We got a chance to sit down with Anton at his beautiful two-acre mansion. A lot of readers have been asking about his background. Here’s your opportunity to finally read the back story.
AntonChigurh.com: Anton, first of all, thanks for taking the time. It’s been thirty years since we heard from you. How have you been?
AC: No problem. I’ve been well. Bought a house around here with the money and went into day trading.
AntonChigurh.com: You stayed in Texas? Didn’t the police come after you?
AC: Sure, there were all kinds of search warrants out for me but I cut my hair and after that people didn’t recognize me. [Laughs] Also, the book didn’t come out until 2005. It wasn’t until the book came out, and especially the movie, that I really gained widespread notoriety but by then so much time had passed, it didn’t matter anymore.
AntonChigurh.com: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where is your family from and where did you grow up?
AC: My family is from India, originally a little town called Chichgar. I’ve got some Swedish roots too. My grandfather married the daughter of a Swedish Match executive after that company set up a manufacturing plant in India in the 1920s. My parents moved to East Pakistan right around the time I was born. There was a lot of poverty and unrest in East Pakistan but my father was a doctor and I had a relatively secluded and affluent childhood. I went to private school, we had a live-in servant and so on.
AntonChigurh.com: So that explains the origin of your name? We’ve been getting a lot of questions about that.
AC: Yes, it does. Chigurh is derived from Chichgar and Anton is a very common name in Sweden.
AntonChigurh.com: How did you end up in the US?
AC: In 1971 most of my family were killed in the Bangladesh War and I joined a small group of refugees to North America. Most went to Canada, I ended up in Texas.
AntonChigurh.com: That must have been a difficult transition.
AC: When I came over to America, I didn’t have a dime in my pocket. As an illegal immigrant, you didn’t have a whole lot of options. I was a busboy for a while but I got fired after I got into a fight. By then I had picked up pool and started hustling local halls. I gambled on anything in those days. I never met a bet I didn’t like, as long as I had an edge. And I was always looking for any edge I could get. I made games like nobody else - I made games where I couldn’t lose! It wasn’t a lot of money but it was enough to get by. After a while I got into to poker and that became my main source of income for years.
AntonChigurh.com: Were you any good?
AC: I hadn’t played a hand of poker before but I was a pretty good junior chess player back home. Chess and poker are fairly similar in some ways. I picked up the game pretty quickly and I made a living travelling around, playing at colleges and other small games. I gradually worked my way up. This was right when poker was moving to Vegas in the early seventies but there were still a lot of outlaw games going on in Forth Worth. I played most of my games up north but I also occasionally dabbled in the big games downtown. Whenever there was a real big game, all the familiar faces would roll back into town: Johnny Moss, Amarillo Slim, Doyle, you name it. I’ve played with them all.
AntonChigurh.com: You played with those guys?! And did you win?
AC: That’s the problem. I should have been more selective but I wanted to beat the biggest games - not even for the money but to prove I could do it. It was a foolish thing to do. A vain thing to do. I was a good poker player but I wasn’t in those guys’ league. One time I got staked for a pretty juicy game and I had the worst day in my life. Some hands you wouldn’t believe; I got more bad beats in one night than you’ll ever see in your life. I owed a lot of money after that and to some pretty impatient individuals. These were not the kind of people you could sit down and explain you needed some time to get the money together. So we settled on a service I could provide for them.
AntonChigurh.com: Did that come natural to you?
AC: After being a firsthand witness to the atrocities in East Pakistan, nothing much shocked me anymore. Also, poker back then was a struggle for survival as well. That may be hard to imagine now, with these kids making thousands of dollars online from their bedrooms and the fancy card rooms in casinos. But in those days it was a game of life or death - literally. Most games were underground. You constantly had to keep from getting cheated and when you did catch someone, it could get ugly pretty quickly. Then when you won, you still had to actually collect the money. All the while looking over your shoulder to stay out of jail. And, of course, there was always the threat of getting hijacked. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been robbed at gunpoint. One time guys with ski masks bust open the door of our game on Exchange Street and before I knew it, a guy stuck a knife in my neck right here. [Points to a nasty scar.] That was a close call. It was an extremely violent environment. So it wasn’t as big a step as you might think.
AntonChigurh.com: How long have you provided these services?
AC: Not that long, maybe a couple of years. After I did the first one, word got around. Most jobs barely paid enough to tide me over until the next one, especially in the beginning. But poker wasn’t that great either. Poker is an odd line of work in that you can work really hard for weeks and end up with less than you had to begin with. That makes it tough to make ends meet sometimes. It was good to have a second income. After a while, I sort of got a reputation. That was when the pay started to get a little better. But I never really made enough to save money or buy a house. Until the Moss job, that is.
AntonChigurh.com: Was that the last job you took?
AC: Almost. I did some business on the heels of it that was very profitable. After that, money was no longer an issue and I let it be known I wasn’t available anymore.
AntonChigurh.com: Did you consider leaving Texas?
AC: Not really. Texas was my home and I didn’t feel like fleeing home for the second time in a decade. I waited out the storm and then I bought a little ranch away from it all. I laid low and I never really heard from the whole thing again. That is, until the book came out and particularly the movie. Next thing I knew, I became just about the most overanalyzed person on the planet. For a while anyway.
AC: Absolutely. Have you seen the things they said about me? Agent of fate? Just because I used to flip coins? This may sound crazy to you but a lot of it is just boredom. It’s a game, a pastime. To a gambler there is nothing he can’t bet on. It was a way to spice things up, make it more interesting. It increased the chance of getting caught, which in turn increased the challenge. To attach any grand significance to it is laughable - pretentious even. People are so desperate to find meaning beyond this life that they’re willing to attribute mystical importance even to something as mundane as these acts of vanity.
AntonChigurh.com: What they are also responding to, I think, is that you seemed to derive some kind of pleasure from the violence.
AC: That’s ludicrous. The first time you are responsible for the death of another human being is the worst feeling in your life. But for me, back then, it was a way to get the job done most efficiently. I will say that after a while, you do get desensitized to it. Perhaps that’s what people perceive as pleasure. It’s a horrible thing actually.
AntonChigurh.com: Perhaps it’s that absence of horror, the ease with which you did those things.
AC: You have to understand that this business is built around fear. Much of it is a persona. You can’t show weakness or pity. If you project an image of ruthlessness, determination, it makes your job easier because people avoid you. It’s basic game theory. Not unlike poker.
AntonChigurh.com: That’s why some of the violence is hard to explain. You sought ways to make your job easier, yet you wilfully jeopardized it too.
AC: What can I say? I already explained this. I was always perfecting my game while looking to make the game itself more difficult. Those things aren’t mutually exclusive. I am well aware of the horrendousness of my actions and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t regret having done the things I did. But however atrocious my behaviour may have been, it doesn’t make me some mythological incarnation of evil any more than others who’ve committed the same crimes. It is what it is: horrific deeds, borne out of egoism. There’s nothing mythological about it.
If you have anymore questions, let us know and we’ll try to get your question to Anton.