The Washington Post
The Delivery Manby Joe McGinniss Jr.
The Delivery Man is a thrilling and astonishing debut—a scary, fast-paced, and illuminating portrait of the MySpace generation. It is a love story set against the surreal excess of Las Vegas—and the artificial suburbs, gated communities, and freeways that surround it—where broken lives come to seek new beginnings and casinos feed the lust of tourists and residents alike. Ultrasophisticated local kids grow up fast and burn out early.
After attending college in New York, Chase returns to Vegas and is drawn into the lucrative but dangerous world of a teenage call-girl service with his childhood friend Michele, a beautiful Salvadoran immigrant with whom he shares a tragic past. Over the course of one extraordinary summer they will confront the violence and emptiness at the heart of the city and their generation.
At once stark and electrically atmospheric, horrifying and hopeful, The Delivery Man is an ambitious literary novel as well as a fast and absorbing page-turner—and a powerful indictment of a society in which personal responsibility has been abandoned, lust is increasingly mistaken for love, and innocence is an anachronism.
The Washington Post
The New York Times
Sex, lies, crushed dreams and slot machines are paramount in McGinniss's flashy, fast-moving debut. Chase is a struggling artist who couldn't hack NYU and moves back to Vegas, where he is reunited with his adolescent flame, Michele. After being fired from his teaching job for beating up a student, Chase plans to hook up with his girlfriend, Julia, in California, but instead spends his summer as a chauffeur for Michele's call-girl business. Michele has plans for herself (buying a house, getting an advanced degree in women's studies), but for the time being is running the call-girl service out of a suite in the Versailles Palace Hotel and Casino with her boyfriend, Bailey. Girls too young for the job, readily available cocaine, untrustworthy business partners, memories of a family tragedy and glammed-out Vegas goons make Chase's summer more stressful than he had hoped for as he attempts to finish a few paintings for a group gallery show. The novel is action-packed, though the character development-particularly with the women-is sometimes superficial. McGinniss (son of another Joe McGinnis you may have heard of) successfully gambles with the notion that whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but what does that mean for Chase and his plans to escape? (Jan.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
A few chapters into this debut novel, readers are so inundated by repeated references to drug use, prostitution, and sudden violence that the cryptic but vivid introduction is nearly forgotten: Chase, recovering from four unexplained reconstructive surgeries, is holed up in a suite at the Palace Hotel in Las Vegas. He's in love with his childhood friend, Michele, who has hatched a plan with her spoiled boyfriend/pimp, Bailey, to clear a cool $200,000 in one summer by running a call-girl service. Chase, a once-promising artist now fearing failure by age 30, falls into work as a chauffeur for Michele and her teenage employees. Events rapidly sink toward total degradation. Mentor Bret Easton Ellis's influence is apparent, although McGinniss's protagonists are modern members of the lower middle class rather than the affluent and bored of the 1980s. Despite Ellis's alleged hand in getting this work published, it stands on its own. Buy where Charles Bukowski and Hunter S. Thompson have a readership. [Film rights have been optioned to Whitsett Hill Entertainment; the author is the son of Joe McGinniss, whose latest true crime book, Never Enough, will be reviewed in LJ11/15/07.-Ed.]
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The Delivery Man
By Joe McGinnis, Jr. Grove/Atlantic Inc. Copyright © 2008 Joe McGinnis, Jr.
All right reserved.
Chapter One It's Tuesday morning and hot and the end of May. Chase calls in sick to school because he agreed to help Michele pack the rest of her things-including the massage table-and move her into the Sun King suite on the twenty-second floor of the Palace where she will work for the next twelve weeks. When Michele gets out of Chase's car-her shoulders tan, the Seven jeans riding low and tight around her slim hips-everyone stares, like they always do: the bellhops who load her Tumi bags onto a cart, the valets who no longer care about parking the Mustang, the anonymous white tourists next to the heavy black man with the cane. Everyone watches the brown hips and the navel ring and the tops of her breasts. They watch until Michele comes over to Chase and takes his hand.
