Interview with Jim Sanderson, Author of Gambled Dreams

01 Jun 2021

What can you tell us about your new release, Gambled Dreams?

In “Gambled Dreams,” gamblers, cons, and prostitutes inhabit the night-time bar world of the early 1980s Odessa, Texas oil boom. Colton Parker—with a wife, two young boys, and a father-in-law—is a bouncer for a gambler and loan shark in this dark hidden world. Danny Fowler cruises this world looking for gay lovers. When he finds two mean ones, he ends up beaten to death and dumped on the road to an oil rig. Danny’s rich mother, Mina, doesn’t want Danny’s night-time life exposed, so she persuades the police not to investigate. But she hires a reluctant Colton Parker to track down Danny Fowler’s killers. Colton teams with Bullet Price, a retired prostitute, climbing up the bar-world social ladder. With help from a young prostitute and a gay tool pusher, Colton tracks down the two oil-field welders who killed Danny.  But Mina wants them dead.

Gambled Dreams came from my looking around and listening to stories when I lived in Odessa, Texas during the 1980s oil boom and bust.  The HBO series “Deadwood” reminded me of that time.  Then the characters in my short stories in “Trashy Behavior” started nagging me to complete their stories. In essence, Gambled Dreams is more proof of what I have been labeled:   a literary genre writer. As a reviewer said, Sanderson writes “Grit Lit.”

Writer Mary Hood, author of highly praised short story collection “How Far She Went,” says of the novel, “A brilliant, intense carefully crafted narrative with no feeling of strain or effort. This is masterwork. The language and vision match, so the world opens for us as readers without any waver of authenticity. We are in it and trust what we are learning. There is always more to understand than we can, at the moment.”

Recently, Brash Books re-published, “Safe Delivery,” which was a finalist for the Violet Crown award. Brash Books also re-published three novels from my Jerri Johnson/Dolph Martinez series as one e-book, “Messing With Texas.”

What or who inspired you to become an author?

When I was a kid, I’d play cowboys and Indians or army soldiers or revolutionary war.  And I wanted my play to be “right.”  So I worked at play.  I read history so that I would get it right.  I knew that, in the 19th century, cowboys wouldn’t have jeeps driving around.  Those jeeps were for WWII play.  You could make a single shot musket or pistol shoot more than one shot at a time. The other kids didn’t work at their play.  So mostly, I had to play alone, in my head, taking time to study.  So, though I didn’t know it, I was practicing writing.  As an adult, I think that there is less play and more work.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

I’d like to say the last 5 books that I chose to read, not necessarily the books that I review or proof.  Since I’m a teacher as well, what I read above mixes with what I have studied.  So I like The Sun Also Rises, The Great Gatsby, As I Lay Dying, Huckleberry Finn, but also Devil in a Blue Dress and The Last Good Kiss.  I’d also list any collection of stories by Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Conner, Andre Dubus, Raymond Carver, or my mentor, Gordon Weaver.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

I think that to get ratings and have fun, I’d like to ask anyone from the Algonquin Round Table.  Probably Dorothy Parker would be best.  If it has to be someone living, I’d like to ask someone whom I know and who has helped me.  There are a lot of those people.  Maybe, I’d start of with Lee Goldberg.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

Finishing.  Sometimes, while composing a first draft or reading what I have written, I say, “maybe this is good.”  That feeling will stay with me an hour or two and then fade.

What is a typical day like for you?

I have a day job.  So I go to my job as a teacher and college administrator.  So my mind is all cluttered, sometimes too much to write.  So when I can, I squeeze some time together.  I like to get up, exercise in some way, and start writing.  Lately, much over two hours at a time, I feel as though the writing is getting worse.  So I take a little time off, then try to return for a little longer.

What scene from Gambled Dreams was your favorite to write?

I’d probably have to go with the opening.  I went through several drafts and as many points of view changes.  So that opening establishes the way the story will be told.  And it is telling more so than scene or showing.  So a reader has to buy into that voice and keep reading.  Maintaining that voice was the most difficult and challenging part of this novel.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

If the writing is easy, it probably isn’t very good.  That would apply to all writing, not just fiction.

Jim Sanderson is the author of the new book Gambled Dreams

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