Casino Stories

Everyone who leaves a casino has a story to tell, and, for better or worse, little or no hesitation about sharing it. Casinos are, after all, our society's great equalizer. All who enter this realm of gambling and entertainment, who search for that "one big score" or merely one fleeting moment of escape from the drudgery of daily life, are offered the same chance at success—or failure.

In Nevada, casino stories are omnipresent. Literary anthologies, short stories, plays, countless works of fiction, graduate theses and dissertations all employ the casino as a main character. One can readily find children's books, romance novels, erotica, and science fiction all set in and around casinos. In today's modern publishing environment there is a ready and growing supply of electronic novels and online short stories set in mega-resort casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, or in tired and tattered gambling establishments whose crackling neon signs have seen better days.

Casino stories are a common feature of our popular literature, a complement to the phenomenon of Las Vegas' recent economic and population growth. While the city prides itself on the ability of its people and its buildings to reinvent themselves all too frequently, one can still find the tawdry remnants of a town that rose from the arid Southern Nevada desert in post-World War II America, alongside the modern gaming resort complexes that appear to devour all available real estate on the Strip. In these gaming establishments, everyone is free to reinvent themselves, forget themselves, find themselves and, sometimes, to lose themselves.

Such casino stories present the great American fairy tale, the tragicomic opera, the thrilling "whodunit," and the classic love story. The challenge, of course, is in separating fact from fiction. In casinos—where reality is hidden amidst a blinking, musical array of slot machines and the endless clatter of poker chips, where Elvis impersonators and hookers mingle with convention goers and locals—fact and fiction are irrelevant opening acts.

Among the many authors who have published works with Las Vegas and its casinos as a central locale—and in some cases as a central character—are such luminaries as: Jackie Collins, Michael Connelly, Janet Evanovich, A. A. Fair (Erle S. Gardner), Dick Francis, Ian Fleming, Michael Jaffe, Elmore Leonard, John McDonald, Larry McMurtry, Larry McNally, Fern Michaels, Robert Nathan, Robert Parker, Mario Puzo, Harold Robbins, Hunter S. Thompson, and James Swain.

These authors, and many others, have produced a long list of recognizable characters: private detectives, mobsters, police officers, entertainers, sports figures, investigative reporters, and others who have prowled Las Vegas casinos, brothels, hotels, neighborhoods, and desert outposts in search of truth, justice, and their version of the American way. Memorable works, such as Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas; the film Ocean's Eleven; John O'Brien's Leaving Las Vegas; Ian Fleming's Diamonds Are Forever; Robert Nathan's The Rancho of the Little Loves; Mario Puzo's Fool's Die; and Harold Robbins' Sin City represent a brief roll call of novels that shape our perceptions and understanding of casinos.

Few cities can claim such a list of titles: From the obvious Murder Las Vegas Style, The Strip, The Blackjack Hijack, Read'em and Weep, Snake Eyes; to the clich Temples in the Sand, Hearts Are Wild, In the Chips, The Oddsmakers, Stardust and Sand, Spill the Jackpot, No House Limit, The Only Game In Town, Against the Odds; to the clever Raw Deal, Let It Ride, Killer in Pair-a-Dice, One Armed Bandit, Raising the Stakes, Last Call, and Money Shot, the titles of Las Vegas novels present the casino and its environs as the ultimate setting for stories of gambling, sex, crime, magic, and fantasy.

The world's fascination with casinos is an evolving saga. In this neon playground everyone is welcome—everyone with a wad of cash or a line of credit in the casino.

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