Michele's suite has a cream-colored couch pushed against the wall of the main room and all Chase wants to do is collapse on it because his head throbs from the heat and insomnia. The first thing Michele does is order room service. Chase walks past the couch to the window and pulls the curtains open and squints at the huge orange sun. Even though it's only May it feels like the end of July. (Minutes ago the temperature reading on the Sahara marquee read ninety-six degrees.) And it all lies before him: twenty-one stories below is the Garden of Earthly Delights dotted with clear blue rectangular pools and burgundy cabanas, and then it's the Strip and then the pink homes of Green Valley and the surrounding desert and the I-15 that leads to Los Angeles where Chase's father still lives.
"You look like shit," Michele says. "You should sleep."
Chase glances at the couch, then at Michele and tells her he's never felt more alive in his entire life. After a pause they both laugh.
"You need me to come back?" he asks.
"If you want," she says.
Michele pulls the faded jeans to her ankles and clumsily steps out of one leg and then the other, revealing the black underwear Bailey bought for her at Victoria's Secret. And then Michele's just staring at Chase. She looks small and too young, standing in her underwear and white T-shirt, the jeans tossed on the bed. "It's going to be weird knowing you're not here anymore." She pauses. "Looking out for me, I mean."
"So stop doing this," Chase says, sighing.
"I might," she says. "There's always that possibility."
But Michele won't stop because the suite is too nice. The suite will keep the business all under one roof. And the suite comes at a deep discount because Bailey's father is connected like that. In fact, the suite comes at enough of a discount that-if the plan works out-Bailey and Michele are convinced they'll each clear two hundred by summer's end. It's a very rich dream. But Chase isn't concerned about the suite on the twenty-second floor of the Palace and the summer plan: the Web sites and client databases, the mass e-mailings and the training sessions and cash deposits and fifty-fifty splits, the no-shows and the double-bookings, the extra sheets, the candles. Chase isn't concerned with any of that because he will be gone by then.
Chase is looking out the window when Michele starts to pull the T-shirt over her head. He's watching the crisp morning shadows stretch across the pools of clear blue water and the tan bodies already lying prone and baking along the concrete below. He's realizing that today is the nineteenth day of school he's missed this semester. (Chase set a nonmaternity record-according to the principal-with his sixteenth absence.) The window is hot against his forehead and his stomach drops when he gauges just how high up they actually are. Chase doesn't know what he'll do when the teaching gig ends in a few weeks and he's with Julia again-this time in Palo Alto and not New York. And Chase will be twenty-five and not nineteen and he'll be an unemployed-therefore, broke-artist, and not the ambitious student with a future he was when he met Julia. Chase can't wrap his head around it: he is a high school art teacher. And because of this fact Chase still doesn't understand how he is enough for Julia.
* * *
"There's a party in the Lakes tonight," Michele says. Chase won't turn around. "I don't go to parties in the Lakes," he responds.
"It's not like that."
"It's always like that at parties in the Lakes."
"Some comedian. He's not from here. He's cool."
"I'm meeting Hunter."
"You can call me later if you want to meet up or something, but not for some party in the Lakes with Bailey because it's always the same kids in houses their parents bought for them and they're always bragging about vacations they took to Maui or Cabo and what celebrity they talked shit to at the Palms and then a fight breaks out. It's tired." Chase pauses. "And I don't like seeing Bailey."
"It's not always like that," Michele sighs.
"Aren't you over all that by now?" Chase says with an edge to his voice that she must pick up on because she doesn't respond.
When Chase turns around Michele is gone and the bathroom door is partially closed and he can hear water filling the tub. Though he can't see her, Chase knows Michele is sitting on the porcelain edge, legs crossed, watching the water.
The prospect of being out with Michele and Bailey tonight triggers something familiar in Chase that he immediately steers away from. It's a feeling instantly recognizable. It's always there on some level: Chase and Michele and Bailey linked together in a way that feels unavoidable. They're still bound in a way Chase thought was over once he realized he was actually leaving Vegas and moving to Palo Alto with Julia. But even now-with Julia's imminent arrival, his plans to leave-the mention of Bailey makes it all seem like a dream. The clean white hotel suite, the rush of hot water filling the tub, talk of meeting up with Bailey tonight-this is the only reality. It was eight years ago: the gray early morning, July, Bailey's bedroom, the body on the lawn. And they never talk about it. They can't. No one even tried to find the right words to say what it all meant. They were, as Bailey observed that morning eight years ago, "culpable." That was the word Bailey used. Culpable.
