Robert Byrne (author)

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Robert Byrne
Robert Byrne
Born (1930-05-22) May 22, 1930 (age 93)
Dubuque, Iowa
Occupation Author
Language English
Nationality American
Citizenship US
Education Bachelor of Science
Alma mater University of Colorado
Period 1969 - Current
Genre Thriller, Collections of quotations, Billiards instruction
Notable works Memories of a Non-Jewish Childhood, 1970

Byrne's Standard Book of Pool & Billiards, 1978

Thrill, 1995
Notable awards BBIA Industry Service Award, 1994
BCA Hall of Fame (Meritorious Service), 2001
Spouse Cynthia Nelms (1991-present)
Children Russell Byrne

Robert Byrne (/bɜːrn/; born 1930) is an American author and Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame instructor of pool and carom billiards.

Early life and education

Robert Leo Byrne, son of Tom and Clara Byrne, was born on May 22, 1930, and raised in Dubuque, Iowa.[1] He attended St. Columbkille's elementary, Loras Academy, and Loras College.[1][2]

He left Dubuque to attend Iowa State University, where his first sign of talent as a writer emerged as he edited a humor column in the school's newspaper. He transferred to University of Colorado, where he edited Flatiron, the school's humor publication, and he graduated in 1954 with a degree in civil engineering.[1]

Byrne began his career in 1954 as a Junior Civil Engineer for the City and County of San Francisco, Department of Engineering, Bureau of Public Works, Division of Highways.[1]

Writing career

In 1955, a year later, he found a way to combine his engineering and writing talents by joining Western Construction magazine as a reporter for the heavy construction industry.[1] In 1961, he was named editor of the magazine, a position he held for over ten years.[1]

Byrne became a full-time writer in 1977 after the publication of his third book. He is the author of seven novels, five collections of humorous quotations, seven books on billiards, two anthologies, and an expose of frauds in the literary world. One of his novels, Thrill, was made into NBC’s Monday Night Movie, which aired for the first time on May 20, 1996. Four of his novels were selections of Reader's Digest Condensed Books and published in over a dozen languages.

Byrne's unusual mix of talents as a writer, engineer and billiard player formed the right skill set to create what would become one of the definitive instructional works on cue sports. Byrne’s Standard Book of Pool and Billiards, published in 1978 and expanded in 1998, has sold over 500,000 copies. It is one of the very few such works that includes diagrams that are mathematically and physically accurate, plotting the path of the center of the balls, which never quite reach the cushions of the table.[3][clarification needed] Byrne coined the pool jargon term "squirt" in this book, defining the deflection effect that sends the cue ball toward the right when struck with left sidespin, and vice versa.[4]

Byrne's books, hundreds of instructional magazine articles, seven instructional videos (shot on sound stages in Burbank and Hollywood, California), have established him as the preeminent teacher and commentator in the world of pool and billiards.[5] He has been a columnist and Contributing Editor for Billiard Digest magazine since its first issue in 1978,[5] and a columnist for Dubuque's Telegraph Herald since 2000.[6] His most recent publication is Behold My Shorts, a collection of a decade of his monthly newspaper columns.[7]

In 1994 on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, he received the Industry Service Award from the Billiard and Bowling Institute of America, an honor previously bestowed on Willie Mosconi, Paul Newman, and Jackie Gleason.[5] In 1998, the readers of Billiards Digest named Byrne "Best Billiards Writer".[6] His contributions to billiards and pool were recognized with induction into the Billiard Congress of America's Hall of Fame. The honor, perhaps the greatest in the field, was bestowed for Meritorious Service, on July 21, 2001, at the Las Vegas Hilton at a banquet closing the annual International Billiard & Home Recreation Expo. He was inducted with many-time World Three-cushion Billiards Champion Raymond Ceulemans of Belgium.[5][6]

As of May, 2011, he is nearly finished with a new collection of humorous quotations.[8]

Playing career

Byrne's first success as a pool hustler came at the age of 12 when he beat the gas meter reader out of 85 cents on the family home's basement pool table in a game of 8-ball.[9]

As a player, he has ranked in U.S. national-class tournaments in multiple disciplines:[6]

  • Champion, National Senior Billiard Tournament, 1999
  • Champion, National Amateur Athletic Club Billiards Tournament, 1999
  • Third place, National Professional Three-Cushion Championship, 1977
  • Fourth place, National Professional Three-Cushion Championship, 1968

Byrne performed the pool trick shots for The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in 1993.

He has had a three-cushion billiards high run of 14, at age 29 and again at 79.[citation needed] The last time he ran his age in straight pool was Age 78.[citation needed]

Personal life

On May 12, 1958, Byrne married Josefa Heifetz, concert pianist and daughter of legendary violinist Jascha Heifetz.[10] On May 16, 1962, Josefa gave birth to Russell Heifetz Byrne, their only child, who now works as a network consulting engineer for Cisco Systems. Byrne and Heifetz were divorced in 1976. On May 9, 1991, Byrne married Cynthia Nelms, a graphic artist and painter, who struck his fancy by sending him an extremely well-written fan letter.

After living in California for nearly 40 years, Byrne moved back to his childhood home of Dubuque, Iowa with Cindy in 1996, which was not without complications due to the controversial nature of his semi-autobiographical novel Memories of a Non-Jewish Childhood.[clarification needed] Byrne's civic involvement in Dubuque includes serving as president of the Friends of Wahlert Library, Loras College, and as a boardmember of both the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra and Dubuque Museum of Art.

Byrne is also an amateur stage magician, is a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, and has published tricks in Genie magazine. He was once a Class A tournament chess player, with a United States Chess Federation rating over 1800.


Pool and billiards books

Instructional videos

  • Byrne's Standard Video of Pool, Volume I, 1987, Premiere Home Video
  • Byrne's Standard Video of Pool, Volume II, 1988, Premiere Home Video
  • Byrne's Standard Video of Trick Shots, Volume III, 1993, Premiere Home Video
  • Byrne's Standard Video of More Trick Shots, Volume IV, 1993, Premiere Home Video
  • Byrne's Power Pool Workout, Volume V, 1996, Premiere Home Video
  • Byrne's Rack 'Em Up!, 1996, Premiere Home Video
  • Byrne's Gamebreakers, 2002, Accu-Stats Video Productions

Billiard tournament commentary videos

  • The Best of Three Cushion Billiards, Volume I, 1995, Accu-Stats Video Productions
  • The Best of Three Cushion Billiards, Volume II, 1997, Accu-Stats Video Productions


Collections of quotations

Other books

As editor

  • Heifetz-Byrne, Josefa. Mrs. Byrne's Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words, Gathered from Many and Diverse Authoritative Sources, 1974, University Press (ISBN 978-0-586-20600-3)
  • Kruse, Len. My Old Dubuque: Collected Writings on Dubuque Area History, 2000, Loras College Center for Dubuque History (ISBN 978-0-936875-07-1)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 The Byrne Family History, self-published, Linda Byrne Brown, 2001
  2. Byrne's novel Memories of a Non-Jewish Childhood is loosely based on his own childhood
  3. As described by Byrne in an interview with Shelly Till on the local public-access television program On the Edge with Shelly Till
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External links