Gangsterland by Tod Goldberg comes out today!
It’s the story of Sal Cupertine, a hit man for the Chicago Mafia who kills three FBI agents, runs away to Las Vegas, and changes his identity… to Rabbi David Cohen, the surprisingly capable leader of a Jewish community in the desert. But the FBI won’t let him go. Goldberg is a widely accomplished writer: he is the director of the MFA Program at UC Riverside, and the author of 12 books, including original novels based on the TV show Burn Notice.
We asked the author one question.
How are you celebrating the publication of Gangsterland?
Tod Goldberg: When my first book came out – this was almost fifteen years ago now – I had a book signing that very same day at the Barnes & Noble in Las Vegas, where I was living at the time. I arrived fifteen minutes early and saw people flooding into the store. Well, I thought, this is going to be awesome. It turns out that my book was coming out on the same day a little book called Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire was also being released – something no one bothered to tell me, nor something I would have thought mattered, anyway, because I was 29 and knew everything – and, well, it ended up being a fairly anti-climactic day, though we do have a nice first edition of Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire.
When my second book came out a few years later, I determined it would be different. As happenstance, the book was released on my wedding anniversary, which seemed like good luck. So, what the hell, we planned an event that day. What could go wrong? That morning, I ran to answer the phone – this was in a time when a thing called “landlines” still existed and which, if not answered, would go to a thing called “the answering machine,” and that was an unreliable system, so one had to run when the phone rang – and ended up breaking three toes on my right foot. I played soccer as a kid so I was used to breaking my toes, so I just, you know, taped them up and pretended nothing was wrong and went about my day, pain shooting into my eyes every time I used my foot. Or breathed. Or someone else breathed. I mean, basically, I was in excruciating pain. And those toes still don’t work quite right. The event that night was great, what I remember of it, other than the burning white pain and how now, years later, when it rains, I walk with a slight limp.
I took those two events as a sign: on release day, plan to be stationary. That edict has evolved over time, since staying stationary now means I could theoretically constantly refresh Amazon, which isn’t a good use of my time, particularly if I don’t have any therapy appointments lined up, too. Fortunately, in addition to writing books I also direct an MFA program and school starts in a few weeks, which means this is, literally, my busy time of year, and not just existentially so. I have things to do. According to my calendar, I have the following things scheduled:
11am: Mentor/Mentee selection
2pm: Meeting to discuss lecture series
4pm: Budget meeting
I should also note that at 7am, an hour at which I will still be asleep, in all-caps, it says HOLY FUCKING SHIT MY BOOK IS COMING OUT KEEP IT TOGETHER TOD on my calendar, which, by god, I’m going to attempt to do by pretending I’ve been here before – and I have, this is my 12th book – but, well, it’s going to be hard. I suspect that sometime after 6pm there will be sushi with my wife Wendy, possibly some gelato, maybe a slice of bundt cake, and then, well, just a glance at Amazon wouldn’t hurt, right?