Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
First Committee Member
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Fourth Committee Member
Number of Pages
I’m an author and journalist who has lived in Las Vegas since 1997. My first book, Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas, chronicles my adventures in the city’s underground flood channels. My second book, My Week at the Blue Angel: And Other Stories from the Storm Drains, Strip Clubs, and Trailer Parks of Las Vegas, is a creative-nonfiction collection set in off-the-beaten-path Vegas. These two books grew out of my eight years as a writer and editor for Las Vegas CityLife alternative-weekly paper.
I enrolled in UNLV’s MFA creative-writing program in the fall of 2012, in part to help me transition from journalism to fiction writing. A key component of this transition is my thesis, a short novel that combines elements of journalism, fiction, and memoir. The novel’s (or fictional memoir’s) working title is Las Vegas Paperboy and it’s narrated by an alt-weekly writer and editor named Dylan Walsh, who was laid off during the recession and is stuck delivering a paper route in the shadow of the Las Vegas Strip—and he’s not happy about it. Through raw, diary-like entries, Dylan takes readers with him on the route, set in the service-industry slums of Sin City, and introduces them to a cast of non-stereotypical characters: a radical spoken-word poet and pro-wrestling promoter, a burned-out high school teacher, a Cuban love interest. The narrator and characters share their unique insights on Las Vegas, the recession, the media, and any other topic that makes the headlines of the Daily Express, the ultra-conservative paper delivered by the liberal Dylan.
Beneath the Neon and My Week at the Blue Angel take readers into the storm drains, weekly motels, and low-rent apartments of Las Vegas. Paperboy ventures into similar seedy settings, but also attempts to explore the psyche of the city. The book examines what it’s like to be a longtime local and all the ups and downs that come with it. Other themes include immigration and homelessness.
Illustrated by urban artist Joseph Watson, Las Vegas Paperboy strives to be a work of stark realism—a vivid examination of how the recession affected people at ground zero. It’s, in some ways, modeled on street-lit works Pimp (Iceberg Slim) and Post Office (Charles Bukowski) and it also borrows from Ask the Dust (John Fante) and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Hunter S. Thompson), but its goal is to be a unique book for a unique time and place.
I, however, realize I have work to do to reach this goal. My plan is to push the book forward the rest of the school year and get within a few chapters of the end. I will then spend the summer working on another draft and completing the final chapters. This subsequent draft will focus on a few key changes, first and foremost giving the book more conflict and narrative drive (perhaps Dylan is heartbroken when we meet him and, through his relationship with Sofia, he either finds redemption or more disappointment). I also plan to add depth to certain points and sections, add a few more poetic chapters, trim the dialogue, and introduce the characters more spontaneously (i.e., eliminate the “staging”).
I compare the book, in its current form, to a photo that’s out of focus. Once I find the main conflict, I believe that a lot of the peripheral content will become clear.
Global Financial Crisis; 2008-2009; Fiction; Nevada – Las Vegas; Newspaper carriers
American Literature | Creative Writing | Fiction
O'brien, Matthew, "Las Vegas Paperboy" (2015). UNLV Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers, and Capstones. 2400.