Writing by Ron Abell
Ron Abell, a writer and journalist in Oregon for 50 years, has published four novels and one collection of memoirs.  His first novel Tap City, a classic story of a Reno poker tournament, was first published in 1985 by Little, Brown in the US and by Secker & Warburg in England.  Its sequel, Cottonwood: Population Zero, was published in early 2012. A second "Reno" novel, Benezra's September, was published in late 2012. The newest novel, Kansas in August,  was published in mid-2014. All are available for purchase as Amazon Kindle books.  The memoir is available free as a download on this site

Frank Kansas could have been Mr. Southern California of 1952 if they had such a thing. Handsome, athletic, golden--even an offer to be in the movies. A prince of beach volleyball. A yellow DeSoto convertible. But in those days every young man, even princes, owed two years to Uncle Sam. Uncle Sam didn't want you. Uncle Sam took you. The military draft was inevitable. In peacetime most draftees marked their time in the army trying to stay under the radar, then picked up their lives again later. Frank's volleyball acquaintance from Santa Monica, Sandy Ben-Ezra, accepted that it was a delay of two years before getting on with his life, but he took some small satisfaction in learning how to game the system while he was waiting. Not Frank. Not as bright as he was beautiful, he believed in the system. This story is about how that worked out.

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The players came to Reno from all over--Honolulu, Las Vegas, New Orleans, New York--to take part in Stretch Jackson's Seven-Card Stud Poker Classic. The stakes were high, but the risks were immeasurable. Stretch, six-and-half-feet tall if he ever straightened up, wearing eight-hundred dollar boots and a diamond ring he could have swapped across the board for a Rolls Royce, could have told them that: he knew that the game had nothing to do with cards--it had to do with people. They are all here in Tap City: the deadly old pros and the young up-and-comers. Lee Sherman is dying--and lethal at the tables; William "Hoo Hoo" Avery is owlish as his nickname; Bates has a photographic memory, a marriage on the skids and and old grudge to settle; young Jerry Corbett performs in drag. As Kirkus's reviewer commented: "Psychological portraits are Abell's forte." This, and an expert knowledge of the game that informs, but never clogs, the narrative. Like Hemingway on bullfighting, Ron Abell's novel has created drama out of poker. A masterly blend of craftsmanship and glitz, Tap City plays out its human conflict against the neon backdrop of a high-wire, insomniac casino town. Pull up a chair and join the game, if you can stand the pace.
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Follow the money. It's easy enough to track—packed in a day-glo orange valise, carried out in the open by an innocent who thinks, “finders keepers.” Well, no. As his new traveling companion Faye tells him, “They’ll track you down,” “Who will?” “They will.”  She's right, bad people want it back, but each time it's within their grasp . . . Well, read the book and enjoy their frustration. And every place the valise pauses in its travels it messes up other people's businesses and lives. Everyone misinterprets what's going on, and half a dozen tales get intermixed along the way. Here's a novel about a pizza deliveryman who looks like James Dean, drug dealers, survivalists, twin unrelenting thugs, a professional poker player on the run from a gambler she shouldn't have insulted, a land developer, a son, and a renowned guru and his unraveling commune in central Oregon. Two of the characters met in Ron Abell's earlier classic novel about a Reno poker tournament, Tap City, and they meet again at Cottonwood as participants in a different kind of showdown. A road novel, a chase novel, a mystery novel—this is a tale that's hilarious and tense at the same time. 
Sandy Benezra attracts unexpected companions--real an imagined--during his month gambling in Reno. Why a month in Reno? He abruptly quit his job as a magazine editor in Portland, sold his books, emptied his bank account, and decided to test whether he was ready for a change in his life. Maybe life as a card player for a while. Like Abell's earlier book, Tap City, this book takes us into the gambling mind and culture, but also into the mind and culture of an unsettled man at mid-life. Though, as Benezra says, "If this is mid-life, how come you don't see a lot of 102-year-olds walking around?" Yes, he's a wise-ass, and he rarely knows when to stop. The book is studded with quick wit, with friends and relatives he tries to stay away from, and with a conjured-up guy his own vintage who intrudes increasingly on his attempt to figure out his next steps.

Comments or questions may be sent to Ron's brother Bruce Abell