In this lively and probing book, award-winning author Pete Earley traces the extraordinary evolution of Las Vegas -- from the gaudy Mecca of the Rat Pack era to one of the country's top family vacation spots. He revisits the city's checkered history of moguls, mobsters, and entertainers, reveals the real stories of well-known power brokers like Steve Wynn and legends like Howard Hughes and Bugsy Siegel, and offers a fascinating portrait of the life, death, and fantastic rebirth of the Las Vegas Strip.
Earley also documents the gripping tale of the entrepreneurs behind the rise and fall and rise again of one of the largest gaming corporations in the nation, Circus Circus -- to which he was given unique access. In his trademark you-are-there style, he takes us behind the scenes to meet the blackjack dealers and hookers, the heavy hitters and bit players, the security officers, cabbies, and showgirls who are caught up in the mercurial pace that pulses at the heart of this astounding city.
For a portrait of razzle-dazzle Las Vegas, this is a curiously sober book. Earley, an Edgar and Robert F. Kennedy Award winner (Circumstantial Evidence), gained the cooperation of Circus Circus Enterprises, owners of the new pyramid-shaped Luxor super casino, to write an awkward hybrid of a work: part business history, part vignettes of life in Las Vegas. The first segment, more than one third of the book, tells the history of Circus Circus. It's a solid account of the rise of corporate casinos by Earley, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, but as Vegas tales go, there's nothing hugely dramatic in the Circus Circus story. The book's sprightlier but diffuse second part describes episodes inside the Luxor and the individual characters who populate it: a casino boss, a showgirl, a security guard, etc. Earley showcases some unflattering scenes, such as a security guard's beating of a homeless man, and picks up some only-in-Vegas anecdotes, like the many ways casino dealers have tried to hide stolen chips (e.g., in a brassiere). But only one of these characters is compelling: a young prostitute who opens up to the author to a remarkable degree; surviving the Las Vegas jungle, she trains as a blackjack dealer and ultimately leaves town. Earley does not comment directly on the broader moral issues of gambling: halfway through the book, he quotes a cabbie who says the city is based on greed, but near the end, he cites a Luxor manager who asserts that it's a place "where people come to forget their problems." Andres Martinez's 24/7 (Forecasts, Oct. 25) goes further in conveying the manic energy of Las Vegas, but the city still awaits a stylish chronicler who can fully capture its uniqueness.
Best Vegas book!!!
I have read several books about Vegas and this is by far the best one I have come across I wish the author would write a follow up to this book with more stories great read you won't be disappointed.