Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Injustice

San Diego Writer Jim Ruland Discusses New Novel, ‘Forest of Fortune’

Photo caption:

Jim Ruland, author of "Forest of Fortune."

We're sorry. This audio clip is no longer available. A transcript has been made available.

Just look at the billboards. They tell us that San Diego County casinos can be great little getaways, with entertainment, lots of food and a chance at winning millions. We also know that Indian casinos have been generous in giving back to our community, just look at Viejas Arena at San Diego State University, or the San Diego sports arena, now Valley View Casino Center.

But, there's a dark side to the casino phenomenon. One that's fueled by desperate dreams and people just struggling to hang on to the end of their rope. It's that side of the casino world that's the subject of the new book 'Forest of Fortune' by San Diego-based writer Jim Ruland, who used to work behind the scenes at a San Diego Indian casino for nearly six years.

In his debut novel, Ruland introduces us to a Native American slot technician, an alcoholic and a slot-machine addict who are haunted by their pasts and hope to turn their luck around at the Thunderclap Casino.

Book cover of "Forest of Fortune" by Jim Ruland.

Excerpt From "Forest of Fortune":

From the platform Alice could see the entire Forest of Fortune. It was all so astonishingly ugly. Everywhere she looked she saw wires and trestles and supports for signage. The slot machines were big, garish boxes, their candles protruding like nipples and caked with grime. How disappointing it was to see things as they really were.

"Do you see the bear?" Nice Mike asked.

Alice found him perched atop a fake boulder on the other side of the forest. "I see him!"

"Watch this . . ."

Mike fiddled with the controls and the bear came to life. It shuddered and in a burst of motion Alice wouldn't have believed possible rose up on its hind legs and let out a roar. A few of the Thunderclappers looked up, wondering at the sound, and then went back to their games.

"Now make it dance," she said.

"I'm on it."

The bear bounced forward and back, shaking its massive backside.

"What is that, some kind of line dance?" Alice asked.

"That would be the hokey pokey."

Alice laughed and withdrew into the hollow mountain. She trembled with something between gratitude and fear.

"Pretty cool, huh?"

"Yeah," Alice answered.

"It's even cooler when the laser beams shoot out of its eyes."

"I didn't really come up here for the view." Alice grabbed Mike by his stiff shirt and before he could use his sweet, dumb mouth to say another word, she pulled him in for a kiss.


San Diego News Now podcast branding

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.

  • Your curated weekly guide to local arts and culture in San Diego, from Arts Calendar Editor Julia Dixon Evans, delivered to your inbox every Thursday afternoon.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Midday Edition banner

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.