THROWBACK THURSDAY – The Kentucky novelist who wrote “The Queen’s Gambit”
Kentuckians always find a way to surprise you. Between arts and culture, politics,
music and entertainment, academia and education, you never know when you’re
going to find a fellow Kentuckian. One such character is Walter Tevis, a novelist and
short story writer. He wrote The Queen’s Gambit, inspiring a mini television series
many of our viewers may recognize.
Tevis was born in San Francisco in 1928, but his parents were Kentuckians and his
family lived in Madison County. He developed a rheumatic heart condition very
young, spent a year in a children’s hospital, and his parents decided to move back to
the Bluegrass state at age 11.
He attended the University of Kentucky and earned a degree in English literature. He
wrote for the Kentucky Department of Highways after graduation. He even taught
classes in high schools in Hawesville, Science Hill, Irvine, and Carlisle. He made his
way back to UK as a professor, along with teaching classes at Southern Connecticut
State University and Northern Kentucky University.
His first novel was The Hustler, first published in 1959. Next came The Man who Fell
to Earth in 1963. The Queen’s Gambit came in 1983, followed soon by The Color of
Money in 1984. All of these novels have been turned into either feature films or
They say Tevis was a gambler, smoker, and alcoholic—and that he used personal
experiences with these vices as inspiration for the antiheroes in his novels.
His ties to Lexington are felt even today. In 2021, the 21c museum and hotel in
downtown Lexington added a “Queen’s Gambit” themed room to its inventory.
Featured in media like Travel + Leisure, The Matador Network, Architectural Digest
That’s it for Throwback Thursday this week, brought to you by Hart County
Tourism. In Bowling Green, because local matters, Telia Butler, WNKY News 40.