Paul’s first published book, METARULES OF THE SMF and not the one mentioned above, is about urban cultures that grow from street level to neighborhood nation-gangs. His second book, TO FAIL WITH FLYING COLORS, is about a quack psychiatrist and his experimental methods as told through the stories of six outstanding patients.
His next project is an exploration of legal process and he shares that he researches his projects extensively. He favors characters with audacity and idealism regardless if it leads to any kind of success and his inspirations include Cervantes, Dostoevsky, Celine, Calvino, Becket and that great classic Greek author, Anonymous (perhaps his favorite).
Everyone, please stand up and give Paul a big round of applause for taking part in our Author Interview Plunge series.
Paul John Adams’ Bio
Author Paul John Adams is a father of two who aims to steer his children on the right path. He’s lived well enough, but he’s neither blind nor forgetful. He believes in the universality of human struggle and the occasional necessity of gallows humor. While he’s alive, he knows it’s the strength of family that sustains him. But if, through his words, he can help another soul to shrug off a bit of life’s misery – and even have a laugh at it! – that too will be a treat.
Paul and I talked about his background scriptwriting, researching stories, how being a skeptic changes how you write, how he defines success both for himself and his characters, and whether an author should focus on the story or satisfying an audience first (interesting thoughts, there).
You can find links to Paul’s books on the right or at the bottom of this post (depending on your device). You’ll also find links to Paul’s sites underneath the video.
Special bonus to all watchers, listeners and readers of Paul John Adams’ interview; Be one of the first to comment or share (and let us know) and receive a free copy of one of Paul’s books.
An excerpt from Paul John Adams’ Metarules of the SMF
President and I got together a plan for a recreational outing with a gambling theme. We decided to take some of the boys out to the racetrack to bet on horses. Not everyone could come, but we got together a kind of cross-section of guys from the various teams, captains and veteran soldiers. All together there was like ten or eleven of us, including my road-dogs Efrem and Fierce, plus Terrible, Flower, Jelly, Ace, Hardcore, and Cookie. And one other guy, I don’t remember who.
None of us knew shit about horses, but it was a chance for us to blow off some steam and probably some money like a bunch of fools. I tried to do a little research before we went anyway, and some of the other boys asked questions and read racing forms.
“There’s no beating this game, though.”
“So it don’t matter who we bet. We can pick any horse.”
“Well, I don’t know though; I’m still going to try.”
“Basically you can’t play smart, but you can play stupid.”
“What do you mean there’s no beating it? I heard there’s professionals.”
“There’s no professionals. I mean, there’s big winners who call theyselves professionals, but actually they just the luckiest suckers going.”
“They know the game.”
“The biggest professionals own the horses.”
“Or breed them.”
“The biggest betting winners have plenty of knowledge, for sure. But they also have a big box of luck.”
“For three years at a time? Four years? A lifetime?”
“Even a lifetime isn’t very long in this game. How many bets you think you can make in a year? How many thousand-dollar bets? The serious horse players make so few meaningful bets, you can write it all up to variance.”
“That’s like saying I can beat this game today by dumb luck too.”
“No it isn’t.”
“Hey, I got guys who beat my sports book regular—and more power to them as long as I can balance it. But there’s experts who can bet better than I could.”
“We still get the paper.”
“Don’t matter, they playing to beat four-and-a-half percent. At the track, we gotta beat seventeen percent takeout. That don’t happen realistically. And that don’t even count the breakage.”
“Fuck man, what the hell is breakage?”
“Brain’s been studying.”
“Call it extra pennies coming out your pocket.”
“I don’t care about pennies.”
“Fuck you don’t. We make our living off pennies, just like the state politicians.”
“You do. I make my money off the mintest fucking vees. No penny scraper.”
“And you can lose it just as fast.”
“Anyhow, I heard it goes to put kids through school.”
“Hell of a lot of good school did us.”
