Introduced to pinball machines when he was just six years old, Shalhoub is one of the most knowledgeable persons about them in the world. This is his fourth book of over 200 pages and hundreds of photographs on the machines and their history. But the field is so diversified both with products and also with different interests throughout the U.S. and other spots in the world, there are inevitably gaps in his knowledge. From his lifelong interest in pinball machines, however, Shaloub knows where to go and who to talk to to fill in these gaps. Many of the individuals he used as sources for parts of the book are seen in photographs as insets with background information on them. The field of pinball machines is so diversified with technological developments, design changes, reflections of social history, finding and repair of old machines, price evaluation, and minutiae for historical significance and value for collectors that there is little repetition in Shalhoub's four books.
The first machine of the "electro-mechanical era" covered in this book was one named Contact run by a dry-cell battery in 1934. It wasn't long before machines began to run on electricity. As their popularity as recreation grew, new designs and features flourished. Pinball machines had something of the appeal that video games do these days. Pinball arcades were established, and pinball machines found their way into middle-class homes. "The introduction of the flipper seen on Humpty Dumpty in 1947 brought a different perspective in the game of pinball." Pinball machines' appeal for some was competition for the highest score, sometimes with gambling. For a short time in the early 1940s, pinball machines were illegal in some states. There was a lull in the field during World War II, but it picked up again after the War even with the growth of cars, television, movies, and other sources of recreation. The "electro-mechnical era" ran to the 1970s.
The era's pinball machines are divided into decades. This makes it easy to get an overview of the evolution by going from decade to decade looking at the respective color photos to see changes in styles and subjects. The color photographs of each machine within a decade are split into two parts. The upper part shows the backdrop, or raised part, at the head of a machine. This became important in attracting players when numerous machines began appearing in arcades and showrooms. The bottom part of the split photograph shows the playing field of the machine. Between the two parts the machine's owner is named along with a current estimated price. The placement of the price is handy enough to be of immediate use to collectors and appraisers; yet being almost incidental, this does not turn the work into a price guide.
The book is a comprehensive visual record of the era's pinball machines with annotations on manufacturer, designer, distinguishing features, and when applicable mention of a particular machine's significance in the field's history. In the earlier pages are vintage photos of originators of the field as well as a few promotional photographs including the cowboy star Hoot Gibson at a pinball machine and machines in scenes of popular movies.
Like Shalhoub's previous books, this one is a required reference for anyone with a serious interest in the field. Pinball machine enthusiasts will be thankful for the author's successful labor in putting together this irreplaceable history and catalog on the electro-mechanical pinball machines.