Reviews: The Salisbury Post

By Katie Scarvey


At close to 600 pages, this memoir is a big as college history textbook. Despite its daunting size. I like the look of it. The cover resembles an old hand-painted postcard. I didn’t hold out a lot of hope for getting through it.

Despite these initial reservations. I fell in love with this book. In fact it began to feel like a personal gift.

I annoyed colleagues at work blathering on about my discovery. I effused so much about it that I worried people would start asking to borrow it.

Dino Thompson can spin a tale. And he does so in a fresh voice with a charming combination of self-confidence and self-deprecating humor. 

Dino goes from diapers to peg-leg pants to army fatigues, from jitterbug to rock and roll. He makes out with girlfriends. Plays high school football and gambles. Oh how he gambles. And he’s good enough at it that he finances his Emory University education.

There are stories about Hurricane Hazel, pool hustlers, knife fights, con men, fights in Krispy Kreme parking lots, run-ins with the Klan, a shark fishing story that goes terribly wrong.

One of my favorite stories was about how Thompson taught himself to play tennis as a teenager. Because he didn’t know anyone in Myrtle Beach to play with, he signed up for the southern Junior Invitational tournament so he could play a match. This was one of the most prestigious tournaments in the country, mind you. Without ever having played a point with a real opponent, Thompson takes the court with the top-ranked 16-year-old in the world. What’s the Greek word for chutzpa?

Thompson had had enough adventures in one lifetime for three ordinary people, many of these exploits connected in one way or another to gambling. Some are hilarious, some are scary, like the time he gets trapped in a Charlotte joint with the pool hall equivalents of “Deliverance.” One of the stories about Thompson hustled by the master of all hustlers will knock your socks off.

The book celebrates the colorful array of characters in Thompson’s life, from Yahgene, the owner of the pool hall, to Mr. Bocephus, teller of tall tales, to Miss Magnolia, a lady shady of reputation who helps teach Dino about being a man (it’s not what you’re thinking).

It took me a better part of a month to read Thompson’s memoir. And on the 590th page, I was sorry to see it end.

Thompson still lives in Myrtle Beach. In fact, you might have seen him at one of his two popular restaurants: Cagney’s Old Place and Flamingo Grill. Thompson tells me he’s working on a screenplay. He calls it a combination of “Dirty dancing,” Cinema Paridiso, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

I can’t wait.