We all went our own way in the betting. In the first race, I liked a horse named Patwin if I could get 5-to-1 or better, but it never got close to that on the toteboard. I made a token bet for fun at twenty dollars getting 7-to-2 because I didn’t want to pussy out on the first race. Some of the boys followed my lead, while President and some others preferred a 10-to-1 dog called Eyes On Prize. None of us picked the favorite, Debby’s Rascal, which went off at 1-to-2. Patwin came fourth, three lengths behind the winner, Debby’s Rascal, who led wire to wire. Eyes On Prize was third. Jelly was the only guy to collect money because he made a place bet on the number-two finisher, Quasar. He felt pretty clever for that shit, but we rode him hard enough nobody made anything but win bets for the rest of the day.
“What are we supposed to look for when they walk the horses out… you know, in this place here?”
“Some kind of energy, I guess.”
“I don’t know, I think it’s like when wine drinkers take a little sip at the restaurant before they drink a glass.”
“Yeah, that’s not my culture.”
“No, but it’s simpler than you think. Like you think they being sophisticated and making an informed judgment. Oh, there’s a little too much fruit in this Chateau La Tour. Where are the cinnamon and leather overtones? But really it’s like Does the wine suck? Is it spoiled? No, seriously, that’s all it is.”
“So, like, if the horse isn’t hopping around here on a broken leg then he probably going to win.”
“No, but just look to see who you would disqualify. Like, does one look too jumpy, or it don’t respond to the jockey or something? Or sweaty.”
“Maybe sweaty balls are bad.”
“There’s no horse out here like that.”
“I don’t see any balls on them.”
“They’re not goats!”
“You know what a gelding is, right?”
“Well then, we’re not going to learn in one day to read horses’ minds.”
“I have a hard enough time trying to read a bitch’s mind. And they’re at least human.”
In the second race, everyone was making fifty-dollar bets or more. I put a hundred on Pen and Ink, which went off at 6-to-1. President and his faction went with a 2-to-1 pony named Epicure. This time Efrem got lucky when his 9-to-1 pick, Extended Play, came from fifth place out of a pack four-wide at the top of the stretch to steal the lead on Pen and Ink—who’d been front runner for the first seven furlongs in the one-mile race but lost steam at the end. It was Extended Play by a head, and Efrem’s fifty-dollar ticket turned into five hundred and ten bucks ($20.20 for $2). Epicure got lost in the crowd: fifth place out of seven runners.
“Now I know what a chuck-a-luck chump feels like.”
“Hey, we just getting started, man.”
“Yeah, by the end of this day, you’ll be so shit upon you’ll know what a Tijuana toilet feels like!”
“Here come the beans!”
In the third race, Efrem’s horse literally died in the gate. Modern Mummy reared up, threw his rider, and broke his own neck. Efrem thought he’d lost his two-hundred-dollar bet, but the horse got scratched and his bet refunded. After a long delay while they hauled that corpse out of there, the horses went back in the gate, and they were off.
I had put eighty dollars on the even-money favorite, Ship It To Shorty, and most of the boys, including President, followed. Only Flower and Hardcore favored the 4-to-1 horse, Center.
We all lost our shirts when the long-shot Art Of Victory came in at 25-to-1. The rare individual in the grandstand, here and there, shouted in celebration, while the rest of us tossed up a blizzard of losing tickets.
“You want some more beer?”
“Don’t buy any more beer, man. They more strict about carding at the beer stands than at the betting windows.”
“Just send Ivan again. With that scrubby beard he can pass for forty.”
“You should put some grey in it; maybe you could apply for social security.”
“Anyway, it makes us conspicuous.”
“Like we don’t stand out. You feel at home here already? The regulars ain’t looking at us like we a walking scandal?”
In the fourth and fifth race the bloodbath continued and none of us collected a dime.
“Whose idea was this again? Seriously, who?”
In the sixth race we all went crazy and fell in love with a name. The six horses on the race card were Shore Fershootin, Fancy Lad, Onion Eater, Sleipnir’s Grani, Fetlock Holmes, and African Zulu.
“We got to bet African Zulu!”
“Come on. He’s not even that good.”
“He’s only… look, came in fourth in his last race, a sixteen-thousand-dollar claim, and now he’s running a twenty-thousand-dollar claims race. Why they stepped him up?”
“Fuck if I know. But dude here in the recommendations says ‘African Zulu might surprise.’”
“Heh. He also calls Onion Eater his ‘best pick!’”
