Walter Tevis Was a Novelist. You Might Know His Books (Much) Better as Movies.

His daughter, Julia McGory, 63, said that his kids had experienced some of “the sadness and complexities of our father,” but “never doubt...


His daughter, Julia McGory, 63, said that his kids had experienced some of “the sadness and complexities of our father,” but “never doubted how much he loved us and enjoyed being with us.”

In the mid-1970s, Tevis sobered up, partly with help from Alcoholics Anonymous. Deeply frustrated by his writer’s block, he got a divorce and decided to try his creative luck in Manhattan. He began a relationship with, and eventually married, Eleanora Walker, who worked for his agent. He reconnected with Mr. Knight: “We became great friends again,” Mr. Knight said.

Tevis also regained his writerly mojo, finishing four more novels and a collection of short stories. He helped convince Paul Newman to star in the movie version of “The Color of Money.” He also wrote “The Queen’s Gambit” during those years. The writer Tobias Wolff called it an “overlooked masterpiece.”

“Tevis has a gift for vivid characterization and propulsive narratives,” Mr. Wolff said in an email. “His style is direct and efficient, never calling attention to itself; yet it grows in power through the course of a novel by its very naturalness.”

Describing young Beth learning a chess move in “The Queen’s Gambit,” Tevis wrote: “She decided not to take the offered pawn, to leave the tension on the board. She liked it like that. She liked the power of the pieces, exerted along files and diagonals. In the middle of the game, when the pieces were everywhere, the forces crisscrossing the board thrilled her. She brought out her king’s knight, feeling its power spread.”

More lyrically, as Beth sits bored in class, Tevis wrote that her “mind danced in awe to the geometric rococo of chess, rapt, enraptured, drawing in the grand permutations as they opened to her soul, and her soul opened to them.”

In the book, Beth is a harder-edged, less obviously triumphant character than in the Netflix series Tevis once explained why he made the choice to portray a female chess champion. “Sometimes I was really more wrapped up in the idea of intelligence in women, for which I have an enormous respect and a kind of awe, more wrapped up in that even than the game of chess itself,” he said.

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Newsrust: Walter Tevis Was a Novelist. You Might Know His Books (Much) Better as Movies.
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