Abracadabra: A Novel
David Kranes University of Nevada Press, 2017 Library of Congress PS3561.R26A63 2017 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Abracadabra is a fantastical and inventive addition to the tradition of noir writing, which not only delights and surprises at every turn but also raises important questions about identity, the human condition, the nature of evil, and the state of the union. The novel begins with a mystery, when Mark Goodson, a seemingly well-adjusted married man, disappears during a magic act, precipitating a series of events, encounters, and seemingly inexplicable occurrences, which it falls to a former professional football player, Elko Wells, to weave together into a story that is at once compelling and true. The concussion that ended Wells’ playing career left him open to hearing voices and discerning patterns of meaning helpful to his work as the owner of a missing-persons agency. He also owns a celebrity look-alike agency, which complicates matters in humorous ways, and his reliance on a string of cocktail waitresses called the Bloody Marys who are on the lookout for various people adds another level of intrigue.
Magicians and misdirection, gambling, down-on-one’s-luck, the crazed sense of possibility and impossibility, mistaken identity, impersonators and body doubles, people acting bizarrely with all sorts of chaos, collisions, and overlaps thrown in for good measure. Again and again the reader is swept into treacherous waters, always confident that the writer is in control of his material. Because the many twists and turns the plot takes are all but impossible to anticipate, the experience of reading Abracadabra is deliciously magical.
"Day-to-day life in immigrant communities is described with refreshing clarity and heart... an unusually accessible primer on immigration law and a valuable guide to the ways it currently works to perpetuate an excluded immigrant underclass with diminished rights."
—TheNew York Review of Books
The national debate over American immigration policy has obsessed politicians and disrupted the lives of millions of people for decades. The Battle to Stay in America focuses on Las Vegas, Nevada–a city where more than one in five residents was born in a foreign country, and where the community is struggling to defend itself against the federal government’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants. Told through the eyes of an immigration lawyer on the front lines of that battle, this book offers an accessible, intensely personal introduction to a broken legal system. It is also a raw, honest story of exhaustion, perseverance, and solidarity. Michael Kagan describes how current immigration law affects real people’s lives and introduces us to some remarkable individuals—immigrants and activists—who grapple with its complications every day. He explains how American immigration law often gives good people no recourse. He shows how under President Trump the complex bureaucracies that administer immigration law have been re-engineered to carry out a relentless but often invisible attack against people and families who are integral to American communities.
Kagan tells the stories of people desperate to escape unspeakable violence in their homeland, children separated from their families and trapped in a tangle of administrative regulations, and hardworking long-time residents suddenly ripped from their productive lives when they fall unwittingly into the clutches of the immigration enforcement system. He considers how the crackdown on immigrants negatively impacts the national economy and offers a deeply considered assessment of the future of immigration policy in the United States. Kagan also captures the psychological costs exacted by fear of deportation and by increasingly overt expressions of hatred against immigrants.
When Beyond the Mafia first appeared in 1996 it was hailed as a significant contribution to the history of Las Vegas and of ethnic minorities in America. Author Alan Balboni traces the history of Italians in Las Vegas from the founding of the city in 1905, recording their activities in the fledgling settlement. As Las Vegas grew, Italian Americans participated in every aspect of the city’s society and economy, including construction, retail establishments, hotels, and—after the statewide legalization of gambling in 1931—the casino industry. Basing his research on well over a hundred interviews, as well as the records of Italian American organizations, public agencies, and other sources, Balboni has produced a sparkling and thoroughly documented account of the history of one of Las Vegas’s most progressive and productive ethnic minorities. This new paperback edition includes an afterword by the author that brings the story of Las Vegas’s Italian Americans up to the present.
Winner of the 2021 Nebraska Book Award for Fiction!
Inspired by true events, The Brightest Place in the World traces the lives of four characters haunted by an industrial disaster. On an ordinary sunny morning in 2012, a series of explosions level a chemical plant on the outskirts of Las Vegas. The shock waves are felt as far away as Fremont Street. Homes and businesses suffer broken windows and caved-in roofs. Hundreds are injured, and eight employees of the plant are unaccounted for, presumed dead.
