Sunday, April 13, 2008

Russell A Vassallo

Before I was Published

When I was eleven years old, I asked my dad for an allowance. Other kids were getting them and I felt I was entitled to as weekly pension too. My dad owned a confectionery store at that time. He told me to bring my wagon around to the front of the store. I did. He brought out a cooler filled with soda bottles and some cakes and cookies.

“Here,” he said “is your allowance. You pay me seven cents for a bottle of soda, the cakes are two for five cents and the cookie packs are two cents each. Whatever you get for them is yours to keep.”

From that moment on I knew I was going to be self-supporting if I wanted an allowance. So I trucked my goods down to the factories at break and lunch time and I sold my wares, went back and got the bottles, and returned them for the deposit on each bottle. That was fine but it wasn't the kind of money I wanted and it was a lot of work on very hot, sultry days.

I met a fellow who worked on the docks at the Port of Newark and he offered to sell me firecrackers at very reasonable rates. He was probably stealing them, but in my neighborhood one did not ask questions. Questions were bad. They raised suspicions. So I would buy a full case of firecrackers consisting of one thousand packs for ten dollars and sell each pack for seventy-five cents. Kids in schools started buying them in April, May and June. In July and August, I sold them to local kids around the neighborhood for thirty-five cents (they weren't as rich) and in September and October, I'd sell left-overs to the school kids for fifty cents per pack.

Most of my early life was spent in schools. I graduated from Seton Hall University and attended the Law School there. I graduated in 1961 but went to work as an insurance adjuster in order to pay off my school loans. I worked at two major insurers until the pay just wasn't enough to support a wife and two children so I started my own investigation and subpoena business and succeeded very well at it.

In 1971, after ten years out of law school, I applied for admission to the NJ Bar and took the two-and one-half day examination.

I was sworn in on May 18th, 1971 and practiced civil trial work for twenty-five years, wining nine-two per cent of my cases. During that term I was cited for contempt of court on eight occasions and threatened with incarceration on at least four instances. On two occasions, when other attorneys became over-bearing, the bailiff had to break up near-fistfights. On one of those occasions the judge actually came off the bench to separate us. One could say I was a tough adversary. I prefer to say I represented my clients well.

In 1990, Halloween to be exact, Virginia and I were involved in a near-fatal auto accident. We were on our way to see one of our trotters race at Freehold when another vehicle ran a red light and caved in the side of my Audi. Virginia nearly died. For over a year she had to wear a back brace. We just both decided it was time to retire, get out of New Jersey, and enjoy life.

I actually didn't start writing until 1999 while recovering from colon cancer.

Tears and Tales: Stories of Human and Animal Rescue was my first book and is still selling well. In fact, the marketing is just beginning to take-off three years after publication. We haven't really touched the library market as yet but we do a lot of book fairs and festivals.

The Horse with the Golden Mane is a collection of longer stories dealing with animal/human relationships. Like Tears, it's won its share of awards and sold a goodly number of copies. We also learned how to make our books profitable by keeping expenses down until the marketing begins to work.

My wife then began nudging me to write a sort of a memoir about some of the underworld figures I grew up with and later represented in civil matters as a lawyer. I really didn't want to write an “I was born on . . .” kind of memoir so I used the technique of viewing it from the neighborhood and the people who inhabited my early life there. Virginia says that it's a wow! She's a tough critic and very picky so if I please her, I know it's good. And we have a waiting line of orders already. I am hoping for an August publication date. Information on that can be obtained on our website

What do I do now? Write. Market. Run a farm. Rescue strays. Antagonize my cat. Aggravate my wife. Plague my doctors with solicitations to buy my books.

Even my vet had some on his counter that we sold. My hematologist gets hit for ten books every time he examines me (once a year for blood work).

Russell A. Vassallo