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Brian Rouff, the author of this tightly constructed, fast paced novel set in Las Vegas really knows his craft. I was not only swept into the story immediately, but once hooked, I couldn't put the book down. It's all about guy named Jimmy Delaney who owns a saloon in Las Vegas. He's about to lose his business though, and has to come up with $50,000 fast. He's someone we all can identify with as he copes the best he can. His style to keep cracking wisecracks. The dialog sparkles and, as the tension deepened, I couldn't help laughing out loud at some of the jokes.
The characters are well drawn with just a few simple words and come alive on the page. They're all people I've met somewhere along the way and each moves the story forward. There's ongoing conflict with his ex-wife and ongoing love for his 7-year old daughter. There's his seemingly upstanding brother-in-law accountant who has disappeared with all of his money. There's an IRS agent with an agenda of his own, a cop friend who knows how to get information on anyone, and a homeless guy who hangs around the bar. But most of all, there's the "Dice Angel", a middle-aged woman with a shady past who guarantees she can help Jimmy win at the craps table.
This book took my out of my own little world and plunked me down right in the middle of Las Vegas. I got so caught up in Jimmy's predicament that I kept turning the pages faster and fast. And, as the story sped through the Las Vegas casinos and then added even more complications, I literally could not put the book down. I reached the arc in the story as I was traveling on a New York City bus moving slowly through snow filled streets. When it came to my bus stop, I had just a few pages to go. Believe it or not I stood on the street with icy slush all around me and finished it standing up. I read a lot, but this was a first for me.
This is Mr. Rouff's first book. I am sure there will be more. He's just has too much talent to let his finely tuned craftsmanship go to waste. Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon March 17, 2003
Tough-talking, hard-boiled nightclub owner, Jimmy Delaney, is doing pretty well, carrying on his father's Las Vegas night-spot, but then the roof falls in. His bank account is empty, the IRS is hot on his trail, and he is about to lose everything. Well, what is a man supposed to do? Grasping at straws he calls up the Dice Angel, a quirky old lady who claims to have--well--supernatural powers in the crap-shooting department.
So what do you think happens? Will he save Jimmy D's? Does the Dice Angel really have powers? Will he learn something and maybe even become a better person? Well, you'll just have to read the book and see.
Brian Rouff has done a masterful job with this first novel. The book is written in hard-hitting, smart-aleck, first-person monologue and hard-hitting, smart-aleck dialogue that rolls along with a crisp and snappy rhythm. It's fun to read and would probably be fun to hear as well. If you like Carl Hiaasen or Eric Garcia you will love Dice Angel.
Is it great literature? Probably not. Is it entertaining, fast-moving, easy to read and great fun? Absolutely. I recommend it highly. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber
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HALL OF FAMEon August 16, 2002
"Dice Angel," a novel about life in Las Vegas, tells the story of Jimmy Delaney. Jimmy keeps himself busy by running the bar he inherited from his father. The bar, called Jimmy D's, draws in lots of Vegas locals who come to chat with Jimmy and have a good time. Unfortunately for Jimmy, he can't enjoy life along with his customers.
Jimmy's got so many problems in his life that it's hard to keep track of them all. His ex-wife, Joy, has custody of Jimmy's daughter while she dips into Jimmy's pocket for alimony and child support. Shortly after burglars rip off the bar, Jimmy discovers that someone's been pulling an inside job on him by emptying his bank account. Then he discovers that the IRS is interested in collecting a whole lot of scratch for back taxes. Yep, Jimmy has problems falling out of his ears.
Things go down hill so fast that Jimmy is forced to turn to the one thing in Vegas that might save somebody with no options left: gambling. Jimmy contacts the dice angel, a strange woman who claims that her intimate knowledge of astrology can save the day. All Jimmy knows is that her claims better be true because the IRS is moving in on him, and moving in for the kill.
"Dice Angel" is a hilarious story, mostly due to the antics of Jimmy. He's quick witted and cynical, but he also has a heart of gold. Even though he's not the straightest arrow in the world, you come to like the guy. It's hard not to. Sure, he messes around with his ex-wife's head a bit, but he loves his daughter, treats his employees like family, and helps his friends out whenever he can. He even takes a local homeless guy under his wing, although the guy has a tendency to scare the living daylights out of Jimmy whenever he shows up.