One of the missing is maintenance technician Andrew Huntley, a husband and father who is an orbital force in the novel as those who loved him grapple with his loss. Andrew’s best friend, Russell Martin—an anxiety-plagued bartender who calms his nerves with a steady inflow of weed—misses him more than he might a brother. Meanwhile Emma, Russell’s wife—a blackjack dealer at a downtown casino—tries to keep her years-long affair with Andrew hidden. Simon Addison, a manager at the plant who could have saved Andrew’s life, is afflicted by daily remorse, combined with a debilitating knowledge of his own cowardice. And then there’s Maddie, Andrew’s only child, a model high-school student whose response to the tragedy is to experiment with shoplifting and other deviant behavior.
Against the sordid backdrop of Las Vegas—and inspired by the PEPCON disaster of May 4, 1988—this engaging novel is a story of grief and regret, disloyalty and atonement, infatuation and love.
Bring Your Legs with You
Darrell Spencer University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004 Library of Congress PS3569.P446B75 2004 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
A boxer who brings his legs with him comes to the ring with the strength and stamina to make it through every round of a tough fight. In this new collection, winner of the prestigious Drue Heinz Literature Prize, Darrell Spencer delivers fiction with just that kind of power.
Bring Your Legs with You contains nine interconnected stories set in Las Vegas. Featuring various perspectives and narrators, they are filled with unforgettable characters, including Carl T. Plugg, a sharp-dressed, smooth-talking, non-hustling pool shark; Spinoza, the philosophical day laborer with “Department of Big Thoughts” lettered on the door of his pickup; Jacob, an arrogant lawyer who learns too late the dangers of swimming with the sharks; Gus, a man who has never seen his son fight despite his insatiable fascination with the sweet science; and Jane, a woman wary of her ex-husband, but still in love enough to share her bed with him.
Above them all looms Tommy Rooke, retired prizefighter and self-employed roofer. Undefeated in the ring, Rooke walked away from boxing at the top of his game, to the confusion and consternation of his friends and family. As his father, former manager, and various other hangers-on encourage him to stage a comeback, Tommy moves through the gated communities and sun-blasted strip malls of Las Vegas, wrestling with personal choice, the caprices of fate, and the price the gods demand for our sins.
More than a book about boxing, gambling, luck, and broken dreams, <I>Bring Your Legs with You</I> delves deeply into the life of its flawed but intelligent hero, a man deeply devoted to his friends but lost in a violent world. A writer unafraid to show the connections between people, Spencer delivers a hard-hitting collection filled with rich dialogue and spare prose.
Cold Deck: a novel
H. Lee Barnes University of Nevada Press, 2013 Library of Congress PS3552.A673854C65 2013 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Jude is a Las Vegas casino dealer who barely survived the deadly MGM fire in 1980. More than two decades later, he’s still dealing, a tired, middle-aged man, divorced, struggling with debt, and trying to be a good father to his children. Then he loses his job and his car is totaled in an accident. When an attractive woman friend offers to help him get another job, Jude is happy to go along. Gradually, he realizes that his new job is part of an elaborate scheme to cheat a casino and that his own fate and that of his children depend on his finding the courage and ingenuity to extricate himself.
Cold Deck is the exciting story of an ordinary man who finds himself in extraordinary circumstances. Moving from Las Vegas’s mean streets to the insider’s world of casino workers, this is a story of survival set against the greed, fears, and glitz of Sin City.
Las Vegas is considered a modern icon of excess. It offers every imaginable extreme of greed, pleasure, and despair, all supported by technology that enhances fantasy and allows residents and visitors alike to forget reality and responsibility. The authors of the fourteen stories in Dead Neon imagine Sin City in the near future, when excess has led to social, environmental, or economic collapse. Their stories range from futuristic casinos to the seared post-apocalyptic desert, from the struggle to survive in a repressive theocracy to the madness of living in a world where most life forms and all moral codes have vanished. Dead Neon explores the possible future of America by examining the near future of Las Vegas. The authors, all either Vegas-based or intimately familiar with the city, capture its unique rhythms and flavor and probe its potential for evoking the fullest range of the human spirit in settings of magic, horror, and despair.
