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KET’s ‘Walter Tevis: A Writer’s Gambit’ documentary explores the life of famous Kentucky writer

KET is presenting a documentary film that explores the life of Kentucky writer Walter Tevis, author of several novels adapted for the screen, including The Queen’s Gambit, The Hustler and The Color of Money.

Walter Tevis: A Writer’s Gambit airs on Tuesday, July 13, at 8/7 p.m. on KET and on Thursday, July 15, at 9/8 p.m. on KET2.

The 60-minute film chronicles Tevis’ life and career: from his stint in a convalescent home as a young boy, to his early fame and struggles with alcohol and writer’s block, to his sobriety and late return to the typewriter when he penned four books in the final four years of his life, one of which was The Queen’s Gambit that would later be adapted into a blockbuster Netflix series.

Tevis — who grew up in Lexington and Richmond and taught classes at high schools in Irvine and Carlisle as well as at the University of Kentucky and Northern Kentucky University — was best known for his pair of pool hall novels that were adapted into hit movies, The Hustler (1961) and The Color of Money (1986).

Tevis had a gift for creating offbeat characters that resonated with audiences and tapped into the nation’s love of the underdog. The popularity of The Hustler film, starring Paul Newman, triggered a nationwide billiards craze, leaving manufacturers unable to keep up with pool table demand. When The Queen’s Gambit became a hit last year, it triggered yet another run, this time on chess boards.

Despite Tevis’ market-moving abilities as a writer, he never achieved the fame and fortune of his contemporaries, such as Kurt Vonnegut and Harper Lee. And his early death at age 56 meant much of his commercial success was posthumous.

Walter Tevis: A Writer’s Gambit is a KET production, produced by Tom Thurman.

KET is Kentucky’s largest classroom, where learning comes to life for more than one million people each week via television, online and mobile. Learn more about Kentucky’s preeminent public media organization at KET.org, on Twitter @KET and at facebook.com/KET.

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