Chase pushes the bathroom door open and tells Michele he's leaving.
She wants him to stay. She offers the couch again for him to lie down. She bites a fingernail and nods.
"It's all very sudden," she says.
"What is?" Chase realizes she means Julia.
"I mean, what's the rush?"
"I'm sinking like a stone. She wants things settled. It's a critical time for her. We want this-whatever we are-settled ..." Chase trails off.
"Help me," Michele says, hunched over, watching the steam rise from the water.
"With what? You and Bailey?"
Michele eases her fingers into the water and says nothing.
"I want nothing the fuck to do with this anymore," Chase says. "Don't you understand that?"
Michele glances over her shoulder at him.
"I need to make some changes," Chase says, exhausted, reconsidering the couch.
"You think so?"
Carly and Michele once ran away together when they were eleven. They used thick blue chalk to write their good-byes on the garage door. They were running away because life was boring and you had to be careful where you went because the world was filled with crazy people and they wrote the names of friends (Tanya, Kelly, Callie, Drew, Mike, Bailey, Little Rick) and scrawled "That's all Ffffolks!" and "Good Luck" and "Have A Nice Life" and "Las Vegas Sucks!" and "Goodbye?" The plan was Chicago but they went west instead of east on I-15 and ended up spending three nights at Whiskey Pete's in Primm before two Clark County police officers brought them back to the house on Starlight Way. Chase's mother never got around to washing the messages off the garage door. Chase was ten and figured that was a good sign because the longer the words stayed the longer they would keep the house even though Chase wanted to leave, maybe go to his dad's in Malibu, someplace green where there was an ocean.
Sometimes during the summer that Carly ran away Chase would walk downstairs in the middle of the night when everything was so still and quiet that he couldn't sleep and he would find his mother standing at the window in the kitchen. All the lights were off and only her silhouette and the orange glow from her cigarette were visible. He would watch silently as his mother stared out the window and into the blackness. Carly told Chase that summer that their mother was in a lot of trouble with money. Carly told him that they would have to sell the house and move to an apartment or-even worse-go to Indiana and live with their grandparents, whom they barely knew. Carly was positive of this because she had looked through Mom's checkbook and some other papers in her nightstand drawer and swore that Mom was in trouble. The way Carly said that word frightened Chase even more. Chase was scared and asked how much money Mom owed (but to whom? and why?) and Carly said she thought it was like maybe two hundred thousand dollars but Carly was only eleven that summer and not very good with numbers so it could have been much less. But watching his mother-always awake and alone in the kitchen smoking cigarettes in the dark middle of the night-Chase knew that Carly probably wasn't too far off.
Michele scrambles around the suite. They have been there only an hour when Bailey calls. After listening intently to Bailey on her cell, Michele snaps it shut and, cursing, tells Chase to get up. A man is on his way to see her. Michele cancels the room service while frantically lighting candles and then undresses and puts on something sheer and tight and pulls the curtains closed and a chime sounds and the man is at the door and Michele walks Chase in a half-sleep to the closet where he tries to sit among her platform shoes and slinky tops. "Stay still," she says and hands him a pillow. The point of an iron sticks him in the back and his knees scream from bending so low and he realizes he's got to find a more comfortable position because he'll be in the closet for a while. Chase shifts and turns, leans against the ironing board and extends his legs. Finally he's able to slide to the floor.
"I don't want to see this," Chase mutters. "Just let me go."
Michele considers it for a moment. "It's too late." She slides the door closed.
Michele is on her back, naked, her eyes closed. She's been in the same position for fifteen minutes while the man-sunburned, a college ring, fifty-something-tries to make her come. But he's clumsy and drunk and keeps asking her what she likes. "Tell me what makes you feel good," he pleads. He's breathing heavily and says, "I don't want to leave until you come." With his face pressed against her, he says, "I shouldn't be here," and then the man asks her if he can please stay. He asks her if he can lie with her for a while. "I've got more money." The man says that the next time he sees her he will bring things for her to wear.