What is most memorable about this book is the cast of wacky characters that appear in Jimmy's life. There are two customers that insist on playing a game that involves questions you probably won't find in Trivial Pursuit, an Asian band that only plays pre-1977 Jimmy Buffett songs, a hypnotist with a picture of Larry from the Three Stooges on his wall, and Amaris, the dice angel, whose personal quirks are both strange and hilarious. Even though I've never been there, I suspect that only in Vegas would such a cast of goofballs be part of everyday life.
Vegas itself forms the backdrop for the story. The pawnshops, the casinos, and the tourists all appear at some point in the story. It must be hard to be a local in Las Vegas. While the characters in the story seem to be used to all of the chaos, most of us would probably be lost in a haze of bells, lights, and Elvis impersonators.
Seeing this story end is a real disappointment. Reading this book is like hitting three cherries on a slot machine. For a quick, entertaining story, "Dice Angel" is well worth the time.
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on August 12, 2002
Jimmy Delaney is the owner/proprietor of Jimmy D's, a bar and grill that is a favorite with the locals in Las Vegas. He swore off gambling about the time he and his wife split up and smoking more recently. Then his brother-in-law, who doubles as his bookkeeper, turned up his missing. So did Jimmy's money. Then Stanford Poon, of the IRS, started demanding back payroll taxes or else. Jimmy found himself in a tight spot with no options until a homeless friend gave him a business card that said 'Dice Angel'.
And so events begin to unfold in Brian Rouff's novel, appropriately titled, 'Dice Angel'. I knew in advance that this novel was Rouff's first, but if it didn't say so on the 'About the Author' page, I might not believe it. Rouff's style combines the satire and wit of Carl Hiaasen with the snappy dialogue of Elmore Leonard.
Like Hiaasen, a native of Florida, Rouff is a native of the locale his novel is set in. What Hiaasen does for Florida (i.e. takes shots at Disney and the tourist industry in general), Rouff does for Vegas (his target would mainly be the gambling industry). However, unlike Hiaasen and Leonard's work, 'Dice Angel' doesn't quite fit into the crime fiction genre, even though cops and the mob are marginally involved.
The characters are first rate. Delaney is easy for anyone to identify with as he is basically a good man trying to shed a few bad habits and simply falls into trouble. His ex-wife, Joy, who he only had one fight with -- that started on the day they said "I do", is the insufferable 'ex' that we have all had at one time or another. And, last but not least, Stanford Poon is priceless as the IRS agent that plays obscure Jimmy Buffet songs on the side.
Fans of Hiaasen and Leonard would really enjoy 'Dice Angel'. On top of that, anyone that enjoys Vegas, or has been taken by the casinos would enjoy a good laugh at the casino's expense. I highly recommend this novel. If you are in need of a fun read, order it today. I can only hope there will be additional novels by Rouff in the future.
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on August 20, 2002
Dice Angel is a terrific tale of hard times, love, and hope with a big dose of zaniness!! Brian Rouff brings together a crazy cast of characters and sets them down in Las Vegas where life deals out some tough situations. Jimmy Delaney is the proud owner of a "saloon and supper club"named Jimmy D's, that he inherited from his father. He is a divorced dad whose daughter, Jenny is the light of his life! His ex-wife however casts a dark shadow over his life no matter where she is! When Jimmy's bar is burglarized things begin to go downhill quickly. He finds out that Owen, his accountant(and former brother-in-law) has disappeared without a trace, and so has all the money. Jimmy's insurance has lapsed,his bills have gone unpaid, he owes back taxes.When he attempts to take out a loan to come up with some fast money he finds out that the IRS has put a lien on the bar. He attempts to negotiate with the IRS, but that turns out to be a bigger nightmare than he had ever imagined. The IRS demands full payment in one week's time. When Jimmy's homeless friend gives him a business card for a woman who promises to bring him luck in gambling, and since Jimmy is at the end of his financial rope, he gives her a call. Is she for real, or is she just another down and out ... looking for an easy mark? The story grabs you like a streak of luck and holds your attention like a winning hand in a poker game!!
Brian Rouff has a unique talent for creating such realistic, earthy conversation by his characters that it is easy to imagine you actually hear what is being said rather than reading it! His characters are uniquely real, poignant,wierd and funny! They draw you in and make you care about what is happening to them. His writing transports you into their lives and as in real life you really are not sure what is going to happen next and surprises await you. This is a terrific story that is full of life and humor that round out the dark edges and lets the light in!!