Every year, more than thirty-five million people from all over the world visit Las Vegas; only two million call the city home. Everyday Las Vegas takes a close look at the lives of those who live in a place the rest of the world considers exotic, even decadent. Using broad research, including interviews with more than one hundred Las Vegans, Rex Rowley--who grew up in Las Vegas--examines everyday life in a place that markets itself as an escape from mundane reality.
Rowley considers such topics as why people move to Las Vegas, the nature of their work and personal lives, the impact of growth and rapid change, and interaction with the overwhelmingly touristic side of the city. He also considers the benefits and perils of living in a nonstop twenty-four-hour city rich in entertainment options and easy access to gambling, drugs, and other addictions. His examination includes the previously unstudied role of neighborhood casinos patronized by locals rather than tourists and the impact that a very mobile population has on schools, churches, and community life.
Rowley considers the very different ways people perceive a place as insiders or outsiders, a dichotomy that arises when tourism is a mainstay of the local economy. His work offers insights into what Las Vegas can teach us about other cities and American culture in general. It also contributes to our understanding of how people relate to places and how the personality of a place influences the lives of people who live there.
The homeless men and women represented in this book speak candidly about their plight, its origins, and the many obstacles to escaping it. They discuss the unique challenges and opportunities that Las Vegas’s focus on tourism, indulgence, and diversion offers its homeless residents. This compelling and emotionally charged ethnography counters many of the stereotypes of homeless men and women, revealing the remarkable diversity of their circumstances. It also offers their perspectives on social services and civic attitudes toward homelessness.
This newly revised and expanded edition of Howard Hughes chronicles the life and legacies of one of the most intriguing and accomplished Americans of the twentieth century. Hughes, born into wealth thanks to his father’s innovative drill bit that transformed the oil industry, put his inheritance to work in multiple ways, from producing big-budget Hollywood movies to building the world’s fastest and largest airplanes. Hughes set air speed records and traveled around the world in record time, earning ticker-tape parades in three cities in 1938. Later, he moved to Las Vegas and invested heavily in casinos. He bought seven resorts, in each case helping to loosen organized crime’s grip on Nevada’s lifeblood industry.
Although the public viewed Hughes as a heroic and independent-minded trailblazer, behind closed doors he suffered from germophobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and an addiction to painkillers. He became paranoid and reclusive, surrounding himself with a small cadre of loyal caretakers. As executives battled each other over his empire, Hughes’ physical and mental health deteriorated to the point where he lost control of his business affairs.
This second edition includes more insider details on Hughes’ personal interactions with actresses, journalists, and employees. New chapters provide insights into Hughes’s involvement with the mob, his ownership and struggles as the majority shareholder of TWA and the wide-ranging activities of Hughes Aircraft Company, Hughes’s critical role in the Glomar Explorer CIA project (a deep-sea drillship platform built to recover the Soviet submarine K-129), and more. Based on in-depth interviews with individuals who knew and worked with Hughes, this fascinating biography provides a colorful and comprehensive look at Hughes—from his life and career to his final years and lasting influence. This penetrating depiction of the man behind the curtain demonstrates Hughes’s legacy, and enduring impact on popular culture.
Las Vegas, says William Fox, is a pay-as-you-play paradise that succeeds in satisfying our fantasies of wealth and the excesses of pleasure and consumption that go with it. In this context, Fox examines how Las Vegas’s culture of spectacle has obscured the boundaries between high art and entertainment extravaganza, nature and fantasy, for-profit and nonprofit enterprises. His purview ranges from casino art galleries—including Steve Wynn’s private collection and a branch of the famed Guggenheim Museum—to the underfunded Las Vegas Art Museum; from spectacular casino animal collections like those of magicians Siegfried and Roy and Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef exhibit to the city’s lack of support for a viable public zoo; from the environmental and psychological impact of lavish water displays in the arid desert to the artistic ambiguities intrinsic to Las Vegas’s floating world of showgirls, lapdancers, and ballet divas. That Las Vegas represents one of the world’s most opulent displays of private material wealth in all its forms, while providing miserly funding for local public amenities like museums and zoos, is no accident, Fox maintains. Nor is it unintentional that the city’s most important collections of art and exotic fauna are presented in the context of casino entertainment, part of the feast of sensation and excitement that seduces millions of visitors each year. Instead, this phenomenon shows how our insatiable modern appetite for extravagance and spectacle has diminished the power of unembellished nature and the arts to teach and inspire us, and demonstrates the way our society privileges private benefit over public good. Given that Las Vegas has been a harbinger of national cultural trends, Fox’s commentary offers prescient insight into the increasing commercialization of nature and culture across America.
