Ray Lee

The Rodwell Files — an editor’s perspective

Linda has already written a blog about the soon-to-be-published ‘Rodwell Files’, and talked a little about its ancestry.  Back about 25 years ago, when Eric was living in Toronto, he put together a set of notes which summarized some of his ideas on card play.  Occasionally he included an example, but often there was nothing more than a sentence or two, simply an aide memoire to recall an concept to mind.  In digital form, this circulated amongst a very small group of people in the local bridge community under the name ‘The Rodwellian Files’.

I’m not sure where I got my copy – possibly from Fred Gitelman, or more probably Ron Bishop, but I realized quickly it was something unique.  When my son Colin started playing bridge seriously I shared it with him, and he tells me he used to read it over again as his final preparation before playing any major event.

After we had published Jeff Meckstroth’s book Win the Bermuda Bowl with Me, I tried to talk Eric into turning the Files into a book, but he wasn’t keen.  I remember a reader asking Jeff at a signing why a certain topic hadn’t been included in his book, and he growled, ‘I’m not ready to give away all my secrets yet.’  I think back then, Eric was of the same mind.

Over the years, I shared a copy of the Files with my old friend (and high school friend) Mark Horton, and we would talk wistfully about what a great book it could be.  We even had a notion as to how it could be done, with Mark’s incredible memory helping us supply examples from top-level play to illustrate Eric’s concepts.  Eventually, we decided to approach Eric again, and a couple of years ago at the Washington NABC the three of us got together and the project got under way.

We weren’t sure how much Eric’s playing schedule would allow him to get involved, so Mark and I got going: he started researching and I started my job, which was to organize 100-odd disjointed topics into some kind of coherent narrative.   Eric and I met at the next Nationals to discuss progress, and I pointed out to him that we needed some introductory chapters, otherwise what we’d have would be mostly a book of cardplay tactics.  ‘After all,’ I said to him, ‘No one’s interested in what Mark and I think about when the dummy comes down – they want to know what you think about.’  He liked the way the outline of the book was developing, and readily understood the need for the new material.

This was to be my first glimpse of Rodwell in action.  Within a couple of weeks of arriving home from the tournament, I had four new chapters in my email, chapters that became Part 1 of the final book.  They are a brilliant discussion of ‘what to think about when dummy comes down’, including a superb section on ‘defogging’ – what to do when your analysis is going nowhere.  I would venture to say that every bridge player, from intermediate to expert, can learn something from reading these chapters.

Eventually, I had the book organized as I wanted, Mark had supplied a couple of hundred or so deals, those had been folded in, and we were ready to send it to Eric for a first pass.  Now came my second look at how Eric works – he is intense, focussed, and his attention to detail is tremendous (seriously, he can have a job as proofreader any time).  He tore apart what we sent him, replacing examples he didn’t like, creating new examples where necessary, adding new concepts, and adding his own comments to deals from elsewhere that others had analyzed.  It helped that at least 50% of the deals Mark had found actually involved Eric and Jeff.

Now we had something that could at last be put into a normal production process, and we could start line editing, copyediting, and trying to wring the last few errors out.  We thought.  I had reckoned, though, without Eric’s enthusiasm for the project, and for the incredible amount of bridge he plays.  I started watching the tournament schedule with dread – every week, it seemed, more deals would arrive in my email (“Gotta get this in somewhere…  this great hand came up in Louisville…  look at this one Balicki played in Gatlinburg…’)  Eventually I had to say, ‘Eric, that’s it, no more… every time you play you’re going to find stuff that could be in here, but you have to let us publish the book!’

Now we got into page layout, and saw Eric’s amazing attention to detail in spades.  He was checking spot cards, auctions, names of players, everything.  He was finding things our professional proofreaders weren’t.  He was reanalyzing deals, and finding mistakes – his own, sometimes, as well as other people’s.  And did I mention that when I sent him a chapter, it invariably returned by the next day, and sometimes sooner?  As late as a week ago, he read through the entire 400 pages one last time, making small final changes.

In the end, I think we’ve produced a book we can all be proud of, and one that will make a serious contribution to bridge literature. Even expert players will learn from it, but at the same time, club players will find it helps their game too – although there will be some material that is beyond them at first reading.

The book goes to press today, and will available for sale in about 4 weeks.  (The e-book will be on sale earlier than that.)   It’s already been shortlisted for the IBPA Book of the Year award, and an extract from it will be available shortly for free download from www.ebooksbridge.com and www.masterpointpress.com.

Eric will be participating in at least one book-signing session at the Toronto NABC in July – what the Daily Bulletin for details as we have to work around his playing schedule, and may not know until fairly late when he is going to be available.  If you’re in town, don’t miss the chance to meet one of the world’s great players.


[…] The Rodwell Files — an editor’s perspective: Editor Ray Lee on how The Rodwell Files came to be, and the roles he, Rodwell, and BRIDGE Magazine publisher Mark Horton played in wrestling the insights of a groundbreaking career into a single cohesive, enlightening volume. […]

Nick KrnjevicJune 5th, 2011 at 5:50 am



Looks terrific!

Is there a Kindle version?


Ray LeeJune 8th, 2011 at 8:49 pm

Yes – it’s available right now as a PDF which you can load on your Kindle. We’re working on a full epub version (which in some way will be for sale on Amazon eventually) . When that’s ready it can be downloaded from us and then converted into a .mobi file, which is the Amazon format.

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