Queen of Spades landed on the 35 Over 35 list of best 35 debut books by writers over the age of 35! Congrasts to my pressmate Renee Macalino Rutledge who also made the list with her gorgeous debut Hour of Daydreams.
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Queen of Spades also landed on Seattle-area bookseller Mercer Island Book’s Paperback Power Trio along with Hernan Diaz’s In the Distance and Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties.
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Shum devised the plot based on his own experiences as a dealer and on the stories told to him by a fellow pit dealer, who in 1984 dealt one of the most impressive hands of faro in the 20th century. Shum writes with precision, but it is his power of observation that transforms Queen of Spades into a deeper rumination on avarice, willpower and the uncomfortable alliances forged at the gambling table. Games of chance become the canvas on which Shum examines the internal battle among personal motivation, personal redemption and despair. (Nancy Powell)
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Thank you to Literary Hub for publishing one of my favorite chapters from Queen of Spades, “Lottery,” as their Daily Fiction for November 2, 2017:

Barbara was late to the meeting, and she rushed to it directly from her job at the call center. It was only after she settled down in her metal folding chair next to the two new-comers that she noticed the socks under her slacks were mismatched: one was navy and one black, a difference she’d been unable to distinguish in the dark that morning. She crossed her ankles and moved them underneath the seat, next to her purse, and tried to pay attention to what Dimsberg was saying, but her mind was distracted by the discovery of the socks—and Chimsky’s phone call that morning, out of the blue, asking her to meet for a drink. Could anyone be more dense?

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Phinney Books (New Book of the Week): The book wears everything lightly: the fateful turns of cards, the odd presence of magic, the setting in Snoqualmie in the aerobicized ’80s, and a cast of characters who each spring immediately from the page into life. It reminds me of another enjoyable and strangely compelling favorite, The Queen’s Gambit (about a different royal game). What a surprising treat! (Tom)
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Interview with Christi Craig: “One of my goals in writing the novel was to enchant the experience of gambling, a topic that is often disenchanted when it comes to fiction (think gritty tales of realism that describe down on their luck protagonists getting more and more in the hole…). I wanted to do the opposite with my novel, which is to invest aspects of real-life experience with, as you say, curiosity and mystery—to enchant those experiences, in other words. So yes, I did pull from real-life people I’ve come across—for example, the Countess is a very stylized and enchanted version of a regular who used to come to the casino where I worked every day, an old woman who sat at the poker table coughing up a lung and glaring at the other players. Her name was Barbara, by the way, so the character of Barbara was a kind of reimagining of this player when she was young, in the 1980s.”
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Interview with Qwillery: “Although I didn’t know it was research at the time, I spent over two years working as a poker dealer in a small cardroom in Lake Stevens, Washington, learning the ins and outs of what goes on behind the scenes.”
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Interview with Victoria Fullard: “The danger of logic and reason is that if you rely on them as a default, you become less attuned to your own natural sense of things—how do you make decisions when there is great uncertainty and incomplete knowledge? Perhaps one important life skill is learning what situations favor which.”
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