City Cast

Why Write a Postapocalyptic Vegas Romp?

Scott Dickensheets
Scott Dickensheets
Posted on September 5
Photo of book cover

Welcome to less-than-fabulous Las Vegas. (University of Nevada Press)

Author Jarret Keene, a UNLV English professor and book editor, has written poetry collections, a bio of The Killers — and now a futuristic adventure yarn titled “Hammer of the Dogs” (University of Nevada Press). He launches the novel next Tuesday, Sept. 12, with an event at The Writer’s Block.

How did you come to write a youthful dystopian romp instead of something the starchy world of academia might take more seriously?

Youthful dystopian romps are what my students love reading. I wanted to write for them a fun, fast-paced adventure novel starring an imperfect hero. The starchy world of academia has plenty of boring books that no one wants to read. Look at dwindling enrollment in the humanities and fewer declared English majors in the last 20 years. The STEM onslaught continues. We in the humanities must rethink our approach to luring students to our side of the intellectual competition. One way to do that? By writing fun, intriguing books that make students want to take our classes, to join the humanities, and to contribute their own ideas.

Music is a major feature of the book. Give us a top five “Hammer of the Dogs” playlist.

In writing “Hammer of the Dogs” and its protagonist, Lash, a drone assassin in the Ellen Ripley/Sarah Connor mode, I needed a rowdy soundtrack. Lash didn’t care for my moody music, and she urged me to play boisterous tunes that reminded her of her missing father. While writing, I found myself blasting ’80s hard rock and metal, the last wave of great analog music.

Here are five songs to help you understand the “bright-darkness” vibe of “HoTD”: “Sleeping in the Fire,” by W.A.S.P.; “Electric Eye,” by Judas Priest; “Killers,” by Iron Maiden; “Die Young,” by Black Sabbath; “I’m Your Gun,” by Alice Cooper.

How much fun was it to reimagine Las Vegas in postapocalyptic terms?

Entropy is always fun. But it was helpful to have toiled, for years, deep within the bowels of Luxor and CityCenter in the role of a corporate propagandist. I had the opportunity to see the way things really work “back of house,” where hidden structures would make it easy for rival gangs to set up operations, using drone technology to kill one another. Also, the drone-tech conventions that I crashed as a hotel employee were eye-opening, jaw-dropping. The relationship among the tech sector, military contractors, higher education, foreign powers, and the Nevada desert is startling and something that people don’t yet understand. Hopefully, Lash and “Hammer of the Dogs” change that while at the same time taking readers on a thrill ride.

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