Internationally acclaimed author and man-about-town Ben Mezrich has made Boston his home base partially because “it is a very livable city.” The writer, who delves into the world of online gambling in Straight Flush: The True Story of Six College Friends Who Dealt Their Way to a Billion-Dollar Online Poker Empire—and How It All Came Crashing Down, just launched his new book with a party at Empire Asian Restaurant and Lounge hosted by John Henry, his wife Linda Pizzuti Henry, and Big Night Entertainment Group Partner Ed Kane. We caught up with Mezrich to discuss his newest book, the movies, and what keeps him in Boston.
So, lucky number 13! What was the process like in writing this book?
BEN MEZRICH: Ever since Bringing Down the House, I've become the go-to guy for every story involving crazy college kids doing something wild. Straight Flush started with an email I got from one of the guys in the book, asking me to look into their story. The more I investigated it, the more I realized it was a cool mix of '21' and The Social Network. These college kids had launched an online poker company and built it into a million-dollar-a-day business, and now they are fugitives, on the run from the U.S. government.
Many of your characters struggle with this burdening sense of genius and it seems to get them in trouble. Do you sympathize with these characters?
BM: Yes and no. Nobody in this story is a saint. However, I don't think they should be prosecuted for starting a poker website. These were frat guys from mostly poor backgrounds in Montana; they moved to Costa Rica, built this empire in a Wild West setting full of hookers, coke, and craziness. Now they are facing indictments. It's a pretty complex story, in some ways.
Any similarities between this and Bringing Down the House?
BM: In that it is a group of young guys taking on a system and having it all crash down, a little. But these guys are very different from the MIT geeks who used math to beat Vegas. These guys built a business in a lawless place, took much bigger risks, and ended up getting brought down by the U.S. government.
You have established yourself as an internationally-recognized author and you do it all from Boston. What keeps you here?
BM: I love Boston. This is the best city in the world. It's also got a great airport, about 10 minutes from where I live. And the community is full of super smart people doing cool things. There are tons of stories that move through this city. I can't imagine living anywhere else.
When you are writing ,are you thinking about the book being optioned for a movie?
BM: I always write with movies in mind. I am a very cinematic writer; I see my stories in a very visual way. When I sit down to write, I am picturing it on a screen.
As an author is it always “what’s next” for you?
BM: Yes, always, you got to be like a shark, keep moving or you sink to the bottom. I've got a children's series launching next summer, I just sold a big movie/book project to 20th Century Fox with Brett Ratner producing, and am working on a big, new secret non-fiction book. I always need to be moving onto the next big story.