“That’s only if Onion Eater got better than 4-to-1. Look at the board. Everyone’s betting the ‘best pick.’ He’s only 2-to-1. Probably get 3-to-2 when they run.”
“So what? African Zulu’s only 3-to-1.”
“Fuck the numbers, look. His last race was a fluke. African Zulu does well at shorter distances, he has a good record at six to seven furlongs. He won three of his first four starts.”
“Against horses with no class; this is a different level of competition.”
“No. Look, his owners put him in a sixteen-thousand claim at a mile and a quarter, and he still didn’t do bad. His fourth place finish was only one length behind the winner. Now his team’s got him back in at a comfortable distance. They believe in him, and I do too.”
“Bullshit, you don’t know horses! You just like the name!”
At this point I was ready to go crazy with the rest of them, and even though I agreed the odds didn’t look good, I said, “Fuck it, I’m betting four hundred on African Zulu.”
“I’ll match that.”
We all went nuts. Every one of us put whatever we could afford on African Zulu to win. Efrem, who was still up a little from his second-race victory, decided to make it five hundred, and no one went for less than a hundred.
President made another stipulation. “Alright, you all bet as much as you want for yourselves, but I think we each have to put up an additional thirty bucks on behalf of the click. Thirty dollars each; cough up, and I’ll buy a team-S·M·F ticket for the boys.”
“Smart money” came flowing in just before the race on Sleipnir’s Grani, which became the 5-to-4 favorite. Onion Eater remained 2-to-1 and African Zulu was 7-to-2. The longest of long-shots was Fancy Lad at 60-to-1.
Bell rang, gates flew open, and hoofs churned soil. Fancy Lad stumbled and was quickly left behind by the rest of the pack, but it was otherwise a hotly contested race, with Onion Eater holding the lead for the first three furlongs. African Zulu was a few lengths behind on the outside. Sleipnir’s Grani pulled ahead of Onion Eater slightly as they neared the turn, making it Sleipnir’s Grani, Onion Eater, Shore Fershootin, African Zulu, with Fetlock Holmes trailing three lengths behind, and Fancy Lad limping along somewhere near the aft horizon.
At the turn it became a clusterfuck against the rail, too much traffic, while African Zulu opened up and stole the show, finishing half a length ahead of Sleipnir’s Grani, with Shore Fershootin and Onion Eater a few inches behind. They had to do a photo finish to check second and third place, but we knew who the winner was.
The excitement was mad, and we were chanting “African Zulu! African Zulu!” as we went to collect our winnings. On the way, I noticed a disproportionate number of happy black faces coming out of the crowd, also to collect. And some of the old-timer white bettors also saluted us with amused smiles near the windows.
We didn’t stick around for races seven, eight, or nine, and went home big winners. Efrem had the most individually, but we all had something, and we had something for the crew too.
“But we played like suckers,” I said. “We absolutely should not have won.”
On the way home, we spent some of the money off the team-S·M·F ticket to buy Italian sausages, hamburger meat, buns, beer, pickles, whiskey, American-cheese slices, charcoal briquettes, and cigars to celebrate with the whole click, and we handed out the rest of the click’s winnings in twenty dollar bills to every soldier who came to the roof-top barbeque. You best believe the lid was off.
An excerpt from Paul John Adams’ To Fail with Flying Colors
So, you probably wonder what a young girl does when she discovers she has all the freedom in the world, and no responsibility. Well, the first thing I did was drive about an hour out of town, and then I just about stopped. I found myself in a little podunk town called Sedalia. I thought I’d drive around a bit and see some of the local area, but the place had no character and just seemed like every other place. So I found a little crap-ass motel called “Komfort Kort”, checked in, and spent the next three days watching TV with my eyes.
I mean, I did nothing. I really almost didn’t leave the motel. I might have stayed there forever, except I had a kind of scary run-in with one of the whores on my third night. I was coming in from buying myself some take-out chicken, and this girl was just standing around outside one of the rooms for some reason. Maybe she just got finished blowing a guy or two, I don’t know, but there was a lot of moaning in those rooms at night. And she was standing with an I-don’t-know-where-the-hell-I-am expression. Then she sort of came around and demanded some of my chicken. I mean, you know, first kind of asking, as if she had a right to it, and quickly escalating to calling me a bitch and… I don’t remember exactly what she said… I had felt pretty weird in that place to begin with, but frankly I didn’t have any sense that I belonged anywhere else either, but that confrontation freaked me. I didn’t give her any chicken, but I locked myself in the room and made up my mind to leave town the next day. I didn’t feel very generous towards that bitch either; I mean I hoped the guys would go extra hard on her that night just as a kind of poetic justice.
