A Proficiency in Billiards

“‘The hit came like a bowling ball to the face . . . .’  So begins ‘In the Lair of the Red Dragon,” Lance Mason’s raucous account of his rugby adventures in Wales in 1974.  It’s one of a dozen essays in A Proficiency in Billiards, his debut collection in which the reader escapes with the author on his bumpy adventures around the world—via VW Microbus, motorcycle, and Polish freighter through Greece, New Zealand, the Balkans, Africa, and beyond.  From the poolhall and drag-races of his California boyhood to emergency surgery in Borneo, Mason displays a quirky narrative flair.  The title piece for the book, Mason’s account of a teenage hustler circa 1963, helped him develop an eye and affinity for the vivid characters he meets on the worldwide stage—from Al Capone’s getaway driver to the anxious Zimbabwean on a train, certain that Robert Mugabe would lead his country to freedom.  In these tales from ‘a misspent youth,’ the author draws his portraits from the myriad members of the human tribe, but avoids preaching any commandments.” — William Meiners, founder, Sport Literate and Pint-size Publications

What the Readers Said

“A Proficiency in Billiards . . . true and faded glories of a misspent youth . . . wit, humor, and insight, Mason is on to himself. These recollections see directly into So. California in the ‘60s and beyond, to the author’s travels around the world, and events that marked a generation. The reader is heartened—and wiser— for what traveling these roads reveals.”—Christopher Buckley

 “Welcome to the world of Lance Mason, a writer with an intense, beautiful awareness of the danger and possibility in every moment of our flash-in-the-pan lives. “—James O’Reilly, co-editor, The Best Travel Writing Volume 11, www.travelerstales.com 

Your piece “Mammoth Meat” scared the sh*t out of me—insane.  Someone is still ‘hunting the wooly mammoth,’ and glad it ain’t me.  Your descriptions of the Isle of Man are quite amazing.  The wild kinetic energy was great, but stay off motorcycles going 200 mph.” –Nick Welsh, Editor-in-Chief, Santa Barbara Independent

“I got a lot of enjoyment from A Proficiency in Billiards.  Your book was on a pile with Khaled Hosseini, Elie Wiesel and Salman Rushdie. You held your own.” — William Maynez 

“What drives A Proficiency in Billiards—an engaging, wide-ranging mix of travel writing, sports writing, investigative journalism, personal essay, and memoir—is Mason’s deep curiosity and spirit of adventure.  The author’s ability to be both curious observer and enthusiastic participant also makes him a most companionable, informed, guide.” — Michael Steinberg, author: Greatest Hits and Some That Weren’t: Essays and Memoirs 1990-2015, and Still Pitching, ForeWord Magazine/Independent Press 2003 Memoir of the Year.

“I picked it up and couldn’t put it down.  The stories being told have real historical implications.” — James C. Buttery, Andre, Morris & Buttery

“The Physics of Regret” — What a great piece, on many levels, with an opening paragraph about as good as any I’ve ever read. – Richard Carey, author

“Really enjoyed the copy of A Proficiency in Billiards I got here in New Zealand.  Richly written, spellbinding in places and thoroughly researched.  Lovely to read.  Good luck with getting more published.” – Johanna Robertson, Whitianga, New Zealand

 “I just finished A Proficiency in Billiards, and it was delightful—like spending an evening with the author over a bottle of wine, hearing about his adventures, and the stories got better and better.” – Steven Bailey

“Mason’s newest book is partly a look back to So Cal in the ’60’s, its drag races and pool halls, and other, more familiar territory, laying out his many adventures around the world.  Compelling reading that captures the zeitgeist of our times.” – Susan Matsumoto, author

“A Proficiency in Billiards was on a pile on my table with Khaled Hosseini, Elie Wiesel and Salman Rushdie. Mason held his own.  The racial tension was an evocative theme for me, a Chicano from a multi-ethnic neighborhood coming out of WWII.” — Willie Maynez

 “A Proficiency In Billards was hard to put down even for a minute… great language, enlightened insight… an exciting glimpse into Mason’s world as a youth… ‘Lessons from Drnc’ has wonderful imagery; an episode of war zone history that the author truly captures.  ‘The Physics of Regret’: the sweet moment of walking away from potentially fatal motorcycle crash—great stuff.  ‘A Checkerboard War’ gets inside a hugely complex subject.  ‘Mammoth Meat’ captures the imagination and attention about defying death at the Isle of Man.” – Gordon Whiteacre, Auckland, New Zealand

“We are including your story “The Train to Harare” in our Fall 2017 anthology of travel memoirs, The Soul of a Great Traveler, a collection of Solas House Grand Prize winners.” — Susan Brady, Production Director, travelerstales.com