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Byram Hills Grad Publishes Debut Novel

Michael Shum
Michael Shum Photo Credit: Contributed

ARMONK, N.Y. -- Michael Shum, a graduate of Byram Hills High School, has turned his time spent working in a casino into his debut novel.

Shum's novel "Queen of Spades" will be released on Oct. 10 by Forest Avenue Press. The book is set in a casino and is about a recovering gambler, a pit boss who has six months to live and a dealer obsessed with the playing style of a mysterious elderly customer.

Shum worked at a casino in upstate Washington and has always been interested in gambling. While at Byram Hills, he would play penny ante poker with his friends. 

"Most gambling books are from the standpoint of the gambler rather than the pit bosses and dealer," Shum, who graduated Byram Hills in 1989, said. "This offers an inside-out view. I'm trying to elevate gambling to a mystical realm, rather than something gritty or dirty. I've never seen it described that way."

At the casino, Shum often worked the graveyard shift which he said was always more stranger than the daytime. He bonded with fellow staff members who became like family to him.

"These people are intelligent and sharp, they didn't go the route of standard secondary education," Shum, who now teaches at New York University, said. "There's a chapter where the staff has a Thanksgiving dinner and they play cards. The casino becomes your home and the staff becomes your family."

Growing up in Armonk, Shum said he was inspired by his English teacher Bud Pollack. Pollack helped Shum discover the talent he had for writing and helped him learn how to pace a story. 

"It took me a long time to make it happen," Shum, who now lives in Queens said. "Everything I did in between was necessary to make this happen."

When he's not writing, Shum said he enjoys reading writers like Ta-Neshi Coates and going back to read stories by Shirley Jackson and Edgar Allan Poe. Shum said it was gratifying to finally be a published author.

"You work really hard and you hope there is a book at the end of it," Shum said. "You don't know if you can do it until it's done. Now it's coming out and I've held it."

To purchase Queen of Spades, click here

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