Paolo Iacovelli '21 To Publish Debut Novel with Clash Books

Lisa Cochran
November 15, 2023

Writing Program alumnus Paolo Iacovelli '21 will publish his debut novel with Clash Books in July 2024.

In The King of Video Poker, a nameless normative, upper-middle-class narrator commutes to Las Vegas to play high-stakes video poker. At the novel's outset, he appears to be leading a fulfilling life: he has a loving wife, a son, and a beautiful home in Mesquite, Nevada. 

Gradually, it is revealed that the narrator is depressed and lonely, suffering from an emptiness of spirit. Subsequently, he embarks on an excessive road trip and experiences a mental breakdown spurred by Arnold Palmer's death. 

"Arnold Palmer died today," an excerpt from the novel on Iacovelli’s website states. “The news anchor announces it on the TV hanging in the corner as I'm dealt a pair of 9s at a Jacks or Better machine. Suddenly it doesn’t matter that the news anchor previously stated an unarmed twelve-year-old boy was shot dead by a police officer for stealing a Snickers bar. It doesn’t matter that I'm a middle-aged white man who travels an hour and a half from Mesquite to Las Vegas five times a week to play high-stakes video poker and haven't won in fourteen days… All that matters, even though I haven't heard his name in years, is that Arnold Palmer is dead.”

Growing more and more despondent, the narrator finds himself planning one of the greatest atrocities the US has ever seen.

A description on Iacovelli's website reads, "The protagonist is not all of us, nor is he reductively representative of us, but he is what happens when all of our American excesses are taken to one of their logical conclusions."

The King of Video Poker is available for pre-order here.