Vegas remains with author Mullins

BY EVAN CLARK | MARCH 03, 2011 7:20 AM

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What happens in Vegas stays in David Philip Mullins.

In his new collection of short stories, Greetings From Below, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop alumnus breaks the TV ad’s tag line, because Vegas will be a part of him forever.

“I grew up in Vegas, and that’s where most of Greetings From Below is set,” he said. “The main reason I chose Vegas for the book is because I know the terrain so well, and I know the place like the back of my hand.”

Mullins will read from his book, Greetings From Below, at Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St., at 7 p.m. today. Admission is free.

Greetings From Below, a collection of linked short stories, was published in January, the result of a decade-long process. His first stories for the book were written in 2000, and he wrote the majority of the stories during his two-year tenure in the Workshop.

Greetings is a variety of stories revolving around protagonist Nick Danze as he strolls the lonely streets of Vegas in grief after the death of his father, looking for a fix to cure his blues.

“Of course, people go to Vegas for entertainment, but there’s a dark side there, too,” Mullins said. “I wanted to explore that dark side of sex and gambling and explore all that addictive behavior in Vegas.”

University of Iowa junior David Reckman recently read Greetings, and he was impressed.

“The stories are all over the place, ranging from swinger parties to the lowlifes on the streets of Vegas,” he said. “Mullins does an excellent job not only developing the main character of Danze, but I can really tell he knows the ins and outs of Las Vegas based solely on his descriptions of the city.”

While Mullins considers the main character to be an unlikable protagonist, he hopes readers can relate to Danze on a number of levels, at least emotionally.

“That’s always a goal — to get the reader to feel something for the character,” he said. “While the main character is very unlikable, I feel he’s someone the reader can still sympathize with. Overall, I want the reader to feel something, whether it’s anger or laughter, and be moved in some way.”

After leaving Las Vegas to attend the University of San Diego, Mullins took a few years off from school to travel around the country. He then came to the Writers’ Workshop.

At that point, he had published a couple short stories and thought he knew everything he needed to know about writing, he said. But once he started in the Workshop, he re-evaluated.

“What I learned there more than everything was the nuts and bolts of writing,” he said. “When I got there, I thought that I didn’t really need Iowa, and I just figured it would be a fun place to go and finish a book. But when I studied there, I realized I didn’t know anything about writing, and I learned more in those two years at Iowa than anywhere else.”

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