Las Vegas holds a unique place in the popular imagination and in the work of any number of contemporary writers of fiction. The fourteen stories in this anthology explore the multifarious personalities of America’s “Sin City” through the experiences of the dreamers and gamblers, the losers and the lost, who inhabit Las Vegas and confront its myriad attractions and disappointments.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Las Vegas was a dusty, isolated desert town. By century’s end, it was the country’s fastest-growing city, a world-class travel destination with a lucrative tourist industry hosting millions of visitors a year. This transformation came about in large part because of a symbiotic relationship between airlines, the city, and the airport, facilitated by the economic democratization and deregulation of the airline industry, the development of faster and more comfortable aircraft, and the ambitious vision of Las Vegas city leaders and casino owners. Landing in Las Vegas is a compelling study of the role of fast, affordable transportation in overcoming the vast distances of the American West and binding western urban centers to the national and international tourism, business, and entertainment industries.
The meteoric rise of Las Vegas from a remote Mormon outpost to an international entertainment center was never a sure thing. In its first decades, the town languished, but when Nevada legalized casino gambling in 1931, Las Vegas met its destiny. This act—combined with the growing popularity of the automobile, cheap land and electricity, and changing national attitudes toward gambling—led to the fantastic casinos and opulent resorts that became the trademark industry of the city and created the ambiance that has made Las Vegas an icon of pleasure.
This volume celebrates the city’s unparalleled growth, examining both the development of its gaming industry and the creation of an urban complex that over two million people proudly call home. Here are the colorful characters who shaped the city as well as the political, business, and civic decisions that influenced its growth. The story extends chronologically from the first Paiute people to the construction of the latest megaresorts, and geographically far beyond the original township to include the several municipalities that make up today’s vast metropolitan Las Vegas area.
This expanded edition is the perfect book for the southern Nevada-bound traveler or the armchair adventurer. The very name of the city conjures a collection of images: fun, excitement, escape . . . or, more concretely, mega-sized hotels and casinos, spectacular showrooms, theme parks, and marquees as large as office buildings lit with the names of the biggest stars. Las Vegas: The Great American Playground, illustrated with many fine historical photographs, traces the city’s history from its first Native American occupants more than 10,000 years ago to its present status as a premier tourist destination. It is the story of a group of colorful, enterprising individuals who made the desert bloom with undreamed-of possibilities.
The remarkable economic growth of Las Vegas between 1980 and 2007 created a population boom and a major increase in the ethnic and religious diversity of the city. Today, over 21 percent of the city’s population is foreign born, and over 30 percent speak a language other than English at home. The local court system offers interpreters in 82 languages, and in 2005/2006, for example, more than 11,000 people, originating from 138 countries, were naturalized there as American citizens.More Peoples of Las Vegas extends the survey of this city’s cosmopolitan population begun in The Peoples of Las Vegas (University of Nevada Press, 2005). As in the previous book, this volume includes well-established groups like the Irish and Germans, and recently arrived groups like the Ethiopians and Guatemalans. Essays describe the history of each group in Las Vegas and the roles they play in the life and economy of the city. The essays also explore the influence of modern telecommunications and accessible air travel, showing how these factors allow newcomers to create transnational identities and maintain ties with families and culture back home. They also examine the role of local institutions—including clubs, religious organizations, shops, restaurants, and newspapers and other media—in helping immigrants maintain their ethnic and religious identities and in disseminating national and even regional cultures of origin.More Peoples of Las Vegas adds to our awareness of the rich and varied ethnic and religious character of Las Vegans. In a broader context, it offers thoughtful perspectives on the impact of globalization on a major American city and on the realities of immigrant life in the twenty-first century.
