In 1982, at the age of 29, I found myself in Los Angeles working for a large multinational bank. I was putting in 60-hour weeks, syndicating multimillion-dollar loans in Asia, and I was deeply unhappy. I had always wanted to be a writer. In spite of the career I had fallen into, I still had very strong romantic notions of who I wanted to be, which amounted to a hybrid of Hunter Thompson, George Orwell, Wallace Stegner, Ernest Hemingway, Edward Abbey, Ken Kesey and Tom Wolfe. But here I was, nearly 30, sunk in a job that was completely at odds with that vision. As I drove to the bank in downtown L.A. in my pinstriped suit, Brooks Brothers shirt and wing-tip brogans, I would remind myself that Stegner and Orwell were not out hawking loans in their late 20s; not commuting to the financial district carrying a briefcase full of credit reports; not reading The Wall Street Journal at a large oak desk on the 38th floor of the First Interstate Tower.