What makes a man go bad? What compels the son of a respected, middleclass, high school principal, a graduate of three law schools, a federal patent attorney, to turn to crime? What makes the most promising young chess player of his generation steal cars, sell narcotics, hoodwink hundreds, blackmail celebreties, and do much, much worse?
Norman Tweed Whitaker, born to a good family, esteemed by teachers, fellow chess players, and almost everyone who knew him as a young man, simply could not walk a straight line through life. And the crooked line he did walk is admirably brought to life for the first time in John S. Hilbert's biography, Shady Side: The Life and Crimes of Norman Tweed Whitaker, Chess Master.
Whitaker lived a long and tortured life, moving from his parent's home in Philadelphia, where he was born in 1890, through a series of successes and damnations that would have tried the soul of many a less talented mortal. Along the way he encountered the likes of Charles Lindbergh, j. Edgar Hoover, Barbara Hutton, Major General Lucius D. Clay, and many others, not to mention Cuban world chess champion José Raúl Capablanca as well as a young Bobby Fischer, with whom Whitaker toured - playing first board during team chess matches ahead of Fischer's second! And far from the warmth of his childhood home, Whitaker learned lessons the hard way, at Leavenworth, Alcatraz, and a host of other federal and state penitentiaries.
Calling upon a treasure trove of thousands of personal letters, court papers, and chess scores discovered after Whitaker's death in 1975, Hilbert has meticulously pieced together the saga of this off-again, on-again chess champion, seducer, con artist, husband and criminal. A man of strong emotions, Whitaker in life could be the best of friends or the worst of enemies. In death he has become the subject of a compelling tale that winds its way throughout the world, a tale composed of love, hate, greed, deception and creative struggle, all intertwined, all brought back to life here, in Shady Side.
Although the heart of the book is the biography, for the specialist Hilbert has presented 570 of Whitaker's chess games, including his victories over some of the greatest players in the game's history.