The next day, just as I was driving away and got myself a little lost, I made the accidental discovery that they actually had an art museum in town. So, I go in, and the museum has Pop Art? I hate that shit!
“This is my life” I declared. Out loud. I stood surrounded by the most pitiful art and said “this is my life.” That really scared me, so I got in my car and got out of there fast.
Then, just when I thought I was making good progress, the scariest thunder and lightning storm came out of absolutely nowhere. The clouds were out of a nightmare. I couldn’t drive because the rain was just pure insanity, and I just pulled over into an embankment on the side of the highway, covered my face, and cried. It went on for a long, long time, and all I could think about was James and how he wasn’t afraid of anything.
“Bitch,” I told myself. I actually poked myself in the open eye. “This is the last time you cry over anything.” I can’t let myself be defined by a relationship, and besides I never think of him when it’s about him, I only think about him when it’s about me… which I regret. I mean, I sincerely and truly regret that. I’m a good person, with a good heart. The mistakes I’ve made are just mistakes, but that’s a part of freedom. You make mistakes, and you learn from them, but that doesn’t mean you have to hate your own soul… you have to be the first to forgive yourself. Don’t ask a man for a validating-forgiveness. It’s better to piss on him first.
Then I cried a lot more for a long time. Then I got hungry. But I still had to wait-out another thirty minutes of heavy rain. I don’t know how I got through that time.
Finally I got on the road again, and eventually I found a Burger King near Warrenton. I like Burger King better than McDonalds.
It was getting dark as I came into the St. Louis area, and I just wanted to pass through. There wasn’t any obvious way to get around the city. The roads are just insane, all twisted and senseless there, and I remembered that I actually suck at driving. I realized I was going to kill someone other than me if I got in an accident, and I had to slow down as I pulled around one of those twisty off-ramps that just sent me way out of the direction I was going, and yet somehow my right foot just would not let up on the gas. It even defied me a little by pushing a little harder. But I knew it was just me, fucking with myself, and so I slammed on the breaks, pulled to the side of the road, and all kinds of cars whipped past honking their horns, but I didn’t care. That was it. No more driving.
I didn’t know what I was going to do. At that point I was thinking about New York, which was really the way I was headed, specifically with the Met in mind. I mean, I wanted to see all those masterworks and I had an insane envy whenever I saw movies and documentaries that showed even a glimpse of that place.
I was walking in the crepuscule just thinking about Perseus’s hand holding the gorgon’s head, and all those snakes on the gorgon’s head were turning more and more phallic and disgusting in my mind while I wandered next to speeding cars. Some of the cars slowed down a bit to get a look at me even though I was doing nothing to attract their attention except walking. One car actually stopped behind me and honked the horn loudly. Some guys called out “hey!” They were sailors! With little white hats. What were they doing there? I ignored them. They cruised alongside me for a little ways, but they were forced to move on by the speeding cars behind them that honked and so forth.
I was worried then that I might get the attention of the police before I could come up with any credible story to account for what I was doing there, or where I was going. So I picked up my pace a bit until I found a way to get off the highway. The road, by the way, smells like heaps and heaps of burnt rubber.
Then I was in the city. This whole tangle of roads was just in the middle of everything. And I went to go in a bar, but I was ejected just as I started to cross the threshold. The guy who pushed me out tried to give me some kind of warning, like he was my uncle, telling me I’d get myself in a lot of trouble walking into a place like that alone. But it seemed like a friendly place inside with young folks just joking around. I don’t know what that guy was after.
That’s all I can remember from Missouri, I mean the rest is just boring shit, but my first taste of real life without a mom, without a dad, without anyone or anything, was a bit of grit mixed up with a heap of boredom, and I thought that summed up my future.