10 QUESTIONS FOR FRED FAOUR

ESPN host's new book takes readers on a wild Houston ride

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

In 1973, ZZ Top released a song called "Jesus Just Left Chicago." The Texas rockers had Jesus departing the Windy City, headed to New Orleans.

Jesus just left Chicago/
And he's bound for New Orleans/
Workin' from one end to the other and all points in between/
Took a jump through Mississippi/
Well, muddy water turned to wine/
Then out to California through the forests and the pines/
You might not see him in person/
But he'll see you just the same/
You don't have to worry 'cause takin' care of business is his name


Hey, they didn't have GPS on smart phones yet.

But what if Jesus stopped in Houston on his long and winding road o the Crescent City, and hung out at Sam Houston Race Park, and became the greatest racetrack tout since that famous oddsmaker Plato the Greek? And, what if Jesus got involved with shady, colorful characters wrapped up in the dark world of gambling, poker, and Mafia mayhem?

That's the premise of Fred Faour's new novel, also called Jesus Just Left Chicago. It's a wild ride, that's for sure, with an ending that may have you thinking Faour's mind is a spooky place. It's a an ingenious tale with twists and turns and a few parts that will have you holding onto your woobie for dear life.

The book's official launch is a couple of weeks away, but Jesus Just Left Chicago is available now in paperback on Amazon and the audio book can be purchased at Gow Media Publishing.

I caught up with Faour – from a safe distance – and put 10 Questions to the SportsMap editor and co-host of ESPN 97.5 FM's popular "The Blitz."

Ken Hoffman: I've never heard of someone writing a book and naming it after a popular song. What captivated you about that song? Did you have to ask ZZ Top for permission to use the title?

Fred Faour: I have always thought writing had a pace and a cadence to it, like a song. There are music references throughout the novel. I thought it was a nice homage to a band I grew up with. I did not get permission because it is a different medium. I would hope they would appreciate it and maybe sell a few more songs because of it.

KH: You originally wrote this book more than 20 years, and picked it up in "fits and starts" before now. Most writers are taught, if it's not working, let it go. How come you never gave up on it?

FF: After I had the original deal fall through, I did drop it for a while. But I always believed it was a good story and it was always going to get written - if I didn't die first.

KH: Writers change, as people and authors, over the course of 20 years. How much rewriting did you have to do along those fits and starts?

FF: I changed the timeframe, and it made for a much better novel. I also cut out about half of it that had more details on some of the less interesting characters. If I found them boring, I assumed the reader would, so I just chose to focus on just a few. Having more experience in life and as a writer and having more influences really made a difference.

KH: Jesus Just Left Chicago deals with "gambling, the mafia, mysticism, and mythology." Is this a novel, or did you just publish your diary?

FF: There are some elements of myself and people I have known in every character. I think that is common in fiction. Some people who have read it think Louis is me but I am not that emotional or angsty. Yes, there are things from my life I incorporated, but I did it in hopes of making it authentic and feel more real.

KH: You're a sporting kind of fella. You've written a book called Acing Racing, a guide to betting on horses. What is it about gambling that fascinates you?

FF: It's like a puzzle to me. I love all the psychological aspects of poker in particular. Handicapping horse racing is like solving a puzzle. Those things have always appealed to me. Both are creative outlets, like writing or radio.

KH: Jesus Just Left Chicago is available as an audio book, with some of your ESPN 97.5 FM buddies doing the voices. Was it weird hearing your written words put to the spoken word?

FF: I got goosebumps the first time I listened. To hear such talented people take my work and interpret it was a special moment for me. Jermaine Every really embraced Louis, Holly Seymour did an amazing Mary, and John Granato is simply out of this world as Michael. It was cool to involve my son as well. And Cody Stoots did a masterful job producing it.

KH: How did you come up with the idea of Jesus as a track tout? You have said that this book was written in a "haze of alcohol and weed." Seriously?

FF: There is something spiritual about the racetrack...

Continue reading on CultureMap.

