Hot sun, hype, mobsters and money: it's Las Vegas, baby. Las Vegas: An Unconventional History, a companion to the PBS American Experience documentary series (and co-author Stephen Ives' film, Las Vegas), promises and delivers on its title. This western Capital of Sin began as a bleak boom-and-bust railroad town (and gateway to Hoover Dam) in which, says co-author Michelle Ferrari, "There was not much to see." True, unless you had opportunistic eyes and entrepreneurial spirits as did mob man Bugsy Siegel and a parade of other high rollers who forged The Strip from a dusty street. Ferrari and Ives have claimed their window of opportunity to plumb Las Vegas in this wonderful wacky tale of the small desert oasis (yes, really!) that grew into a glittering grotto of gambling and good times. With classic photos capturing Sin City's characters, hijinks, kitsch and casinos, the book also offers four essays by guest authors (Jim McManus, David Hickey, Max Rudin and Marc Cooper) that are odes to the town's glitz, glam and perfidy. Settled by Mormons, built up by mobsters, and fueled by the likes of millionaires Howard Hughes and Steve Wynn, the city's hedonistic roots are bared in vivid neon in Las Vegas, negating the town's latest advertising claim that "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."

comments powered by Disqus