I’ve always been a bit of a betting man. Back in the day, I wagered on professional sports. The NFL was my game of choice and, every Tuesday, I’d start my research into that weekend’s match-ups, pouring through pages of stats – individual team histories and past performances, home vs. away, turf vs. grass, as double-digit favorites, as home underdogs, as road favorites following two straight wins in which they scored 30 points or more against teams with animal names – and, when all was said and done, I got it right, oh, roughly half the time. Despite what people tell you, pro football doesn’t lend itself to this kind of game analysis. A sixteen game schedule is not long enough to establish any sort of pattern and, really, who cares how the ‘76 Eagles did in Dallas? Nope, if you’re looking to make money betting on pro sports, stick to baseball. It’s a statistician’s dream – home and away, day and night, lefties and righties, grass and turf, streaks, team histories, pitcher histories – and they play enough games (162!) that there’s plenty of time for patterns to develop. The only problem is – well, given the choice, I’d rather watch the NFL.
Anyone who has ever bet on sports has that game to remember, the exhilarating high or crushing low in which either their team snatched victory from the jaws of defeat or, instead, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. That game for me was actually a college football game in which I had the underdog (I believe it may have been West Virginia) getting 12 points. By “getting 12 points” that means that, if you take the underdog and you lose by less than 12 points, you still win the bet. With less than two minutes to go in the game, they were actually up by 1 point and I figured I had the game in the bag – until Notre Dame scored two touchdowns, including an interception return for a touchdown, to win the game by 13 points, cover the spread, and deal me a defeat so stunning that I ended up giving up sports wagering and giving professional writing a go.
So all this to say, I still enjoy a good sports wager, particularly when the playoffs come around. Now despite the fact that I’m Canadian and grew up in the hockey mecca that is Montreal, I never really followed the NHL. And my move to Vancouver has done nothing to spark a love for the game. This is in sharp contrast to the lovely Kerry McDowall over at Post-Production who is an avowed Vancouver Canuck fanatic. How fanatical? Well, she’s actually transformed a neighboring desk into a shrine for her favorite team. Loyal? You bet. Kinda creepy? Yeah, a little. Anyway, with the NHL playoffs approaching, I decided to tempt Kerry with a little wager pitting her beloved Vancouver Canucks against my hometown Montreal Canadians. Whoever’s team makes it the furthest into the playoffs will be declared the winner. The stake? Kerry informed me that if I lose, I’ll have to accompany her to a musical theater performance of her choice. She and Carl whiled away the late afternoon, gleefully cackling over the prospect of my sitting through Oklahoma or a local amateur production of Xanadu. I told her that if she loses, she’ll have to make me dinner (which I will, of course, photograph and then review for this blog) and then sit down to a screening of an anime movie of my choice (I’m leaning toward Ninja Scroll).
I know, I know. I seem to be at a disadvantage. Vancouver is a third seed in the Western Conference while Montreal sits in eighty place in the East. But if wagering on professional sports has taught me anything, it’s that when it comes to the playoffs – and especially the NHL playoffs – expect the unexpected! My only concern in having her cook for me if she loses is the prospect that she’ll be so embittered that I may develop a suspiciously coincidental “stomach flu“ shortly afterwards.
The Big Over Easy discussion –
Sylvia writes: “The end of the book was a nice tidy wrap much like the “Dragnet TV Detective” shows of the 50’s. Where each character is mentioned and what became of them.”
Answer: Now that you mention it, yes, it was very Dragnet. My favorite – “Sophie Muffet-Dumpty was written out of an early draft of this novel and does not appear.”
Sylvia also writes: “Very cool NCD document showing the breaking/fragmentation of Humpty complete with bullet in and out and possible drug injection portal.”
Answer: I thought the forensic aspects of the investigation were very well done, placing these CSI techniques in a nursery frame. I loved the fact that the post-mortem on Humpty’s albumin revealed he was suffering from salmonella, a painful condition that would flare up on occasion.
AnneTeldy writes: “. I’ve long been a Thursday Next fan and really enjoyed both The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear.”
Answer: As a fan of the Thursday Next books, how do you feel this series compares? Do you have a preference?
Caitylanna writes: “ When you’re growing up and adults are reading you the nursery rhymes, they only teach you the morals of the stories, but as you get older, you’re able to realize at how violent they actually are. This story makes me want to read the Grimm Brothers’ Fairy Tales even more. Am I the only one that walked away with that feeling?”
Answer: In fact, many of the nursery rhymes and fairy tales we heard as kids were sanitized versions of the originals. In the original Little Red Riding Hood, for intance, the wolf ends up eating both Red and her grandmother. The End.
Caitlyanna writes: “My question to both Joe and Jasper Fforde is have you ever read the Grimm Brother Fairy Tales?”
Answer: Yep, I enjoyed them as a kid (a very gloomy kid). I also enjoyed Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Match Girl.. Doesn’t get much darker than that.
Airelle writes: “ It was hard for me to imagine Humpty as a lady’s man, but to each his own.”
Answer: It’s not uncommon to see attractive women with unattractive but charming guys, so I bought it. I imagine Humpty was quite the smooth talker.
Caitlyanna also writes: “ Ok, so I was just looking at the FAQ on that like you provided, Joe and one of the questions was “My book has no chapter 13. Why is this?” And Jasper responded with, “None of my books have a chapter 13.” So I looked in The Big Over Easy and sure enough it doesn’t. It’s listed in the index at the beginning of the book, but it’s not where the index says it should be. That’s hilarious.”
Answer: Hey, I didn’t even notice. For some reason 13 is considered a bad luck number in Western culture while, in Chinese culture, it’s the number 4. Many years ago here in Vancouver, a bank opened a branch with the purpose of serving the city’s burgeoning Chinese clientele. Unfortunately, the branch did little business. Why? Turns out no one did their homework. The branch was located on the building’s fourth floor.
Antisocial Butterflie writes: “It is very rare that my favorite character in a book is actually the main character. I love Jack Spratt.”
Answer: I liked him a lot as well for the very reasons you cited. His character was a refreshing change of pace from the heroes of much fiction: downtrodden yet big-hearted, level-headed, and infinitely patient.
Thornyrose01 writes: “Chymes, so wonderfully hateful.”
Answer: The scene in which he pops out from behind the two-way mirror to have his face-off with Jack was especially satisfying. Given the book’s over-the-top humor, I’m surprised how much I despised the character.