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Xero to Sixty - Finally!

My novel is done. Xero to Sixty can be purchased at Amazon in either a print or e-book version.

It’s a life-arc tale that starts in 1959. Xerxes (“Xero”) Konstantakis flunks out of Columbia U. and, torn between the expectations of his Greek immigrant parents and his own urge to find an angle, runs away with the circus. The circus, real and metaphorical, becomes the touchstone for his life.

With Sinatra’s “My Way” echoing in his head, he takes us through the end of the 20th century accompanied by an assortment of friends, gypsies, acrobats, lawyers, poker players, con artists, a couple of Mafia hoods, a genial Irish gangster and the denizens of his very own underground poker club. He learns it’s not about going legit – it’s about being the best degenerate you can be.

A little background. The first section is partly autobiographical. I did, indeed, flunk out of an Ivy League university (Penn), hitch-hike across the country and end up traveling with a circus. The rest of the story is a blend of episodes from my life, those from the lives of friends and my imagination.

The idea for it began some years ago when my friend Mike Z. came to see me. He had been diagnosed with a virulent form of cancer and wondered if I could help him write his life story. We spent six months having lunch on a regular basis and recorded all the conversations.

Mike was the manager, and owned a small piece, of The Playstation, the most successful underground poker room in New York City. I’d played there for years and in its predecessor, the Diamond Club. Places like these make for interesting friendships.

When I started writing I realized that to make the novel work it needed build-up. Ii couldn’t be just a litany of Mike’s tales of life on what he liked to call the “dark side” that started in the poker rooms of Gardena and ended in the New York underground clubs. So I decided to take snippets from my life, interweave them with Mike’s and juice it all up with a bunch of colorful characters, some of whom are based on people I’ve known and others just pulled out of my imagination.

Mike, unfortunately, died on the operating table. He never got to see the finished product. I’m still in touch with his widow, Susan, and I’m keeping my original promise; she’ll get ten percent of all the royalties.

One last tidbit. There’s a character in “Xero” named Ranjani. The name is that of the waitress who served Mike and me at many of our lunches. I loved the sound of her name and promised her I’d weave it into the novel. I did. If she stumbles across this blog entry or finds the novel, I hope she’ll get in touch.

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