Inside the closet Chase rests his head against a wall and cycles through a list of things he's going to do when he's not here. After the man goes down on her again and she fakes a fairly authentic-sounding orgasm, Michele is sitting up on the bed, knees to her chest. Chase can't see him, but the man asks her again: why won't she do full service? Michele turns away and glances at the closet. She lies and tells the man it's not negotiable. It would have been negotiable if the man had been someone different. Maybe if the man hadn't been drunk. Maybe if the man had been younger or more attractive. Maybe if he hadn't been the first client in the Sun King suite. Chase spends an hour and fifteen minutes on the closet floor until the door slides open. Michele wears a towel in that way she always does when she's finished.
"Are we still celebrating tonight?" she asks Chase on his way out.
"What's there to celebrate?" Chase asks.
"Don't," Michele warns. "Just don't, Chase."
Hunter's ship lists to the left. Fires rage on deck. Tourists point their camcorders at the show. Flashbulbs pop from disposable cameras. Fanny packs sag from bloated waistlines. Children wriggle from their mothers' grips next to restless babies in strollers. Everyone has their back to the traffic on the Strip. People gasp at a fiery explosion that may have made Chase gasp if he hadn't known it was coming. Every show is the same and the explosions are Hunter's cue. Hunter steps forward and scales a railing at the edge of the ship where he stands and spreads his arms. There's a second explosion. Another pirate no one can see is kneeling behind Hunter, and the hidden pirate lights Hunter's shirt on fire causing Hunter to leap from the stern, a trail of orange flame whooshing behind him. He hits the black water and disappears. Tourists cheer.
Hunter does his goofy dance when he sees Chase. He shakes his head of thick blond hair back and forth to the cheery steel-drum music piped throughout the lobby of the Treasure Island Hotel while people stare at him in his soaked red-and-white-striped pirate shirt. Hunter slides the bandana and eye patch from his head and asks, "Where's the wife?" Before Chase can remind him that Julia doesn't arrive for another two days, Hunter waves him off and says he has to take a shower.
"That water smells like piss," Hunter says. "You think I need a haircut? I think I should get one for those parties your wife invited us to."
As they approach a bank of elevators, Hunter stays in character and scowls convincingly-he's had a few drinks already with the other pirates before the show-and then lunges at a group of Japanese girls. But without his bandana and eye patch he no longer resembles a pirate: just a tall unshaven dude who needs a haircut. The Japanese girls shriek and Hunter immediately tries to apologize as the elevator doors open. But the girls are frightened and confused. They speak Japanese quickly to one another and refuse to get in the elevator.
"I don't know about the parties," Chase says hesitantly when they're alone in the elevator. "They're not exactly open to the public."
"Dude," Hunter says, offended. "We're not the public."
At a red light half a block from the Palace, Chase signals. This sets Hunter off. He pounds the dashboard. "No more Michele!" he chants. "Adios, Michele!" Without looking at Chase he stops for a moment and asks, "Why are you such an idiot?" Without waiting for an answer Hunter continues beating the dashboard for a little while longer before turning to Chase and saying, "Make me a promise."
"Whatever. Just stop all the noise."
In that brief moment Hunter has already forgotten the promise and says instead that one of the best things about Chase leaving Vegas is that Hunter won't have to see Michele anymore either. "Somehow we always end up with Michele and it's a drag, dude." Hunter pauses. "On both of us."
There are things Chase wants to talk about with Hunter but doesn't: the larger than usual amount of cocaine Chase found in Michele's purse, the fact that Michele hasn't gone to any of her classes at UNLV in over a month, that the party in the Lakes Michele had mentioned probably wasn't a party at all but an appointment she wanted Chase to take her to but then Michele realized (too late) that Julia was going to be in town this weekend and so Michele lied and said it was just a party. Chase has also decided not to mention that he took the day off from Centennial High to move Michele into the suite and that Chase spent an hour in a closet watching a man go down on Michele while the man masturbated himself to a shrieking orgasm. But then he realizes that Hunter likely knows some or all of this. Their group is pretty small.