Off Paradise: Stories
Hart Wegner University of Nevada Press, 2001 Library of Congress PS3573.E367O38 2001 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Martin, the central character of Hart Wegner's powerful short-story cycle, is a middle-aged German emigre who has found a home, of sorts, in the isolated and often surreal setting of contemporary Las Vegas. Exiled at the end of World War II with his parents from their beloved Silesia, the family struggles to come to terms with the turmoil of history and memory while they cope with the challenges of assimilation in an alien setting.
In stories that range from the Nevada desert to the lost world of prewar Silesia, Wegner explores, through the perspectives of Martin, his aging parents, and their small circle of fellow emigres, the intricate tapestry of the exile experience--childhood recollections of the vast and fertile plains of East Germany and the shelter of comfortable and loving homes, memories of the horrors of war, the guilt and terror and despair of displacement, the frustrations of finding one's way in a new and alien culture, the precious ties of family and longtime friendship. And most of all, loss--the loss of home; of an identity formed by an ancient language, the details of a shared culture, and a common sense of past and of future; of loved ones; and finally, and most tragically, of memory itself.
Wegner's characters are vividly and bravely human, bitter, tender, despairing, and full of hope. And ever-seeking a new home, a new place in which to belong after their long sojourn in the wilderness. The inner world of the exile has never been examined with such sympathy, such clarity, or such eloquence.
Beneath the glitzy surface of the resorts and the seemingly cookie-cutter suburban sprawl of Las Vegas lies a vibrant and diverse ethnic life. People of varied origins make up the population of nearly two million and yet, until now, little mention of the city has been made in studies and discussion of ethnicity or immigration. The Peoples of Las Vegas: One City, Many Faces fills this void by presenting the work of seventeen scholars of history, political science, sociology, anthropology, law, urban studies, cultural studies, literature, social work, and ethnic studies to provide profiles of thirteen of the city’s many ethnic groups. The book’s introduction and opening chapters explore the historical and demographic context of these groups, as well as analyze the economic and social conditions that make Las Vegas so attractive to recent immigrants. Each group is the subject of the subsequent chapters, outlining migration motivations and processes, economic pursuits, cultural institutions and means of transmitting culture, involvement in the broader community, ties to homelands, and recent demographic trends.
Eugene P. Moehring analyzes the development of Reno and Las Vegas since 1945 with special emphasis on the years after 1970. Major factors that shaped the development of both cities were the growth of corporate gaming and megaresorts and increased personal leisure and affluence. Moehring provides an engaging, informative, and readable history of the divergent paths that Reno and Las Vegas took over the past forty years. Reno, the nation’s gambling mecca in the 1950s, led the way, developing the successful tourist economy that Las Vegas later embraced. Through the 1970s the two cities resembled each other greatly, but Las Vegas grew to achieve global significance, while Reno slowly declined, searching for new industries to power its future. Moehring shows that the development of the Las Vegas Strip was crucial to southern Nevada’s success. The casinos, hotels, and entertainments of the Strip, and the workers they supported, formed a new urban center ringed by offices, residences, shopping, and a major university. In effect, it became a third metropolis, governed by county commissioners, larger than Reno and Las Vegas combined.
Moehring brings the story of the three cities to the present day, examining lessons learned from the Great Recession and the efforts under way in all three metropolises to diversify their economies. Moehring makes an important contribution with the only current study of Nevada’s cities, focusing on urban development issues rather than social history or the gaming industry. As the service economy continues to grow, not only in Nevada but throughout the United States, Moehring’s work has many implications for urban studies and particularly the study of urban development in other metropolitan areas.
Resort City in the Sunbelt is a non-sensationalistic, scholarly account of Las Vegas from the building of the Hoover Dam to the construction of the MGM Grand Hotel. Historian Eugene Moehring provides a balanced view of the city’s urban development. Although a unique city in many ways, Las Vegas has displayed characteristics common to other sunbelt cities across the western United States—including underfunded social services, low-density urbanization with a heavy reliance upon automobiles, a sluggish response to problems within minority communities, a preference for efficient, business-like government, and a mania for low taxes. The gaming and resort aspects are fully considered, but Moehring emphasizes the city as part of the continually expanding sunbelt.
