Posts Tagged ‘The Albuquerque Turkey’

Tax Day

Monday, February 28th, 2011

My keyboard is getting wonky. It’s not the batteries; I’ve changed them and I know they’re fresh. It’s just that sometimes, for no apparent reason, the keyboard ssssssticks and ssssstutters. Perhaps it’s coming to the end of its useful life after nearly a decade of enduring coffee spills and many meals carelessly eaten over it (including my latest obsession, plain, dry oatmeal — go fiber! Kill that cholesterol!) Well, whatever. I’ll stumbbble along the best I can until the hardware absolutely and positively gives up the ghost. Man, yo spend eighty bucks on something in 2001, you really expected it to last.

Today is Tax Day. Maybe not where you live but where I live — at least where I live inside my mind. See, I’ve always had a problem with procrastination. I never got the hang of it, and have been obsessive about finishing things early for as long as I can remember. No, not, as long as I can remember; rather, exactly and precisely since fourth grade.

I had been out sick from school for a couple of days, and somehow it escaped my attention that my report on Ponce de Leon was due. (You remember Ponce – the fountain of youth guy — killed Indians, invented Florida.) So I missed my deadline. I was so mortified — truly psychologically scarred — that I’ve had great difficulty missing a deadline ever since. There’s just something in my neurobiology that won’t allow it. Thus my motto became, “procrastinate later,” and thus I’m doing my taxes on February 28.

Although, let’s not fail to note that I’m not exactly doing my taxes right now. I’m writing this post. Which is a form of… yes… procrastination. Interesting: I am now procrastinating by talking about how I don’t procrastinate. The human mind is a complex machine.

A machine, it should be pointed out, that would rather not be involved with taxes, or flossing teeth, or eating oatmeal, or many of the other mundane tasks that occupy our days, weeks, months, years. We’d rather have lives that were all highlights — or maybe that’s just me. But if our lives were all highlights, how would we ever recognize them? To quote Bill Shakespeare, “If every day were holiday, to sport would be as tedious as work.” Well, I strive to make every day at least a little bit of a holiday, but today is Tax Day, JV style, so I’d better get cracking.

More (and more procrastination) later, -jv

What a Press Release Looks Like

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Here’s the official press release for The Albuquerque Turkey. Thought you might like a squiz.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Sarah Breivogel; 212-572-2722

sbreivogel@randomhouse.com

What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas . . . or Does It?

Master con artist Radar Hoverlander is back, and this time he’s hitting up the high-rolling action on the Vegas Strip

The Albuquerque Turkey

A Novel

By John Vorhaus

With the mind of David Mamet, the voice of Tom Robbins, and the morals of a sailor on shore leave, Radar Hoverlander is truly one of a kind, a successful con artist, as good as they get.  THE ALBUQUERQUE TURKEY (Crown, March 22, 2011) finds Radar and his gifted grifter girlfriend, Allie Quinn, trying to use the proceeds of their latest big con to set themselves up in the straight life for good. But foiling Radar’s stab at a new life is a cast of quirky and hilarious characters who collectively present the opportunity for the con of a lifetime. Go straight or go for the gold? What’s a poor grifter to do?

Living a peaceful, quiet life off the grid with Allie, free of cons, double-crosses, high crimes and misdemeanors, Radar is beginning to see why going straight could be the best choice he ever made.  But now here comes trouble in the form of an oddly hefty lady in red who’s stalking him through the streets of Santa Fe, New Mexico.  The lady, as it turns out, is actually Radar’s father, Woody Hoverlander, a master grifter in his own right—but presently on the lam and in trouble, with a Vegas hard guy after him and a $5 million debt to clear. To help him, Radar must break his vow to go straight, possibly losing Allie’s love forever.

Meanwhile, Radar’s hapless sidekick, Vic Mirplo, is somehow drifting higher and higher in Santa

Fe art circles. He’s making big money, the sort of loose money a reckless gambler might spend in
-more-
Las Vegas. So off to Vegas they go, where Vorhaus, author of the Killer Poker series and a poker aficionado who once made the final table at the World Series of Poker, uses his knowledge of the high-roller scene to set the stage for Radar’s next con: reinventing Vic as the ultimate high roller—the Albuquerque Turkey. As he did in his witty first novel The California Roll, Vorhaus brings readers inside the world of con artistry with a character like no other, the sensational swindler and polymath extraordinaire Radar Hoverlander. Combining laugh-out-loud prose with a knack for cleverly twisting a plot, Vorhaus makes Hoverlander’s forays into the world of conning intensely engaging and immensely enjoyable.

