slowly, he had transformed himself into nothing, but now he would make something of himself, first by consuming the great Russian novels and movies, the achievements that had made his country what it was.

7

Three months into this, the pain in his hand had almost gone. Traces remained, little stings, but he saw them as useful reminders. In this period, he used his computer only once, transferring his winnings ($537,502) from the poker site to accounts at Troika Dialog and Rosbank. And he met a girl, Lilia; or rather he re-met her—she had gone to his school, they had once performed chemistry experiments together. Thus he found contentment again, in Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Eisenstein and Lilia. It was a very good few months for him, lost days of books and conversation and sex, and when Lilia said it was time for her to return to Moscow (she was studying European history at the State Linguistic University) he decided that he loved her and that he would go too.

So they moved into a rented apartment near the city centre, Lilia going to school while Dmitri sat in Moscow cafés, reading The First Circle and Life and Fate while contemplating taking a course himself, in mathematics.

It was when entering one of these cafés that he bumped into the casino manager, who was rushing to meet a new player, and who spoke over his shoulder, holding the door open. ‘Dmitri, you are in Moscow! You should have told us! Do you have somewhere to stay? Take my card. Join us at the game.’

But he didn’t play. He went to talk to a professor of mathematics, a specialist in game theory at the State Technical University who was very busy, who didn’t have time to talk except to say that Dmitri could enrol only once he had taken the department’s admissions test, held on the twelfth of June. Dmitri explained that he didn’t want to do undergraduate studies, that he wanted to do original research. He explained a concept he had been thinking about, how a player facing only one opponent could fashion a style that was mathematically unexploitable.

8

‘What you are describing is already known,’ said the professor. ‘Take the test and do your undergraduate work first.’ Disappointed, Dmitri went to the university’s bookstore and purchased the textbook used in the game theory course. It was true, the strategy he had theorised was called the Von Bormann function. There were many other things too, formal definitions for plays and approaches that he felt his gut understood. This excited him: the fact that he had come to these conclusions not through science but by natural mind. There were other theories too, axioms and functions, equilibriums and values, which were new to him, that he began to think about how to exploit.

That evening, after taking Lilia to dinner, he went back to the casino, to the poker game with the businessmen.

‘I played all night, Daniel. At 7 a.m., when the table broke, I had made a hundred thousand dollars. The following night, I made thirty-four thousand and the night following that, one hundred and forty-five. Since then I have been playing all over the world, sometimes in very tough games, sometimes in very loose games with maniacs who have a lot of money. Now I live in America in an enormous house with my wife, my daughters and my mother and sister.

‘But why do I tell you this? Why do I tell you my story? It is because I am wondering, Daniel, I am wanting to know what you are doing at my table. You are not a rich businessman. It is obvious you cannot afford the money in front of you. I do not say this aggressively, or arrogantly, or with strategic intent, but tell me, my friend, because you look like an honest man, you have honest eyes—what is going to happen to you when you lose?’

9