Hi all–I usually do my author interviews on my other blog, Kitty Muse and Me, but this one is part of Mountain Springs House’s Summer Blog Tour. In the random roulette of Who Got Who to interview, I definitely came up roses! Every other author in our group would have been perfect too, but Jesse has had a most interesting life, and I was so happy to be able to ask him all my questions.
So, without further ado and gum-flapping on my part, let us begin:
I hear your book is getting quite a bit of attention. “Early Out” was #46 in the “Literature and Fiction” category on Kindle a couple of days ago. That must make you feel pretty good.
Yes, it is a validation for me. I have been on the roller coaster ride for over three years with this book. It has been intense. I always said that recognition, that success with my book would heal a lot of wounds for me.
I’m so happy for you, and I hope your book continues to exist in the rarified air of best sellers.
I read the excerpt on Amazon—would you care to go into more detail as to what “Early Out” is about?
The book is largely about the nine years I lived and worked in Las Vegas. I keep that as the centerpiece of my book, the book starts out with a story about Las Vegas. Throughout the narrative I keep returning to Vegas and the book ends with Vegas. The book is a memoir, a story about my life, but obviously Vegas was the peroration, and my life there marked me in a profound way. The rest of the stories are really about providing motivation for the protagonist—me. I’m fleshing out my character as it were, besides which I had good material in the before and after Vegas life experiences.
The part I read, I would definitely describe as a gritty, no-holds-barred biography that certainly reveals the darker side of Vegas. Curious, though–how did you come up with the title of the book?
Early Out is dice subculture terminology that simply means that the floor decides to close a game, a dead game and send the crew home early. A crew would refer to a dice game. Dealers earn minimum wage, plus tips; tokes, but why pay them to stand around? The boxman counts the bank, gets a fill if necessary and then they bring up the lid, the Plexiglas lid that covers the bank and it locks on both ends. I generally wanted the early out because that meant I could go home early and start partying; a party at which I was the only guest. You take enough early outs, at say, State Line, and you are turning a solid thirty thousand dollar a year job into something more like a twenty four thousand dollar a year job.
I was searching for a name for my book and that somehow popped into my mind as a good title. Some people know, know right away, I’ve encountered people in the business since I started writing, they know instantly of course, but there are relatively few individuals that have moved through that subculture.
There are also more sinister overtones to Early Out, given my propensity for self destructive behavior over the years.
Then the title definitely fits! It gives me chills to think of what you, and so many others I’m sure, have put yourselves through.
This book is a personal experience of your time in Las Vegas. Was it ever a “fun” place for you—the ideal that seems to attract the tourists?
You bet! Vegas is a lot of fun! Yup, I had my fun. There is a saying about Vegas. “How do you like living here?” “Well, I love it when I don’t hate it.” It’s a rough, tough, cynical town. Throughout the nine years I lived there four thousand people were moving to the Valley every month for good jobs with benefits and low housing costs. Ordinary people could have the American dream of home ownership and this without grinding out a college degree. There is a lot of natural beauty around there. I had fun hanging out with my cronies, drinking, doing drugs and talking shop. Masseurs and dealers, the two occupations I worked at in Vegas. You tend to hang out with coworkers, you are working the same shifts and you have the same concerns.
I had my fun but I also had moments, experiences that felt like I had stumbled through the portals of hell. As far as I’m concerned Vegas encourages excessive behavior. I really loved that about Las Vegas, nobody cares, at all. They care about money and as long as you don’t F with the action you can be about as crazy as you want to be. There is more latitude for extremes of behavior in Vegas. Live and let live, that is the unofficial motto of Vegas. The fun was obvious, but the deadly vortex, the vicious pull; the undertow, of a casual and corrosive dissipation was revealed to me in increments and the darkness seemed even more sublime because it was illuminated by the relentless anvil of the desert sun.
What a description! I’ve only been on the main thoroughfares of that city–now I think I am very glad of it.
So many odd jobs have been listed on your author blurb, again on Amazon. What were the best and worst of them, if you were to pick one for each category?
I accumulated so many crappy, low status, low paying jobs that picking the worst ones is going to be difficult. The top jobs are easier. I was a masseur at Caesars Palace/Vegas. And I worked at a cemetery that had a contract through the Laborers Union. Good money, steady, I was the foreman.
I don’t know. I never earned more than thirty eight grand a year in my entire life and that wasn’t long ago enough to make it big money. I scuffled all of my working life. I chalk that up to chronic instability. I never took the time to acquire the credentials that are necessary to make a good career. I never looked more than six months ahead in my life. Temp agencies provide the worst jobs. That’s how corporations can bust unions, by using temp labor. Even skilled temp labor is more easily exploited by a labor broker.
(How well I know that low-pay song-and-dance. Been there, done that, glad to have it over with.)
Are you still writing? How are you filling your days now that “Early Out” has been published?
I am not prolific. I have already enough material for a novella. I have various ideas for another book, and I know, I really do know, that I have to deliver soon. My publisher asked me about another book. It would help me to push my present book. There always things that get in the way. I have various health issues but I just started to work out again and I suspect that this will help me in all areas. I’ll have more energy and more discipline.
It’ll be interesting to see what you come up with next time around.
British Columbia is a far cry from the desert region of Las Vegas. Which do you prefer, and why?
I prefer the desert. I love the desert, because it is timeless and serene. I can remember taking a vacation from Vegas and coming back up north and driving from SeaTac to the Canadian border I felt hemmed in and oppressed by the dense green foliage. I was back in Vegas in August of 2011, and I felt a real pang. I really do miss the desert. There is life in the desert, subtle life. All around the Valley are beautiful places. Mount Charleston is twenty degrees cooler in the dead of summer. Coming upon Lake Mead in the middle of raw desert is a sublime experience. There is Red Rock, Pahrump. One year, I think 1988 we didn’t have one drop of precipitation for four months! I like the sun and I like palm trees.
And here I am the opposite. I like the desert, but not for long. When I want “desert”, I drive east to Bend, Oregon–good enough for me.
Do you have a circle of supporters? I know we at MSH are very proud of you.
Thank you! Yes, I have supporters, fans, some of them I know from online and some I have met or known personally. I have to say that this is much easier now that I have a publisher. It’s lonely being a self published author. As well, this way I have a platform, I’m proud and I feel better about myself. I believe in my material.
Would you like to post a short excerpt from your book?
The ref had waved me to a neutral corner. I looked to the corner where the judges were. There was a lady judge, blond. Good looking. Her lips were parted and her eyes were shiny. She looked hungry. They all did. I felt this huge rush of adrenalin. I started to jump up and down in place. The murder came up in my eyes and I turned my eyes on my opponent. I had picked up the count at five.
The ref waved me in and as I closed the distance I felt my head lower and my chin tuck and it was like I was outside of myself and within at the same time. But the point is this: I was being careful.
I saw the brass ring. I had him on the hook and I wasn’t going to let him off. It was him or me.
Three hard jabs and he brings his gloves in front of his face. He’s trying to hide behind his gloves.
Now here is the peroration of my whole story. I saw an opening, a space between his head gear and his glove. It was like the clouds parting for the sun. Time warped, slipped away, disappeared; a moment frozen in time. I was in hyper focus.
I decided that my glove would fit through that little opening. I pulled the trigger and knocked him out.
Definitely a good example of the gutsy writing you seem to be so good at. Before we end this interview, is there anything else you might want to add?
Yeah, I have one last word: women come and go but I have my writing.
Sounds like the topic of another book…
Thank you! And thanks for your time today. Before you go, please tell the audience where they can contact you.