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The Breeders' Cup races will be Friday and Saturday at Santa Anita. It should be an entertaining two days. There are only a few races I really like; due to work commitments and the World Series I have not been able to dive in as deeply as usual. However, I will throw a few opinions out on each race.

Friday's races

These are all pretty wide open. Keep in mind there are a lot of evenly matched horses, so shopping for prices is critical. So that is the approach we are taking:

Race 5, BC Juvenile Turf Sprint

A'Ali is an intriguing European runner who will be a solid price (6-1 morning line). He has had only one bad start at a slightly longer distance. Europeans tend to have an edge in turf races, and this guy is worth a play across the board or maybe an exacta wheel up and down with the field.

Race 6, BC Juvenile Turf

Probably a pass race. No. 12 Arizona will be the favorite and looks pretty tough. There might be more value in No. 13 Fort Myers, who finished just behind the favorite at Ascot in June. Might be worth a weighted wager, with more to show and place than win. Something like $10 to win, $20 to place and $40 to show.

Race 7, BC Juvenile Fillies

Another I will likely be passing on. If you must play it, maybe take No. 4 British Idiom, but the price will likely not be good enough to warrant a play.

Race 8, BC Juvenile Filly Turf

The Europeans should have this one covered. I like the idea of keying No. 3 Shadn (10-1) first and second with all the other Euros in the exactas - 1-5-6-8-9-14.

Race 9, BC Juvenile

No. 5 Scabbard offers the best value after a troubled second against the favorite, No. 1 Dennis' Moment last time out. No. 9 Maxfield will take a lot of action as well. Could easily come down to the 1 and 9, but 8-1 on the 5 is too juicy to pass on.

Saturday's races

The main event, with some really competitive races featuring some of the best horses in the world in the latter part of the card.

Race 4, BC Filly Mare Sprint

I like No. 4 Come Dancing, but the price will be pretty short, although Covfefe will take the bulk of the money. We are going to key the 4 first and second in the exactas and tris with 1-3-8-9 as we will go closer heavy in a speed-dominated race.

Race 5, BC Turf Sprint

Pretty much throwing darts at a board here. I do like the 1 horse at 5-1 and might look at a 1-all all-1 exacta play.

Race 6, BC Dirt Mile

Omaha Beach will be the heavy favorite off a nice win over the surface at a distance shorter than he wanted to go against an excellent sprinter. Hard to get around him, but I will throw in the 1-2-4-7-8 in boxed exactas and tris and hope for the best.

Race 7, BC Filly/Mare Turf

I like No. 9 Villa Marina quite a bit in here. Her only off the board finish of her career came at a much longer distance and she still was only beaten two lengths. Will play her across the board, and will also use her in exactas first and second with 1-2-3-4-7-8-12.

Race 8, BC Sprint

Mitole will be favored, but we will take a shot against him. The only time he was in a race with a sub-22 opening quarter, he faded in the lane. Shancelot all but guarantees that fraction. The key horses will be a pair of long shot closers, No. 2 Hog Creek Hustle and No. 7 Whitmore, who appears to be rounding back into form and tends to show up in big spots. So the exactas would be 2-7 with 1-2-3-4-6-7-9.

Race 9, BC Mile

Another I have very little clue on. Lucallan across the board is worth a play but not worth a big investment.

Race 10, BC Distaff

Midnight Bisou, who ran at Sam Houston earlier this year, has been a win machine in 2019 with seven wins in seven starts. She will be tough here, but this field is loaded. Would throw her in exacta and trifecta boxes with 3-5-6-9-11.

Race 11, BC Turf

Bricks and Mortar (9) is the favorite and has five wins in five starts this year, but this might be longer than he wants to go. The 5 and 10 horses might be viable alternatives, but don't expect much value. Probably pass on this one.

Race 12, BC Classic

No. 11 Code of Honor has been in sharp form and always fires his shot. No. 8 McKinzie is the favorite and has never been worse than second in seven starts at Santa Anita. Hard to get past those two, but if you toss in long shots Owendale (3) and Yoshida (5) you might get a price. I will also key the 11 first and second in the try with 3-5-8 with all in third, and 3-5-8 with 11 with all.

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