Thanks to Powell’s Books Blog for publishing my new essay, “Better Living Through Gambling.”

Most of us can hear the most jarring notes of luck — narrowly avoiding a catastrophe, say, or bumping into a friend long lost — how can we not? To willingly ignore these signs seems folly — yet few can detect the rich texture of melody underneath. The history of gambling, however, is punctuated by the breathless accounts of those who could harness this sensitivity, often deploying it to prodigious financial advantage.

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Library Journal (Starred Review): It’s rare to encounter high seriousness and humor under one cover, but the author’s layered grasp of gambling and its contingencies, its potential to dominate players emotionally, charges the narrative with thrills and danger. Perhaps the real triumph, though, is an unflinching (yet humane) glimpse into the lives of several characters in desperate relationships with chance, addiction, and lethal levels of debt. (William Grabowski)
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IndiePicks-Top-LogoIndiePicks: The reader will feel the rhythms of a casino floor and even learn a little about rules of the games played at the
Royal, and while the author does not shy away from showing the desperation of the hardened gambler, there is an undeniable thrill in his descriptions of a winning streak. This debut exhibits a lovely command of language and an astute eye for human frailty, while exploring the intersection of chance and fate. (Megan McArdle)
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Yakima Herald: I’m totally unfamiliar (beyond a brief perusal of the Wikipedia entry) with the eponymous Pushkin tale that it’s based on. I’m not much of a gambler, and I don’t know the first thing about the card games that serious gamblers win and lose fortunes playing. But somehow, despite all of this, I moved past the cover and was instantly sucked into the darkly magical world of the beautiful novel. (Emily Ring)
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30 years on after high school, I finally made it into the Armonk Daily Voice! Here’s an excerpt of my interview with Sam Barron:

Growing up in Armonk, Shum said he was inspired by his English teacher Bud Pollack. Pollack helped Shum discover the talent he had for writing and helped him learn how to pace a story. “It took me a long time to make it happen,” Shum, who now lives in Queens said. “Everything I did in between was necessary to make this happen.”

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Foreword Reviews: With quirky yet compelling intelligence, Queen of Spades creates its own small, interconnected universe, including those who want to escape the seductive lure of gambling, those who think they can outsmart Lady Luck, or those who simply put on a name tag and uniform and offer casino chips, cards, and drinks. (Meg Nola)
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Newfound: Why not assume our auras can glitter and glow as we shuffle closer towards death? Why not suppose that planetary magnetism, celestial bodies, and their curious dance in the night’s sky have a direct effect on the meaningful moments in our lives, the times when some personal mystery is unraveled to our utter disbelief and delight? This is the happy, hopeful high ground Shum takes, and his characters, though all losers, each somehow win. In an age where there are seemingly no more happy endings, Shum pulls several off. As it turns out, this is what we’ve all been waiting for. (Jennifer Lynn Christie)
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PokerTube: The solid, professional prose and richly imagined characters, are probably sufficient to keep you entertained but the book does have interesting ideas swimming about beneath its light entertainment surface. None of the explanations for the strange turns of chance and coincidence at the Royal seem sufficient. This constant hinting at the beyond without ever showing us the monster means the book operates in an ambiguous liminal area somewhere between being Rounders, and being a 21st Century fairytale. (Jon Pill)
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Queen of Spades will officially come out in October. I will be making a few personal appearances around that time in support of the novel and would love to see you! More dates coming soon.

Monday, October 2, Knoxville, TN — University of Tennessee, Hodges Library’s Lindsay Young Auditorium–7:00 pm

Sunday, October 8, Portland, OR — Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Fall Show, Red Lion Hotel on the River, 909 North Hayden Island Drive–8:30 pm*

Wednesday, October 11, Portland, OR — Powell’s City of Books, 1005 West Burnside Street–7:30 pm*

Friday, October 13, Corvallis, OR — Oregon State University, Withycombe Hall’s Black Box Lab Theater–7:30 pm*

Thursday, October 19, Yakima, WA — Inklings Bookshop, 5629 Summitview Avenue–7:00 pm*

Friday, October 20, Spokane, WA — Auntie’s Bookstore, 402 West Main Avenue–7:00 pm*

Friday, November 10, Minneapolis, MN — Milkweed Editions, 1011 South Washington Avenue–7:00 pm*

Thursday, December 7, Brooklyn, NY– Spoonbill and Sugartown, 99 Montrose Avenue–Time TBD*

Wednesday, December 20, Manhattan, NY — KGB Bar Red Room, 85 East 4th Street –7:00 pm*

*Jaclyn Watterson will also be at this event promoting the October release of her award-winning collection Ventriloquisms