Feb 192013

I was excited when Rebecca, from The Cadence Group, contacted me about today’s guest.  This is the 3rd visit here at CMash Reads, which as you know means, there is another book for us to hear about.  You can see his previous stops here for Redemption Day and  Bullet Work.    So without further ado, Mr. Steve O’Brien!!


Steve O Brien is an attorney, author, and former thoroughbred owner. Dead Money is his third novel. It follows Bullet Work and the critically acclaimed Elijah s Coin, recipient of nine literary awards, including Best Young Adult Fiction, National Best Books Awards, and Best Novella, Next Generation Indie Book Awards. He lives in Washington, D.C.


Where’d you get that idea?

 The most common question I receive is where did I get the idea for my book? Ideas for storylines, at least for me, don’t magically appear. I don’t necessarily look for ideas either. It could be something I read many years before that suddenly jumps onto the page.

That’s what happened with Dead Money.

It came from a short news story. That caused me to investigate further. The story goes like this:

On July 16, 1981 a middle aged man in a gabardine suit walked up to the betting window at Pimlico racetrack three minutes to post for the third race. He wagered $5000 to show on a horse named Mister’s Mistress. Then he made a similar bets on long shots in the sixth and seventh races.

The man in the gabardine suit had a bad day. He did not cash a single bet that day. But the real betting wasn’t in Maryland, it was in Las Vegas.  At that time Las Vegas did not commingle bets with US racetracks. That meant that bets in Las Vegas did not affect the pari-mutuel payout. Bets made in Las Vegas were paid at track odds. Friends of the gabardine suited man had a very good day in Las Vegas, cashing bets on heavy favorites that paid more to show than they did to win.

In the third race, favorite My Edelweiss paid 3.40 to win, 2.40 to place and 4.40 to show.

The seventh race was where they made their biggest strike. Noble Side won paying 3.60 to win, 3.40 to place and 9.40 to show.

The man in Maryland manipulated the show pools, his friends in Las Vegas bet and cashed at track odds. Their bets were outside the commingled pool and therefore did not lower the odds on their chosen horse.

     Although casinos executives are loath to talk about losses and betting scams, Hank Heffron, manager of the sports book at Barbary Coast Casino said, “They got us. They made a bunch of bets and probably hit every book in town.” When asked if the casino honored the wagers, Heffron said, “Yeah, we cashed them. But it won’t happen again.”


     As long as there are non-commingled betting services that pay track odds, there will be the risk of a pari-mutuel betting scam.

So where did my story idea come from? That news article was the genesis. Then I asked “what if?” What if someone pulled this betting scam in one of the biggest races in the country—-The Kentucky Oaks?

That’s where Dead Money was born.

As any good reader of fiction, you still might be suspicious. You may think technology has changed, that speed of information forecloses scams like this. Las Vegas bets are now part of the commingled pools. Digital fingerprints make illicit bets harder to pull off.

You would be right.

But if you’re convinced that such a scam won’t work in today’s environment, check out the fifth race at Thistledown Racetrack on May 21, 2012.


The stranger’s menacing, dismissive laughter echoed in attorney Dan Morgan’s head. In the heart of thoroughbred country–Churchill Downs–a major con was about to be pulled. Despite Dan’s efforts, his filly, Aly Dancer, was somehow part of the scheme.

You Can’t Stop It.
Dan’s dream as a thoroughbred owner was to run in a Grade I race—a televised stakes race. That opportunity had finally appeared. So far it had only resulted in threats, violence and death.

You Can’t Stop It.

What was the scam? Who was involved? Who could he turn to?
Post time was nearing.
The man’s sinister voice would not leave him.

You Can’t Stop It.



TCG 300

No items that I receive
are ever sold…they are kept by me,
or given to family and/or friends.

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