While raising a family, Phillip McCalister, 40, has run a shirt-making factory in California. With the economy collapsing and huge payments due on his overpriced real estate, he’s threatened with foreclosure and must suspend operations. His wife files for divorce and moves out with their two young sons. The story of Phillip’s demise as a legitimate businessman and his reinvention as a purveyor of medicinal marijuana is told in flashbacks. The opening chapter and alternating chapters reveal a present-day legal situation in which Phillip faces undisclosed court proceedings. By the book’s conclusion, the two narratives have been linked and his fate is made clear. Following the loss of his business and most of his assets, he’s encouraged by Raul, a former employee, to exploit California’s arcane medicinal marijuana regulations. In many cases, it isn’t considered criminal to cultivate and distribute marijuana and edible, THC-infused products to California’s hundreds of medical marijuana clubs. With some brief market research and considerable expertise from his now-partner Raul, Phillip becomes a major player in the marijuana market. The two quickly make a fortune, with Phillip becoming “Jack Gram,” servicing various niches including “the Armenians over in Canoga and the surfers over in Northridge” as well as “the Russians in downtown” and “the Israelis, too.” The entertaining specifics about the marijuana industry indicate inside knowledge, and the varieties of product number in the dozens—including “Purple Urkle,” “Afghani Kush,” “White Widow,” “Pineapple Express” and “AK-47.” Alternating the chapters of Phillip’s current criminal problems with the back story of his growing involvement in the enterprise lends a modest air of mystery. Much less successful, however, are two unnecessary detours into explicit sex scenes, one involving Phillip’s soon-to-be ex-wife that offers little insight into their obvious marital dilemmas and the second coming across as an inexplicably raunchy male fantasy involving two sex workers and a night of endless pleasure. These episodes detract from a story with potential to shed light on how, after losing everything, a man can reinvent himself.
Jack Gram is no Walter White, but his entertaining devolution into the world of drug manufacturing is a decent hit of pot-lit.