I am a sucker. If there is a book about the mob, I can’t help myself. I am not a mafia groupie – I just find the whole genre fascinating. I walked past this book quite a few times at the bookstore. Finally, there were only two copies left on the budget shelf and I threw caution and cash to the wind and bought it.
The author is a long time frequenter of Las Vegas. He started going back in the early heydays of the 1960’s and collected volumes of memorabilia. He started putting the mementos on E bay and buyers were more interested in the stories than the items.
Reading this book feels like going to someone’s house to play cards and have a few drinks while one person at the table regales the rest with stories about the past. I like that feel. It reminds me of my grandparents and their brothers and sisters telling the kids about what it was like back in the day.
Each chapter is short. It only took me two nights to read the whole thing and I could have finished it in one except I had an early start the next day. There are lots of recurring characters – some are straight out mafia; some are “colorful, local identities”; some are big name stars (The Rat Pack etc) and some are shady businessmen who saw a chance to make a lot of money in a big sandbox.
There is nothing too deep or dark in any of the stories. It is just a fun look at how the strip developed from nothing but the potential Bugsy Siegel saw to what it is now – a mecca for gambling, girls and a place where what happens there, stays there.
I enjoyed the author’s notes about he and his wife. They were regulars at the Sands and when that declined they moved on to the Riviera and the Flamingo. If you loved the movie “Casino”, you will recognize a lot of the people who became characters in that movie. Likewise Godfathers I and II. It is the Las Vegas we all wish was still there – if only for a weekend.