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Hitting the Jackpot with Mustang Sally

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I was in Las Vegas a couple of weekends ago and I kept thinking about the literature of that city. Of course, my affinity for John O’Brien’s Leaving Las Vegas is well known. But I also kept thinking of a novel that you might have forgotten, or perhaps never knew about in the first place.

Edward Allen’s 1992 novel Mustang Sally revolves around college professor Packard Schmidt’s escape to after the semester is complete. “Pack marks his papers high (to avoid arguments) and is quickly out the door to his favorite place on earth: Las Vegas. There he leaves the world of comma splices and scrambled logic and the stifiling political correctness of his department behind… Pack loves everything about the world of legalized gambling–the cheesy floor shows, the plentiful food, the recycled air, the action, the action, the action. And then it’s back to the pedagogical grind.” But on this trip, he encounters a former student who transferred to UNLV but is really studying at the Mustang Valley Inn to be a hooker. And that’s where the fun begins.

I met Allen at a reading in 1993 that was highly anticipated by both customers and bookstore staff. I remember him being polite, funny, and very pleased to learn that I followed his work closely. He used to publish fiction often in places like GQ (back when they actually ran short stories) and The New Yorker and I always kept a keen eye out for anything with his name on it. I haven’t seen much from him in the years since Mustang Sally was published. A quick internet search revealed that he published a collection of short stories with the University of Georgia Press in 2003 and that he has a book of poetry forthcoming from Ahsahata.

A lot of critics compare Allen’s satire of the academic world to that of Kinglsey Amis’ Lucky Jim and it’s certainly as funny. Since returning from Vegas, Mustang Sally is definitely a book I pulled down off the shelf and added to the top of my reading list. It’s time to revist this hilarious novel.