Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Las Vegas Skyline at Night - Joey BLS Photography 

Last year I took my first trip to Sin City, NV.  My expectations (low though they might have been), were wildly exceeded.   It was all so……well, so LAS VEGAS!

Many people have written about the glitz, the glitter, the sheer scale of the place and the mega-casinos, the seedier aspects,  the flamboyant characters—everything rolled up together that makes Las Vegas.

Las Vegas has been an inspiration to writers for years, and MCPL has a great collection of both fiction and non-fiction that will make you feel like you’re right in the middle of the Strip on a Saturday night.

Fear and Loathing..
The quintessential book set in Las Vegas is, of course, Hunter S.  Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Originally written for Rolling Stone magazine in 1971, Thompson was on assignment to cover a motorcycle race in the Nevada desert, but wound up writing about a thinly veiled version of himself going to Nevada to write about a motorcycle race.  This crowning achievement of Gonzo Journalism places Thompson in the persona of Raoul Duke, the central character in a drug-fueled wild ride, chasing the American Dream through a decadent and culturally corrupt Las Vegas.

A novel published just last year, Gangsterland by Tod Goldberg, follows the transformation of Sal Cupertine from legendary Mafia hit man into Rabbi David Cohen, leader of a Las Vegas synagogue. After a mob hit gone wrong, Sal must take on a new persona.  Some intensive training, a bit of plastic surgery and Sal finds himself quoting the Torah and guiding his flock. But the Mafia, as always, isn’t done with Sal. Gangsterland is a wickedly dark and funny story by an entertaining writer who draws comparisons to Elmore Leonard.

Winner Takes All
In Winner Takes All, Wall Street Journal reporter Christine Brinkley offers this story of the trio of tycoons who took over Las Vegas and transformed it from a slightly seedy gambling mecca into a place where entertainment can be provided with good taste. Deal-maker Kerkorian, casino visionary Wynn, and professor-turned-mogul Loveman battled it out to build the biggest and the best pleasure palace, and, in the process, created the wide range of upscale restaurants, Broadway caliber shows, and headline acts. Brinkley also portrays the older Vegas, where aged Mafia barons dined on the osso buco at Piero's Italian restaurant..

Last Honest Place...
To journalist Cooper, writing in Last Honest Place in America, the dynamiting of the Desert Inn (Vegas home of the Rat Pack) in 2001 marked the moment when old Vegas “cool” died and the new corporate model claimed definitive victory. In his journey through Sin City, Cooper takes the reader from the top of the Luxor Hotel’s glass pyramid, down “the Strip,” past the golden glow of the Mirage, and into the neighborhoods the poorer residents call home. A cast of characters ranging from casino king Steve Wynn to the leader of the Vagabond Motorcycle Club people Cooper’s story. “For me,” writes Cooper, “Las Vegas is the last, most honest place in America. Vegas is often described as a city of dreams and fantasy, of tinselish make-believe. But this is getting backwards. Vegas is the American market ethic stripped completely bare, a mini-world totally free of the pretenses and protocols of modern consumer capitalism. Watching it operate with barely any mediation generates nothing short of an intellectual frisson.”

Las Vegas has also served as background for films ranging from noir detective thrillers to raucous buddy comedies. MCPL has a few of these in our collection.

The Hangover
The Hangover is a fast paced comedy about a a 24-hour trip to Vegas gone very wrong. Doug and his three groomsmen head to Vegas for a night out before Doug's wedding. The next morning, Doug is missing, and no one has any idea what happened or where he might be. Phil, Stu, and Alan set out to track him down with only the smallest pieces of information, and it's a race against time to get him back to LA in time for his wedding.

Ocean's Eleven
Three prestigious Vegas casinos.  More than $160 million. In Ocean's Eleven, Danny Ocean and his handpicked team of conmen and grifters are ready to carry out the most elaborate casino heist in history, and they just might get away with it. This caper film is a remake of the 1960's film that starred the original Rat Pack, and was given prop's for the climatic heist scene.

I'll be heading back out to experience more of the Vegas magic later this year. If you're up for some grownup fun, but can't swing the airfare, try a few of titles mentioned in this post, and you'll feel like you're right there!


Me and Dude

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