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on September 24, 2002
The neon lights of Las Vegas are not shining brightly on Jimmy Delaney. Jimmy D's bar/restaurant has just been robbed and things will only get worse for him in the opening chapters of Brian Rouff's debut novel "Dice Angel." That is until a homeless man, who Jimmy has taken under his wing, hands him a business card that might just change his luck. In sheer desperation, Jimmy meets up the title character -- Amaris, a wacky middle-age woman with a wardrobe to match, who promises to end his Vegas nightmare. Will Amaris earn her wings? Well, perhaps the incessant bell ringing of slot machines will provide the answer.
"Dice Angel" is a rollicking and fun novel. It was by far my quickest read of the year (I effortlessly sped through the first 60 pages in my first sitting). While the reader must suspend belief regarding Amaris' magical abilities on the casino floor (hey, this is fiction!), Rouff has created a memorable cast of lovably quirky characters who ring true -- from Joy, Jimmy's ex-wife, who never quite lives up to her name to an all-Asian Jimmy Buffet cover band headed by an IRS agent to Bev, Jimmy's co-worker who would give Cheers' Carla a run for her money in the wisecrack department.
Having had my fill of many of the Strip's all-you-can-eat buffets, I only wish I could add a stop to Jimmy D's on my next weekend jaunt to Sin City. "Dice Angel" is an enjoyable and recommended read!
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on February 25, 2002
This book captures the dream of every gambler's heart---that luck is might be a lady, or, better yet, an angel for hire. The characters are outrageous; I laughed on almost every page, yet the complications keep piling up so that by the second half I couldn't put it down. Terrific pacing keeps you moving from chapter to chapter, and the Dice Angel herself is a real treat.
The narrative totally captures the moment by moment tension of live table action, Vegas-style, and Jimmy Delaney is like a middle aged Jerry Seinfield, the IRS after him, up to his ears in financial problems, yet heroically dry-witted and determined to take even a step that goes beyond his basic nature to save everything he's worked for all his life. I love a story where the characters transcend themselves. A book full of humor and above all, heart.
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on May 24, 2002
Eavesdropping-quality dialogue, a riot of quirky characters, a local's perspective of a Las Vegas setting... What more could anyone ask in a novel? I felt like an insider, a friend of Jimmy Delaney, as I zipped through the pages. I loved the development of these terrific characters, and I loved their names... I laughed out loud nearly every page; the only other author who has that effect on me is Janet Evanovich... Hmm, I think Stephanie Plum and her grandmother would fit right into Jimmy Delaney's world... There's a collaboration for you! Seriously, this book was a real treat to read; you cannot go wrong with "Dice Angel". Wish I could find a dice angel of my own!
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on March 13, 2002
Sometimes you're just standing in front of the fan trying to get cool, then IT hits the fan and you get it all. We've all been there at one time or another and that's where our hero finds himself. It takes place in Las Vegas and so do I. That's why I started reading it but then I couldn't put it down, and read it one week-end between most of the things I was supposed to be doing. It has more twists and turns than the plate of spaghetti I had for dinner, and funny - I love to be able to laugh, and this book gave me that. Unlike most books or movies that take place in Vegas, Dice Angel shows it's a town of "just people" going about their everyday lives, trying to get by. The characters are all people we know or have known, and the dice angel herself? Well if you've been around a few years you've met her, loved her in spite of yourself, but never knew quite how you should take her (or her friends). What a fun book
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on March 4, 2002
"Dice Angel" is a new book you're bound to have fun reading and will tell others to read. It's a skillfully ctafted story set in today's Las Vegas, portrayed thru the cynical eye of a long-time bar owner whose "luck" leads him into and out of crazy - yet believable - situations. The twists of the plot will keep you intrigued, the dialogue will have you smiling (even laughing aloud), and the energy will keep you involved from cover to cover. As you read this book, think Dick Francis, Loren Estleman, and Steve Martin. If you can picture and appreciate that combination, I believe you'll find "Dice Angel" a real winner. And don't be surprised if you can't help yourself, as I did in my mind's eye, casting the parts. The book is a natural for the large or small screen. Author Brian Rouff makes the characters in this first novel of his come alive. You can picture them and you want to know them. Let's have more!
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