The Last of the Racetrack Touts begins in 1957 when Billy Mulray, an innocent, 20 year old college student, misses his appointment for a summer job at the racetrack. Through a twist of fate, he is offered a spot selling tip sheets and is suddenly immersed into the colorful and mysterious world of racetrack touts–a cadre of street smart men with names like Onion Joe, Jigger Higgins, Wingy, Bullet Bob, and the Alligator.
Billy is quickly befriended by veteran hustler Rip McKenna, a fast talking, hard drinking wise guy who mentors Billy and tries to teach him the ropes.
The action follows Billy and the touts as they move from the Jersey shore to many of the great racing venues of the day–Atlantic City, Hialeah, Havana, Oaklawn, Churchill Downs, and Pimlico–before returning to Monmouth Park for the 1958 racing season. During his one year journey, Billy lives his many adventures, including encounters with several famed personalities of the day.
The scene then returns to 1998 as Mulray, the last man standing, tells a Racing Form writer the rest of his story and reveals the fates of his fellow touts.
The strength of the book lies in the anecdotes–many humorous–which are prevalent throughout the story line. All are based on true events and occur at each and every venue during the year long odyssey of young Billy Mulray. The settings include Louisville during Kentucky Derby Week, Havana on a Sunday afternoon, and Baltimore on Preakness Day.
The action is fast, the language raw, and the characters unpredictable, all in keeping with a true depiction of real life racetrack touts.
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