Victor Mollo (1909 – September, 1987) was a British contract bridge player, journalist and author. He is most famous for his "Menagerie" series of bridge books, depicting vivid characters of players with animal names and mannerisms through a series of exciting and entertaining deals—bridge fables of a sort.
Mollo was born in St. Petersburg into a rich Russian family. When he was eight, the October Revolution occurred and his family fled Russia, travelling by a purchased train, with forged Red Cross papers, crossing into Finland, then Stockholm, Paris and finally London.
He attended Cordwalles School but neglected his studies and devoted himself to bridge. As an editor in the European service of the British Broadcasting Corporation, he began to write books and articles on the game. After retirement in 1969, he started to write even more extensively, and up to his death in 1987 he wrote 30 books and hundreds of articles. He was also active in developing bridge cruises, mostly in the Mediterranean. He died in London.
His life style was exceptional. He would play rubber bridge at his club each afternoon, enjoy a dinner and wine with his wife, whom he referred to as "The Squirrel", and then work all night until 6 AM, when he would take a brief sleep. While he occasionally successfully competed in the major duplicate bridge tournaments, winning four national titles, he preferred rubber bridge. Many of his daily achievements at the rubber bridge table would become elements of fictional stories later in the night.
The Bridge in the Menagerie series started with the book of the same name, originally published in 1965, and had several sequels on the same theme. (Most of the pieces in the books had previously appeared in either the British Bridge Magazine or the American The Bridge World - see the Acknowledgement section in the various books.) Mollo was recognized as "the most entertaining writer of the game" in a poll among American players in the 1980s. The books describe entertaining events at a rubber bridge table in "The Griffins Club" (duplicate bridge features only occasionally), involving fictional characters, many of whom are nicknamed after the animals whom they most resemble both physically and psychologically, and who caricaturize common archetypes of real-life bridge players. Mollo often refers to the main characters by their initials. They include:
- Hideous Hog (HH), by far the club's best player, but also an insufferable shark who seeks to humiliate opponents for their mistakes,
- Rueful Rabbit (RR), a small, timid man who can barely hold his cards together and can't always tell diamonds from hearts, but has such incredible luck that even the cards he accidentally drops (several at once, occasionally) become the right ones,
- Secretary Bird, who knows the laws of the game perfectly and insists that they are applied to the letter, always to his own downfall,
- Papa the Greek, a clever but exceedingly vain expert, who fancies himself as the Hog's superior despite regularly losing to him, and whose cleverness usually backfires against himself,
- Karapet, an Armenian expatriate and a fine player but the unluckiest one ever, usually Papa's partner,
- Colin the Corgi, among the club's younger members, a strong player who is often sarcastic and testy and thus has "all the makings of a future master",
- Oscar the Owl, Senior Kibitzer at the Griffins, whose role is usually limited to acting as an audience for HH's exploits,
- Peregrine the Penguin, Oscar's equivalent at the Unicorns, the Griffins' rival club,
- Walter the Walrus, whose expertise in and devotion to the Work point-count are matched only by the utter mess he makes of bidding and play,
- Molly the Mule, the lone recurring female character, who is always certain that she's right and is as stubborn as the proverbial mule,
- Timothy the Toucan, as hopeless a player as RR but without RR's engaging qualities. TT tries to make up for his shortcomings by means of an oozing deference for the Menagerie's better players,
- Charlie the Chimp would rather post mortem the last hand than play the next. He's an exponent of sharp practice at the table, once famously producing a remarkable (and impossible under normal bridge circumstances) quadruple squeeze against himself by retaining a small card in order to conceal his own revoke.
Five books were published in the series while Mollo was alive, all with subsequent editions and printings:
- — (1965). Bridge in the Menagerie: The Winning Ways of the Hideous Hog (1st ed.). London: Faber and Faber.
- — (1974). Bridge in the Fourth Dimension: Further Adventures of the Hideous Hog (1st ed.). London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-10634-X.
- — (1979). Masters and Monsters; The Human Side of Bridge (1st ed.). London: Methuen. ISBN 0-571-11317-6.
- — (1983). You Need Never Lose at Bridge: Happy Days in the Menagerie (1st ed.). London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-52500-7.
- — (1987). Destiny at Bay: The Latest from the Bridge Menagerie (1st ed.). London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-17150-7.
After Mollo's death, further books in the series appeared posthumously, some making use of previously uncollected articles and others containing new material by Robert and Phillip King:
- The Hog in The 21st Century (by Phillip and Robert King, 1999)
- Winning Bridge in the Menagerie (by 'Victor Mollo and Robert King'. 2001)
- Bridge in the Fifth Dimension (by 'Victor Mollo with P & R King', 2002)
- Murder in the Menagerie (by 'Robert King, Phillip King, and Victor Mollo', 2002)
- The Hog Takes to Precision (by 'Victor Mollo, collected and edited by Mark Horton', 2011)
- Bridge Psychology
- Bridge Philosophy
- Mollo, Victor; Gardener, Nico (1955). Card Play Technique or the Art of Being Lucky. London: First Edition: George Newnes Limited.
- The Other Side of Bridge
- Bridge a la Carte
- Victor Mollo's Bridge Quiz Book
- I Challenge You: Victor Mollo Challenges You to Improve Your Bridge Game
- Bridge: Modern Bidding
- Bridge: Case for the Defence
- The Bridge Immortals
- The Complete Bridge Player
- Bridge for Beginners, co-written with Nico Gardener
- Tomorrow's Textbook
- Winning Double: A Quizbook and Textbook with 160 Problems - The Shortest Cut to Expert Play
- Finer Arts of Bridge: A Textbook of Psychology
- Bridge Unlimited: The Fateful Years
- Play Bridge with the Experts, co-written with Derek Rimington
- — (1947). Streamlined Bridge or Bidding without Tears. Illustrated by Anton (1st ed.). London: David Marlowe Ltd.
- Bridge, a Fond Farewell, Alan Truscott, The New York Times, October 18, 1987
- "MOLLO, Victor". Who Was Who. A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 1920–2008; online edn, Oxford University Press. December 2007. Retrieved 5 December 2012. (subscription required)