P. Moss – Vegas Tabloid (Squidhat Press, 01 October 2017)
Hey there, ladies and gentlemen of the internet. It’s been some time since we’ve done a proper review around here, as you may have noticed. Things should be getting back to normal soon, but the simple reason is that there just hasn’t been much time available for listening to anything lately! With an abnormal amount of turnover at work over the past couple of months, I’ve found myself spending my days training quite a few temp employees, which has drastically cut into time I’d normally spend tuning out the world with my headphones blasting. A lot of the actual writing is done on the bus or in small bits here and there as I have spare time, but it’s virtually impossible to listen to anything on the bus because it’s so noisy I can barely make out anything — even with my Walkman turned up dangerously high.
Bus rides do afford me some quality time for keeping up with email though, or just for reading. So I find myself doing a lot of the latter, either via analog paper copies borrowed from the local library or digital books downloaded onto my phone. And that’s why, in a space where you’d normally come for music news, today I’m doing a book report like I’m back in middle school or something. Hopefully you all will enjoy this diversionary change-of-pace. Feel free to let me know in the comments. And be sure to stop back for more music-related stuff soon!
Earlier this month, indie label SquidHat Records launched a brand-new publishing division called SquidHat Press (whose slogan is “Punk Rock You Can Read”), furthering their goal of supporting the arts in Las Vegas by “helping local authors print, publish, and market their work to a wider audience” with a “focus on fiction and non-fiction books in the alternative and subculture genres.” The publisher’s first official release is the novel Vegas Tabloid by P Moss, a member of the Mystery Writers of America; and also a musician and songwriter from the band Bloodcocks UK, as well as the owner of the wildly popular Double Down Saloons in Las Vegas and New York City, and Frankie’s Tiki Room in Las Vegas.
The book was released on the first of October, and having downloaded a copy of it, I began reading early the next morning — Monday the second. In what was possibly the worst release-date coincidence since Dream Theater‘s Live Scenes from New York came out on September 11th, 2001, I found myself interrupted from enjoying a tale about the seedy underbelly of Las Vegas (and featuring an attempted-mass-murderer in the midst of one of its fancy hotel/casinos) by continual updates about the very real tragic news that was still emerging from that city.
Nevertheless, over the course of the next several days I found myself becoming more and more engrossed in the twisted narrative, featuring a very colorful cast of characters (centering around petty-con-artist-turned-millionaire-stage-performer Jimmy Dot and his sideshow entourage, including a midget Elvis impersonator with an unusual talent for drawing, fire-eaters and sword-swallowers, various dancers, and many others — most of whom possess other hidden skills more useful in the criminal world than onstage in a swanky hotel’s theater).
The novel takes numerous surprising twists, opening with a curiously simple wager in a casino bar:
“If I win you’ll pay me $10,000, and if I lose I buy you a hot dog?”
“That’s the bet,” agreed gravel-voiced Jimmy Dot, fireplug stocky with a fuzzy-bald head and dark whiskers that kept the barber shop on its toes twice a day. […]
As the men shook hands to confirm the bet, the slender middle-aged lab geek was unaware that this was just the first in a long string of absurdities in which he would play a starring role during his brief stay at The Fabulous, a gleaming shard of ice soaring seventy-seven stories into the desert sky above the Las Vegas strip.
Jimmy Dot eyed the juicy foot long dogs percolating in the pushcart near the entrance of the sports book. “All you need to concern yourself with is making sure your ass is here Saturday night to settle up.”
“You’re worried that I’m going to stiff you for a one dollar hot dog?”
“I wouldn’t advise it.”
“What if I win?”
“You got a better chance of growing tits and winning Miss America,” cracked Dot […]
and ultimately expanding to include the greedy head of a multi-billion-dollar corporation who would let nothing — not even the possible death of millions of people all over the world — stand in the way of profits.
Along the way, the people and scenery are described with such a unique realistic flair — one especially dumpy establishment is notable for how “[t]he lingering haze of cigarette smoke accompanied by the musty stank of sweat and stale beer did not evoke reminiscence of the bar at the Newport Yacht Club,” while later a character is said to be “[a] man past eighty with erect posture and thin white hair oiled perfectly into place. Whose natty suit and tie captured the style of the day, if it was a day when Reagan was president.” With such flowery (and frequently R-rated) language, Moss will keep his readers hooked, trying to work out precisely who is double-crossing or triple-crossing whom, throughout the entire three-hundred-plus pages.
To be honest, it wasn’t until I’d completely finished the book and saw the “About the Author” page that I realized this was actually the THIRD book of a trilogy. But it was such an exhillarating ride, I have made immediate plans to seek out copies of the first two. And I’d strongly suggest you do the same.
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