Author of the Algy Temple Mysteries


Background on J.J. Partridge and Pool

Posted by: J. J. Partridge on 4/2/2014

I was recently asked at a book session as to whether J.J. Partridge was an inveterate pool player. I have to confess that I am more of a player in my mind than in actuality. Although I manage to get to the table most mornings just to “bang around” and occasionally do a drill or two, I have never played at a club on a regular basis nor on a club team.

In fact, my experience with pool began with a billiard table in Touisset, Rhode Island. It was in the home of a neighbor during the ‘40’s when my mother was the post mistress and owner of the Village Store in Touisset. I delighted in going next door to the sunroom in the large yellow house where the billiard table took up most of the space. I wasn’t allowed to use a stick, I could barely see over the edge rail of the table but I was allowed to roll the balls around the table, getting an idea of angles, speed, and “english.” Shortly thereafter, at the Pawtucket Boys Club, I got my first opportunity to use a stick. Unfortunately for me, I apparently didn’t mix well with the Washington brothers and the next thing I knew, I was being pummeled by one of them who objected to me because I was standing there gawking.

But after that, I played whenever I was at the Boys Club, carefully avoiding any table when the Washington brothers were present.

So what about the scenes in Carom Shot and Straight Pool that take place in Young Jimmy’s Club or at smoke filled saloons, taverns, and Providence bookie joints.

Well, the bookie joints come from a personal experience as a young boy growing up in Pawtucket which had as many bookies as it had neighborhood taps. The atmosphere came from a number of places including the Polish Club on Central Avenue in Pawtucket, Armistice Billiards in Pawtucket, and a goodly number of other taps and taverns that were part of my youthful experience. Somehow I picked up a love of pool, augmented by books and films such as The Color of Money. There was something both seedy and enticing about pool halls, pool tournaments, and pool’s characters. It didn’t hurt to have the Paul Newman and Tom Cruise types betting there and against the odds.

I played some in college and not very well. Again, some in the service and not much better. I never thought about writing about pool or its players or its morality, while I was able to obtain a Brunswick-Balke-Callender nine foot table which is still ensconced in my basement. It was there that I began the hard work of pool, sometimes challenged by my son David who, quite frankly, is much better than I, a natural player with the complete visual sense of a table which is something I would only be able to aspire to.

I also think of pool very much like golf, another sport I enjoy. The object is to get a ball into a hole, and while the mechanics of the playing motion are different, the thought behind the mechanics is very much the same. Every shot is slightly different. Usually there is only one opponent in a match, the games and their variations are practically limitless, and focus and attention are essential. Unfortunately, I am a high handicapper at both.