"I'm sick of talking about Michele," Hunter says. "Thinking about her depresses me. Why is that? I guess because she talks a lot of shit and she's a pain in the ass."
"I find her quite ... disarming," Chase says, aiming for suave and failing.
"She's a fraud, dude. I can just imagine the shit she's going to talk around Julia in order to impress her. She'll go on about the master's degree she still doesn't have and what she's observed about the people here and how the women and girls have all this pressure on them to conform to certain standards and it'll all be so lame and superficial. The only thing Julia will be impressed by is that Michele is actually trying to impress her."
Excerpted from The Delivery Man by Joe McGinnis, Jr. Copyright © 2008 by Joe McGinnis, Jr.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Joe McGinniss Jr. graduated from Swarthmore College and lives in Washington, DC. This is his first book.
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McGinniss' novel provides a dark yet intriguing insight into what really goes on when the sun has risen on the brightly lit Las Vegas strip. The main character, Chase, is immediately depicted as a disturbed and tortured young man. The author lures the reader into the story with his colorful descriptions of daily life in the seemingly depressing hot and dry reality of Las Vegas. All of the main characters grew up together, in poverty, not far from the Las Vegas strip. Their teen years were filled with drugs, sex, depression, loneliness, and abandonment from their friends and families alike. Now that the group has grown older, they must face the consequences their troubled pasts¿ have left behind. The desperation of their youth has carried over into the lives of the now twenty-somethings who have failed to leave Vegas in search of a better life. Reality, to the group, is the same, except now things are a little more real ¿ the book focuses on how sex and drugs can now turn into a financial opportunity. Although Chase has mostly stayed away from the drugs and fast paced lifestyle his friends and sister have lived, he finds himself stuck in the middle of a prostitution ring ¿ he becomes The Delivery Man which takes the girls to and from their appointments. In between this troubling (and forced) career choice, Chase is dealing with a failing relationship with a woman whom he feels is too good for him. Chases¿ low self esteem propels his actions forward, causing him to deep his hole bigger and bigger until he must find a way out. McGinniss seems to provide beautiful descriptions on a subject matter that can usually be perceived as vulgar. While some parts of the book may provoke a cringe or two, the book picks up on the beauty that can be found in all things considered ugly. Human nature does have its faults ¿ as the novel points out several times. Yet the truth is not perceived as depressing, but moreover it appears as insightful. For example, in a particularly gruesome scene in which a school teacher gets involved in an altercation with one of his students, the reader finds it hard not to identify with the teacher and why he is risking his job to seek revenge on a seventeen year old high school student. The book looks deep into the characters¿ moralities ¿ depicting even the worst traits that make us all human. The novel is for those who wish to discover a story of interest, and although dark at times, McGinniss truly turns a possibly sad story of broken lives into a work of art.
Gripping is absolutely the word I would use if asked to sum up Delivery Man in one word. It was another story that once started I had trouble putting down and even when the story finished I still hadn't had my fill. This book is original along with off-beat and just Fresh good writing with a strong foundation. I think it is a welcome voice amongst the mediocrity that is this generation's exposure to Reading and lack thereof. It is far from cookie cutter and has a real sincerity to it that with make you look past the surface and feel connected to these characters. I started reading this a day or so after I finished Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis with Larry "Ratso" Slowman and what an awesome transition. Another Great Read, welcome Joe mcGinniss.
Excellent reading. Reminded me of 'Dust in the Wind' by Jason Babin, another debut novel that is gripping and makes you think twice about America's underbelly. McGinniss, Jr. does a fabulous job of weaving his characters into your psyche, making you feel as if you are involved in their little clique. Great read. Fast read. Just the way I like it.
im not sure why but i didnt know what this book was about at all when i decided to read it. luckly it was pretty good. the book made me think outside my normal train of thoughts and truthly acknowledge the ugly in the world.
This book opens your eyes into a world of chaos and distorted beauty. It will touch anyone who has endured suffering and/or struggle.
Nothing too special.