Saturday, June 5, 2010

Author Spotlight: The Gamble, Book #2 in The Loss of Certainty Trilogy by T.P. Jones

The Gamble (Book Two: The Loss of Certainty Series) brings readers back to Jackson, Iowa, a fictional town based on Dubuque. In this sequel to Jackson, a museum exhibit honoring the town’s oldest African-American citizen is vandalized, exposing underlying racism in the city.

The racially fueled incident at the museum draws the attention of a New York Times reporter and, as the city’s leadership is brought under scrutiny, the mayor proposes a controversial plan to attract black residents to Jackson and thus begin to establish a reputation as accepting and diverse.

Meanwhile, thousands of residents are out of work due to the recent closing of Jackson’s meatpacking plant and the city budget has become severely strained. With tensions mounting, unemployment steadily rising and an unexpected visit from a notorious former Klansman, the town’s precarious balance verges on collapse.

“At its core, ‘The Loss of Certainty’ series is about the struggle to introduce meaningful change,” says Jones. “It looks at how the people of Jackson interact with one another in the face of extremely stressful situations.”

T.P. Jones’ fate was sealed in the sixth grade. He was asked to write a one-page story for a class but returned the next day clutching 37 pages worth of fiction. It was then he knew — he was a writer.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Trinity College, Jones attended the prestigious University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. He studied there under the legendary novelist Kurt Vonnegut, who was writing Slaughterhouse Five at the time. Upon graduation, Jones had a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing but no subject matter at hand, so he dabbled in public relations before returning to school to get a master’s degree in mathematics. He taught math at a business college for several years until an epiphany in his kitchen renewed Jones’ commitment towards his true passion.

“It was just another workday morning, except that suddenly, in one of those life-altering moments, I knew that I could not both teach and write,” says Jones. “Another person might, but for me it had to be one or the other.”

Jones decided right then that he needed to focus on crafting a novel. He wanted to write about work and politics in the vein of Moby Dick. His vision for the book dictated that it could be set in one place and one place only — the Upper Midwest.

Jones was drawn to Dubuque, Iowa, for many reasons. It was a mid-sized river town with the culture he was seeking. The town’s location on a floodplain, backed by a palisade of bluffs, provided the perfect setting. Jones took interest in the town’s hardworking citizens and active city council. He petitioned the Dubuque local government to allow him to become a participant-observer. Once they agreed, Jones started his research.

Jones immersed himself in the work and lives of Dubuque. He rode with the police, firefighters and trash collectors. He toured water and wastewater treatment plants. He regularly attended city council meetings and union negotiations. He listened to local narratives, interviewing people he met. He watched the city construct a dog track in the dead of a brutal winter. He spent time on the kill floor of a local meatpacking plant. The people, places and stories he encountered during his two years in the city became the backbone of his trilogy: “The Loss of Certainty.”

His debut novel, Jackson, introduces readers to the residents of Jackson, Iowa, who face a crisis: the large and venerable Jackson Meatpacking Company is in decline, jeopardizing 2,000 jobs. Jackson follows the attempt to save the firm in a brutally competitive industry. Told from varying townsmen’s perspectives, it’s the story of one community struggling to exert control over forces and politics greater than themselves.

In The Gamble, Jones’ second book in the “Loss of Certainty Trilogy”, readers revisit Jackson as the town experiences the fallout from a racially motivated hate crime. With the town in the throes of an economic downturn and social tensions running high, national media descends upon Jackson, exposing prejudice in the town, which is 99 percent white. As the town’s leadership scrambles to rectify the damage, growing unemployment concerns and a controversial new racial integration plan challenge the very foundations upon which the community has been built.

Jones currently lives in Berkeley, Calif., with his wife, Elisabeth. In addition to writing, he serves on the board of directors for the Institute of Human Origins, a non-profit dedicated to the research of human evolution. To learn more about T.P. Jones and “The Loss of Certainty” trilogy, please visit

You can also read an excerpt from The Gamble by visiting the author's website.

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