From this important study, historians will conclude that, despite some of its unusual traits, Las Vegas is much like other western cities and therefore deserves recognition as one of the fastest-growing centers in postwar America.
In a new and expanded epilogue to this edition, Moehring looks at the major events of the three decades leading up to 2000 and their underpinnings.
Howard Cannon (1912 - 2002) represented Nevada in the U.S. Senate from 1958 until 1982 and acquired a reputation as one of its most productive and influential members. Because he was a modest man more comfortable with hard work than self-aggrandizement, he was also one of its most under-appreciated. Nonetheless, Cannon influenced many major changes in American politics and policies during his time in office.
Born to a devout Mormon family in a small farming community in southwest Utah, Cannon served in the Army Air Force during World War II and emerged from the war as a hero. Soon he was part of the postwar migration of ambitious, adventurous Americans to the booming desert city of Las Vegas, where he practiced law and entered local politics. In 1958 he was elected to the U.S. Senate and joined a group of influential young Democratic senators who were to play a major role in shaping the country’s future. His service on the Aeronautical and Space Sciences Committee and the Armed Services Committee led to major changes in the air travel industry, including deregulation, and to increased support for national military preparedness.
Today’s Las Vegas welcomes 35 million visitors a year and reigns as the world’s premier gaming mecca. But it is much more than a gambling paradise. In A Short History of Las Vegas, Barbara and Myrick Land reveal a fascinating history beyond the mobsters, casinos, and showgirls. The authors present a complete story, beginning with southern Nevada’s indigenous peoples and the earliest explorers to the first pioneers to settle in the area; from the importance of the railroad and the construction of Hoover Dam to the arrival of the Mob after World War II; from the first isolated resorts to appear in the dusty desert to the upscale, extravagant theme resorts of today. Las Vegas—and its history—is full of surprises. The second edition of this lively history includes details of the latest developments and describes the growing anticipation surrounding the Las Vegas centennial celebration in 2005. New chapters focus on the recent implosions of famous old structures and the construction of glamorous new developments, headline-making mergers and multibillion-dollar deals involving famous Strip properties, and a concluding look at what life is like for the nearly two million residents who call Las Vegas home.
On the Las Vegas Strip, blockbuster casinos burst out of the desert, billboards promise "hot babes," actual hot babes proffer complimentary drinks, and a million happy slot machines ring day and night. It’s loud and excessive, but, as the Project on Vegas demonstrates, the Strip is not a world apart. Combining written critique with more than one hundred photographs by Karen Klugman, Strip Cultures examines the politics of food and water, art and spectacle, entertainment and branding, body and sensory experience. In confronting the ordinary on America’s most famous four-mile stretch of pavement, the authors reveal how the Strip concentrates and magnifies the basic truths and practices of American culture where consumerism is the stuff of life, digital surveillance annuls the right to privacy, and nature—all but destroyed—is refashioned as an element of decor.
More than forty million visitors per year travel to Sin City to visit the gambling mecca of the world. But gambling is only one part of the city’s story. In this carefully documented history, Geoff Schumacher tracks the rise of Las Vegas, including its vital role during World War II; the rise of the Strip in the 1950s; the explosive growth of the 1990s; and the colossal collapse triggered by the real estate bust and economic crisis of the mid-2000s. Schumacher surveys the history of the iconic casinos, debunking myths and highlighting key players such as Howard Hughes, Kirk Kerkorian, and Steve Wynn.
Schumacher’s history also profiles the Las Vegas where more than two million people live. He explores the neighborhoods sprawling beyond the Strip’s neon gleam and uncovers a diverse community offering much more than table games, lounge acts, and organized crime. Schumacher discusses contemporary Las Vegas, charting its course from the nation’s fastest-growing metropolis to one of the Great Recession’s most battered victims.
Sun, Sin & Suburbia will appeal to tourists looking to understand more than the glitz and glitter of Las Vegas and to newcomers who want to learn about their new hometown. It will also be an essential addition to any longtime Nevadan’s library of local history.
First published in 2012 by Stephens Press, this paperback edition is now available from the University of Nevada Press.