Art fraud, casino cons, love, loyalty, and a dazzling array of double- and triple-crosses . . . they all prove that the notion of Vegas secrets staying secret is about as realistic as Radar Hoverlander staying straight. Full of scams, jams, and plans gone awry, THE ALBUQUERQUE TURKEY is a smart, entertaining caper that’s worth gambling on.

# # # # #

About the Author:

JOHN VORHAUS is the author of two novels (including the lauded California Roll), two books on writing, and eight books on poker. A veteran creative consultant, he has taught comedy writing in twenty-six countries on four continents, including Russia, Romania, and many other places that are funnier now than when he arrived.

THE ALBUQUERQUE TURKEY

A Novel

By John Vorhaus

Crown * March 22, 2011 * Pages: 272
Price: $23.00 * 978-0-307-71780-1

www.CrownPublishing.com

You can find John—and Radar—online at www.JohnVorhaus.com/

More later, -jv

Know Anyone in Santa Fe?

Friday, February 18th, 2011

… in New Mexico, that is, not Texas or Spain. If you do, tell them to mark their calendars for Wednesday, March 23, at 6pm. I’ll be doing an in-store appearance and book signing at the Collected Works bookstore there.

Not going to bother with an address. It’s Santa Fe. You either know where everything is or you’re not from around there.

It’s serendipity, really. The Left Coast Crime convention (of mystery writers and their fans) is being held this year in Santa Fe, literally the week my novel, set in Santa Fe, comes out. I’ll be at the convention, of course (be kinda crazy to go all the way from LA to Santa Fe just for one bookstore, and yes I’m crazy but not that crazy). While I’m there I imagine I’ll spend a lot of time answering the question, “How did you come to set a novel in Santa Fe?” For the record, I got the idea when I was vacationing there. Mostly I got the idea that I could write off my vacation as a “research trip.” Mostly, also, I really didn’t rely heavily on first-hand knowledge of Santa Fe. When I needed information, I just yanked it down off the web. Wikipedia, Google Maps, Google Earth… these were my New Best Friends. And in the end, I don’t think the novel lacks verisimilitude. Research is just easier these days, that’s all. You can target your searches so precisely. Why read a whole book when you really only need one fragment of data?

It’s interesting. The novel I’m working on now is set in 1969. Much of my “research” just consists of digging into my own memory. But trust me, if your memory stretches back to 1969, it’s not entirely to be trusted. So I augment with Wikipedia, again, and various other online resources. Aging hippies, it seems, love to archive their past. And it’s amazing how much time you can waste digging up the exact words of that old Tonka Toys jingle…

For boys who like real lifelike toys

That they can operate, too

Attention boys! Tonka Toys

Were made just for you!

And this, for no apparent reason, is a Tonka Toy.

JV in Santa Fe. Tell your friends!

More later, -jv

A Free Read

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Want to score a free copy of THE ALBUQUERQUE TURKEY? Just click below.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Albuquerque Turkey (Hardcover) by John Vorhaus

The Albuquerque Turkey

by John Vorhaus

Giveaway ends February 23, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

The Albuquerque Turkey: Excerpt

The Albuquerque Turkey
by John Vorhaus

1      BOY

It all started with a dog, a biggish one loping down the sidewalk with that weird canter that some dogs have, the front legs syncopating and the rear legs slewing sidewise in tandem. He must’ve been running from something specific, because even while scampering forward he looked back, which resulted in him not seeing, and therefore barreling into, me. He hit me square in the knees and knocked me to the ground. This startled us equally, and for a second we both sat still, locked eye to eye down there at dog level.

I vibe dogs. I do. Or let’s say that I prize them: their unconditional love is a love you can trust. I’d rolled with one or two in my time, but the highly migratory life of a con artist didn’t really lend itself to long-term canine commitments, so I mostly just admired dogs from afar. Up close, this one was tough to admire, a mixed bag of black Lab and unknown provenance. One ear stood up like a German shepherd’s. The other… wasn’t there. Looking at the bitten-off stub, I couldn’t help wondering how a dog’s ear tastes to another dog. He bore other wounds as well, evidence of many fights – maybe not fair fights, for I thought I detected a human hand in some of his scars and mars. I saw it also in his eyes. He feared me. That made me sad. I reached out a hand to comfort him, and he flipped over in submission position, manifesting what every dog dreads and hopes when it submits: dread that it will be kicked; hope it’ll be scratched. I opted to scratch, and immediately made a (man’s best) friend.

