Born July 4, 1913, Rex Tanner was a bit of a trouble-making kid who developed a knack for gambling. This, we might say unsurprisingly, led to a life of bar fights, clashes with the law, and run-ins with more dangerous criminals. Eventually, Rex moved to California for work – joining the “Okie” migration without really even being aware of it – and later settled down and opened a plumber business.
Gary Tanner doesn’t pretend to be a historian writing a well-cited academic tome. Rather, the book is a compilation of the father’s stories as son remembers them with photos, newspaper clippings, and original song lyrics interspersed throughout. That means a lot of holes and repetition. This format can make it difficult to see the story unfold or to understand it in the broader context of America’s early to mid-20th century. However, it still creates a highly personable read. The dialogue boasts slang; the narration a light casual tone. You can almost hear Rex Tanner laughing as he tells one story after another. The foul language and racism can be a little off-putting, but I was glad that Gary Tanner didn’t try to sanitize it in order to present the characters in a more palatable way. While it does have its flaws, The Oklahoma Gamblin’ Man is a sweet tribute to an earlier generation.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book and music CD through Bostick Communications. There was no obligation to write a favorable review.