Forest of Fortune

jim ruland

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“Powered by adept characterization, darkly lyrical prose, and an unexpected but oh-so-perfect ending, this is the literary equivalent of a slot machine jackpot.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)



Something’s not right at Thunderclap Casino…

While working the floor at the casino on the ultra-rural Yukemaya Indian Reservation, Alice is visited by a mysterious woman. Alice wants to believe her new epilepsy meds are causing her to hallucinate, but the apparition keeps coming back with terrifying information about the reservation’s secret history.

Pemberton, a hard-partying copywriter from L.A. who was kicked out of his apartment by his fiancé, is having a difficult time adjusting to life on the rez. His new boss at the casino has severe anger-management issues, his drinking is getting out of control, and he’s attracted the attention of a drug-addled biker.

Lupita is no stranger to casinos, but she’s never seen anything like this: a slot machine that compels people to keep playing until they’ve lost everything. Lupita’s been on been on bad runs before, but this machine is different. This one is evil.

As the three of them come to terms with the ways in which they are haunted by the past and struggle to turn their luck around, they must confront the malevolent force at Thunderclap that won’t rest until old wrongs have been made right.


“Ruland brilliantly blends the darkly comedic crime fiction sensibilities of Charles Willeford with creepy paranormal undertones à la Dean Koontz in his addictively readable debut, the chronicle of three hard-luck losers who try to turn their lives around in an Indian-owned casino in a remote region of Southern California…The existential angst in this story is palpable, and Ruland is particularly good at describing the casino’s customers: “addicts, imbeciles, and thrift-store bimbos.” Powered by adept characterization, darkly lyrical prose, and an unexpected but oh-so-perfect ending, this is the literary equivalent of a slot machine jackpot.”
—Publishers Weekly(starred review)

“…Jim Ruland’s masterpiece of desperation, delusion and misdeeds….”
—Los Angeles Times

“Ruland combines dark humor with a thorough understanding of human frailty in this offbeat gothic gambling tale.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“…a stylishly written contemporary noir with some seriously weird overtones…these are very real people…the unlikeliest heroes you’ll meet for the next while. This one deserves a look.”

Forest of Fortune captures the soul and voice of hard-luck, hard-living Americans in a way that conjures up earlier masters like Raymond Carver and Richard Ford. Jim Ruland has an uncanny ability to get inside his characters – the small-time gamblers, washed up ad-men, and ladies of a certain age with a taste for one-armed bandits who people the casino at the center of the novel, the aptly named ‘Thunderclap.’ It’s been a long time since I’ve read an author with this much heart and talent. I really loved this book.”
–Jerry Stahl, author of Happy Mutant Baby Pills and Permanent Midnight

“A little spooky, very funny, and thoroughly engrossing from start to finish. Ruland writes with real aplomb and takes no prisoners.”
—Fiona Maazel, author of Woke Up Lonely

“Jim Ruland’s debut novel Forest of Fortune celebrates casino luck, mostly bad. A tour de force about a casino’s back rooms and environs, Forest of Fortune delivers on the seductive hardboiled territory of dread and despair. I’d bet plenty that you’ll like this.”
—Terese Svoboda, author of Bohemian Girl

“Beguiling, nimble, and wonderfully weird, Forest of Fortune is an out-of-left-field gem.”
—Patrick deWitt, author of The Sisters Brothers

“American culture is now casino culture, as anyone with a mortgage or student loan or 401(k) knows all too well. Jim Ruland’s terrific novel gets to the heart of the matter, his characters struggling mightily to keep their heads above water, to find something better, something more, in all the wrong places. Smart, honest, darkly funny, Forest of Fortune is a powerful debut from a writer of real talent.”
—Scott O’Connor, author of Untouchable and Half World

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