“Get up, boy,” I said as I stood. “I’m not the boss of you.” The dog – in my mind I was already calling him Boy – obediently rose to his feet. I didn’t know if he was that well trained or just felt like following my lead. He wore no collar, only a weathered, knotted rope that trailed away to a frayed end. Something told me this was a dog in transition, and that whoever had been the boss of him was boss no more. Probably if I wanted to I could keep him, the thought of which tickled me. I pictured me presenting him to my girlfriend, Allie, who had lately shown such determination that we be normal. “Look what followed me home,” I’d tell her. “Can we keep it?” If that didn’t say normal, I don’t know what would.

First, though, there was the matter of making sure I was right. I mean, I couldn’t just kidnap him – dognap him – so I started back in the direction he’d come, determined to take a stab, at least, at finding his owner. The dog cowered, reluctant to follow. “It’s okay,” I said, “I got your back.” He still wouldn’t budge, so I knelt, rubbed his grizzled muzzle for a moment, then took the scraggly end of the rope and walked him down the street. I could tell he still wasn’t too keen on the idea, but now he was a dog on a leash, and they have no free will.

I had just turned the corner when I heard the first shouts.

I thought they came from the courtyard of some garden apartments just down the street, but with the way the sound bounced around off those Santa Fe adobe walls, I couldn’t be sure. There was a pickup truck parked in front of the courtyard, and its whole grungy aspect seemed linked to the courtyard noises. Bald tires, primer spots and dents, cracked windshield; a trailer trash ride, or I’m no judge of trucks. The tailgate was missing, and I could see in the cargo bed a litter of empty cans, both beer and oil, plus fast food wrappers and crumpled cigarette packs.

And, tethered to a tie-down, a severed rope, mate to the noose around Boy’s neck.

Boy recognized the truck. He whimpered fearfully as we approached, causing a picture to form in my mind: Enraged driver pulls up to the curb, anger burning so hot that he upsets his dog, who strains against his restraint – and snaps the tired line! Dog is off and running, but driver doesn’t care. All his anger’s focused on whoever’s in that courtyard.

More shouts now, and I could hear two voices, no, three: a man and a woman exchanging heated words, and a little girl playing hapless and ineffectual peacemaker. To me it added up to domestic dispute.

Boy wanted to leave and, boy, so did I. After all, there’s two kinds of problems in this world, right? My problem and not my problem. But there was a lot going on in my head. There was Allie’s need for the two of us to be citizens (and did not, in some sense, citizen equal Samaritan?) and also Boy, for if I left things like they were, he’d likely end up tied back up in that truck, the thought of which grieved me deeply. The kicker was the little girl’s voice. I could see the black hole of human trauma forming in the center of her universe. I knew that Allie came from such a troubled vortex, where mom and dad never got along and routinely inflicted horrible damage on anyone within range. I couldn’t go back in time and salve Allie’s pain. It was likewise probably too late to save the little girl from hers – these things start young – but maybe I could douse the present blaze.

And just perhaps talk my way into a dog.

I moved toward the courtyard. Boy resisted, but I patted his head in reassurance, trying to communicate that whatever I planned to sell, it wasn’t him out. I guess I got my point across, for he fell more comfortably in step beside me. I paused to gather myself before entering the courtyard. I didn’t know what, specifically, I was about to walk into, but it didn’t much matter. A top grifter gets good at improvising successfully across a wide variety of situations.

Even ones with guns.

I didn’t see the gun at first, just the man at the base of a short set of steps, looking dirty as his pickup truck in tired jeans and sneakers, a stained tank top, and a polyester cap with some kind of racing logo. The woman stood on the top step with the girl tucked in behind her. They wore matching mother/daughter flower print shifts. In other circumstances you’d say they looked cute. Now they just looked scared, but the mother was playing the defiance card hard – a card I could tell she didn’t really hold, but that’s what they call bluffing.

“Andy, now, clear out,” she said. “You know you’re not allowed here. The judge – ”

“Screw the judge,” said Andy. “I want Sophie. I want my little girl.”

“No, Andy. Not when you’ve been drinking and God knows what else.”

“Oh, and you’re such a saint?” Andy practically vibrated with rage.

“That’s not the point. I have custody.” The way she said custody damn near broke my heart. Like it had magic power, but I knew it would cast the opposite spell.

