Three Vegas-based books every local should have on the shelf

Molly O'Donnell

There’s no shortage of nonfiction books about Las Vegas, from Mob tales and the bad old days of the casinos to political memoirs and personal narratives of redemption. When it comes to fiction, though, Las Vegas somehow fades into the background. In its place is Sin City, a glitzy haven of gambling, drinking, crime, drugs and sex.

But there’s no reason to set Sin City aside, even if you happen to live in Las Vegas. As a site of the literary imagination, this mad town is often as revelatory and unexpected as it is stereotypical. So, we revisit a few books every Las Vegan should read, which use those stereotypes to unique purposes or don’t rely on them at all.

• You hear “1970s book about Las Vegas,” you think Fear and Loathing. But John Gregory Dunne’s 1974 novel Vegas: A Memoir of a Dark Season is actually a more compelling depiction that offers a world peopled by the salt of the earth of Sin City: amputees, dealers, cowboys and hookers.

• Matt Ruff’s 2007 Bad Monkeys is a high-speed ride through the history of a secret killing organization with more plot twists than an M. Night Shyamalan movie. It just so happens that ride relies on the word of a potentially mad woman holed up in the psychiatric wing of the Clark County jail.

• A salacious 2009 New York Times Best Seller, Charles Bock’s Beautiful Children was as likely to get trashed as praised. The landscape within the novel is vast, though, ranging from suburbia to the Strip and including diverse characters, even kids, who live equally diverse lives. That alone makes it worth the read.

  • Here's a roundup of Las Vegas or Nevada-related books that you may have missed in 2018.

  • In her new chapbook, I Was the Girl With the Moon-Shaped Face, Cassera’s world is filled with desert imagery, youthful nostalgia and a relatable realm ...

  • Listen, discuss, workshop and, of course, buy books.

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