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Novel by former metro resident aims to please teen readers

Lawrence Tabak

What does a writer do when he discovers his son doesn’t like to read? He sets out to write a book he hopes will interest his son.

{mprestriction ids="1"}Lawrence (Larry) Tabak, who lived and worked here in the 1990s, has written a young adult novel "IN REAL LIFE." The book is set in Overland Park and focuses on a computer gaming prodigy and his search for fortune, fame and maybe even love.

Tabak will be here to promote his book, answer questions and sign books at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 22, at Barnes & Noble at Oak Park Mall.

He and his wife Diane are parents of Josh, now 26, and Zach, 22. Josh was always a big reader. Zach definitely wasn’t into reading, one day telling his father, "There’s nothing that I want to read. There’s no books that interest me."

"That’s very disappointing when you are a writer," said Tabak in a recent phone interview. When he lived here, he was a writer and communications professional for American Century. Now he works for a money manager in Madison, Wisc. His writing has appeared in numerous national magazines and journals, including Fast Company, Salon.com and The Atlantic Monthly.

Zach was interested in computer games, so his father asked, "If I can find a book about a kid who loves to play computer games, would you read that? Zach answered, ‘maybe.’ "

Tabak immediately started searching for such a book. To his disappointment, he couldn’t find one. So he set out to write one himself. The process took a little longer than he expected.

"I probably had it done by the time he was 15," Tabak said. "But it takes a long time to publish a book, even after it’s in the pipeline."


The hardcover book for audiences age 11 to 15, published by Tuttle Publishing, will be officially released Nov. 11.

As for Zach, "He has read it and likes it," Tabak said.

The author chose to forge ahead and get the book published because he figured there were a lot of other kids just like his son that would enjoy the book. Late last month Booklist gave "IN REAL LIFE" a very positive review:

"Readers will find Seth an unusually vivid protagonist. Instead of just announcing Seth is a whiz at gaming and math, Tabak repeatedly puts him in the ‘zone,’ implementing strategic and tactical maneuvers in hot game action, and at other times eagerly digging into calculus and inventing algorithms. In contrast to his hostile South Korean teammates, Seth is a good guy: humble in his hard-won successes but not a wimp. Ultimately, loneliness, culture shock, and a scholarship draw him back home, where a final pleasant surprise involving Hannah’s college plans awaits. It’s always satisfying to see a smart and likable character ‘level up.’ "

In an ironic twist after Tabak wrote the book, his oldest son Josh got really serious about gaming. By the time he was a senior at the University of Wisconsin, he was really devoted to it in a way that was a little "unnerving to his parents."

When Tabak learned his son was a high-ranking player he asked, "Should I be proud or appalled. I didn’t really know how to react."

Josh eventually turned pro, playing for SK Gaming and Fnatic, both huge names in computer gaming.

The Tabaks lived in this area for six years and were members of Congregation Beth Torah and the Jewish Community Center, where he served on the board of directors. They moved to Madison in 1997. He likes this area so much he chose it as the book’s setting.

"I wanted to set the book in a real place because I think that is helpful in terms of the writing. I wanted the book to have a concrete sense of place and I always liked that area. We loved living there and it was great to go back in my imagination and revisit some of the old haunts."{/mprestriction}