It did. It brought the gun up, a Browning MK II Hi Power. Some of them have hair triggers. Andy leveled it at – as I gathered from context – his ex-wife and child. “Sophie,” Andy told the girl, his voice gone cold, “go get in the truck. I swear if you don’t, I’ll shoot you both right now.”

The moment froze. I was afraid to speak. I didn’t want to spook Andy, not while he had the gun up. I guess Boy felt the same way. I could sense him repressing a growl. Then… the girl moved. She disengaged herself from her mother’s clutching hands and edged warily down the stairs. I knew what she was walking into, could foresee it in an instant. Let’s say she survived the next hour, day, week, month, year. Let’s say she made it all the way into womanhood. Where would that find her? Turning tricks at a truck stop? Up in some spike house with a needle in her arm? Living with a man who beat her just like daddy did? Talk about your human sacrifice. It may have been the bravest thing I’d ever seen in my life.

I couldn’t let it stand.

“Hey, mister,” I piped up, applying my most innocent bystander gloss, “do you know whose dog this is?” Three heads swiveled toward me. The gun swiveled, too, but I ignored it, for part of running a good con is shaping the reality around you. Or denying it, as the case may be. By disregarding the gun, I momentarily neutralized it, for what kind of fool doesn’t see the obvious? It’s destabilizing to people. They don’t know how to react, so mostly they just do nothing, which buys you some time to make your next move. At that point I don’t know if I felt supremely courageous or just dumb-ass dumb. Both, probably. But one thing you learn on the razzle is that once a con starts, the worst thing you can do is break it off. Then you’re just twisting in the wind. “Because, um, I found her down the street and she seems to be lost.”

“Ain’t a she,” said Andy.

“No? I didn’t look.” I bent down to check out Boy’s underside. “Hey, you’re right, it’s a boy. Anyway, used to be.” I smiled broadly and started walking Boy forward.

Andy aimed the gun. “Stop,” he said.

“Oh, look, I’m not trying to get in the middle of a thing here. I’m just trying to return this dog. Is he yours?”

“Just let him go.”

Well, I thought I knew what would happen if I did that. Boy would take off running, and probably none of us would ever see him again. I weighed my own selfishness – I wanted that dog – against his need and safety, and dropped the rope. Boy surprised me. He plopped down at my feet, content, apparently, to let me run the show to whatever outcome I could achieve. You gotta love that about dogs. When they trust you, they trust you all the way.

“Now clear out,” said Andy.

Here’s where my play got dicey. Make or break time. “Hang on,” I said, bleeding avid enthusiasm into my voice. “What kind of gun is that?”

“What?”

“Because it looks like a 1980s Hi Power. Is it?”

“The hell should I know?”

I squinted at the gun, straining to see detail, which I didn’t really need to do, since one of the many things you learn about in my line of work is guns, in detail. “Ambidextrous thumb safeties, nylon grip, three-dot sights. Yep, that’s a Mark II. Bet it’s got the throated barrel and everything.”

“Get the fuck out of here.”

“The thing is,” I said, “I’m kind of a collector. Any chance I could buy it off you?” This was the heart of my play, based explicitly on what the mother had said about drinking and God knows what else. I knew what else. Crank. Crystal meth. I could see it in Andy’s dilated pupils, his scrunge-brown teeth, and his generally tweaky demeanor. A guy like that’s not likely to be long on cash, and addiction is a voice that never shuts up. He might could want to quell it for a while. Very slowly, again not to spook him, I reached into my back pocket and pulled out my bankroll.

Funny. For someone complicit with Allie in getting off the razzle, I still kept my cash in a grifter’s roll, big bills out the outside, small bills within. I held the roll lengthwise, between my thumb and first finger, so that Andy could see its Ben Franklin veneer. “I think I have a grand here,” I lied easily. “If that’s not enough, we could hit my ATM.”

Andy licked his lips, imperfectly processing my offer. “Maybe I’ll just take it,” he said.

Oops. I hadn’t considered that. “Sure, yeah, whatever,” I vamped. “You could do that. But what kind of example does that set for your little girl?” This was pure bafflegab – nonsense – and I knew it, but that didn’t halt my improv. “Look,” I continued, “like I said, I’m not trying to get in the middle of a thing, but it looks like you guys have a problem. If you take my money by force, the problem gets worse. If you start shooting, it gets way worse, right?” I looked at the mother for confirmation, silently encouraging her to nod, which she did. “On the other hand, you sell me your gun, you’ve got a little scratch, you can take your girl out for ice cream, come back later, everybody’s calm, you can all work out your business.” I knew he’d take take your girl out for ice cream to mean go score, and hoped his need was such that he’d opt for the line of least resistance.

