Grand Slam ( G. P. Putnam's Sons, $7.50) is a collection of 13 stories about bridge and it should prove entertaining even if you don't know a finesse from a revoke. Many of the authors are renowned—George S. Kaufman, Somerset Maugham, Ring Lardner—and for the most part theirs are simply stories that touch on the game. A few others provide hardcore stuff: the old master who makes three straight impossible hands; the dizzy wife who does it wrong but turns out right. A number of the tales involve cheating, which is in vogue these days: a shipboard shark; a fake prince with a transmitter in his shoe; a husband-wife team; even James Bond.
The best of the stories is Sally Benson's vignette of a mild-mannered invalid who becomes healthy and boisterous as the cards turn his way. Stephen White apes Wodehouse successfully; of a blossoming love affair, he writes, "Under his tutelage, Lucy was losing her weakness in squeezes and end-plays, and her opening leads had become things of beauty.... I was with them when Harold first asked for her hand: she passed it to him...."
Surprisingly, the worst bridge player in the book is Bond. Playing with M. in a heavy money game against a scoundrel named Drax, Bond picks up seven top spades, the ace of hearts, and the ace-king of diamonds. Even the dizzy wife would investigate the slam possibilities, but Bond blurts out four spades and that is where the hand is played'.
Finally, Bond deals Drax a stacked hand and readers with a knowledge of bridge history will shudder. It is a version of the famous Duke of Cumberland hand in which the Duke (Drax in this case) is dealt: Spades A K Q J, Hearts A K Q J, Diamonds A K, Clubs K J 9. He is shocked to hear his left-hand opponent ( Bond) bid seven clubs, naturally doubles and is shocked again to hear a redouble. Of course, he winds up taking no tricks with his magnificent hand. Bond has nothing but diamonds and clubs, his dummy no diamonds and a bunch of clubs. Two diamond ruffs set up the suit and each time Bond finesses Drax's clubs. The hand is such an old saw that a believable Drax would have thrown it in Bond's face, or if Bond insisted on playing it, would have bid seven spades, going down only one. You can work it out when you get the book.