Review on Southbound by Jason Beem
Jason Beem’s Southbound is an eye-opening exploration of the darkness of human excess and addiction pertaining not only to gambling but other types of compulsive behavior. Ryan McGuire, has a disease manifest in all types of gambling but his primary focus is on horseracing. It’s what he knows best; he is a racetrack announcer and has been exposed to the temptation to gamble for all his life.
Ryan has a few other problems that are attached to his compulsive personality as well. Some of it he may have inherited from his father who was an alcoholic and also liked to bet on the ponies. So, Ryan knows about his weaknesses but tells himself he has everything under control. Yet he is always aware that in a moment of weakness he could lose control. He fears it is inevitable, that it’s only a matter of time before he breaks down and relapses. And his compulsive need for human attention compels him to seek one-night stands over longer-term relationships. Even when he has longer relationships he seeks attention on the side that threatens any relationship he has.
Compulsive gambling is the biggest threat he has to finding companionship, though. In the past, he has spent time away from others, studying racing forms and picking horses. Attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings Ryan has been able to step away from the pain and destructive behavior. He manages to save money and begin a relationship with a young professional. Even though he hasn’t placed a bet for more than two years, he lives with the knowledge that it only takes the one time of caving in to the weakness for his addiction to return. It only takes a single trigger.
Southbound reads like a personal account of an addict, lending insight into the mental processes behind the ill-advised choices and warped logic that results in placing bets against long odds. It is an often-poignant portrayal of the pain associated with anxiety attacks brought on by the imbalances of his life.
Jason Beem, the author, is a recovering compulsive gambler and, like Ryan McGuire, he is a professional announcer at a horseracing track in the Pacific Northwest. Unlike Ryan, in Jason’s moment of weakness, he found writing a book about the repercussions of returning to the maddening life of a professional gambler satisfied his urges to place bets, thus averting any personal downward spiral. The story he shares is a compelling and spellbinding. The reader is allowed inside to feel what it’s like to be at a racetrack betting the bankroll on the nose of a horse. We feel the adrenaline pumping, experiencing the sounds, smells, and sights of a racetrack through the eyes of an experienced racing man. We are thrilled at the wins but agonize at the losses as we wonders whether Ryan’s southbound.