He seemed to be leaning that way. I could see him mentally converting a thousand dollars into chunks of scud. “What’s in it for you?” he asked.

“I told you, I’m a collector. I’ve got the Mark I and the Mark III, but the Mark II, boy, those are rare.” (Well, measured in millions.) I dared a step forward, arm outstretched, dangling my bankroll like bait. “What do you say? Deal?”

The ladies and I held our breath. Maybe Boy did, too.

“I’m keeping the bullets,” said Andy at last.

“That’s fine,” I said. “Who collects bullets?”

Then, so slowly it made my teeth ache, Andy lowered the gun, pressed the slide release, and dropped the magazine into his hand. Still manifesting my goofy enthusiasm, I strode over and made the exchange, then stepped back quickly before he could change his mind. “Oh, man,” I said, “wait’ll the guys in the gun club see this.”

The next sound you hear will be Andy saying, “What the fuck?” when he finds out what a grifter’s roll is.

“What the fuck?” said Andy. He threw down the roll and took a menacing step toward me.

“Funny thing, though,” I said, raising the gun, “didn’t you chamber a round?” Andy stopped. I let my voice go hard. “Go on, get out of here.” He turned back to grab Sophie, but, “Oh, no,” I said. “No.” Then he looked at his dog. “Not him, either,” I said. “Get.”

Andy got.

Was there a round in the chamber? Did it matter? You can bluff with the best hand, too.

The truck rumbled off. I’d memorized the license plate, and would soon be dropping a dime, for there’s no way that guy wasn’t holding. Meantime, I encouraged Sophie and her mother to clear out to a shelter somewhere, which they thought was a pretty damn good idea. We agreed that Boy would stay with me.

So happy ending, right? Sure, except for one thing. Completely unbeknownst to us, someone in one of the adjacent apartments had cell-phone videoed the whole thing through a window. It was on YouTube by dusk.

It didn’t really matter that thousands of people saw Radar Hoverlander in action.

But it sure as hell mattered that one person did.

pay too much for signed copies here


Word Processor

Self-produced in 1984 on the ironically vainglorious ONE STAR RECORDS label, Word Processor sold literally tens of copies before disappearing by the box-load into my basement. (more…)

The California Roll Promo Video

The worthies at Random House asked me to put together a video introducing myself as the author of The California Roll. I didn’t let it interfere with my routine.

The California Roll promo video

Save Angel Hope

It seemed like a good idea at the time — well, it was a good idea at the time — a con caper starring Billy Boyd, who was a hobbit in Lord of the Rings but is taller in this. For reasons too byzantine to relate, the movie has seen very limited light of day. You can, for instance, download it from Russian pirate-video websites, but don’t expect to see it in your local redbox kiosk any time soon.

At least there’s a trailer. It’s kinda cool. Click to play.

Save Angel Hope trailer

Killer Poker No Limit: Excerpt

Killer Poker No Limit! A Winning Strategy for Cash Games and Tournaments
by John Vorhaus

Introduction: Most Fun Wins

killer poker no limit

I’m just sitting here this morning musing on the nature of addiction. I certainly have my share of addictions spread out around me. At my left hand is a mug filled with hot coffee, to which I am addicted. It’s not just any mug, either, but my Comic Toolbox promotional mug, from which I’ve been addicted to drinking ever since I wrote the book of the same name. I know it’s just subjective reality, but I swear the coffee tastes better in that mug. At my right hand is the sudoku from this morning’s paper. Sudoku has lately replaced crosswords as my number one puzzle addiction. And puzzles are a sick addiction for me. I swear I could do life behind bars if I had enough acrostics and scanagrams. My mind hates to be idle. Believe me when I tell you that I can’t even stand to stand in a supermarket checkout line without something to read, even if it’s only a National Enquirer headline. (“Angry Trucker Fires Five Shots Into UFO!”) Among other things, I am addicted to the written word. (more…)

The California Roll: Excerpt

The California Roll
by John Vorhaus

1      ON THE SNUKE

the california roll

The first person I ever scammed was my grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s disease and could never remember from one minute to the next whether she’d just given me ice cream or not. I’d polish off a bowl, drop it in the sink, walk out, walk back in, ask for another, and get it. Boom. They say you can get sick of ice cream if you eat too much. I found that was not the case.

They also say you can’t cheat an honest man, but I say you can. The honest ones never see it coming. (more…)