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Five Great Books set in LAS VEGAS

28th June 2020

Las Vegas is the latest region for us to visit in our ‘Great books set in…’ series. Five great books set in LAS VEGAS


Vegas embodies every brash, joyous cliché about the U.S. that the rest of the world hopes might be true”  Mark Ellwood

Las Vegas Noir edited by Jarret Keene and Todd James Pierce

16 stories under the editorship of Jarret Keene and Todd James Pierce. Las Vegas provides the classic sophistication and darkness necessary for a deadly noir story. Stylish, sultry, brimming with ambition and greed, the characters who populate this literary Las Vegas are pushed to the extremes of human experience. From the neon glitter of the Strip to the treacherous views of Red Rock Canyon and Boulder City, from the desperation of Naked City to the racial tensions of the Westside, no other location offers so many different avenues leading to serious trouble

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The Good Thief’s Guide to Las Vegas by Chris Ewan

Charlie Howard – mystery writer and incorrigible thief – is in for a tough vacation in Las Vegas. Losing heavily at poker is one thing, but to find his literary agent, Victoria, being charmed by the Fifty-Fifty casino resort’s star magician, Josh Masters, is another irritation entirely. Still, Charlie’s not one to hold a grudge, least of all when he could be holding Masters’ wallet. With access to the magician’s deluxe suite now tantalizingly at hand, a spot of burglary seems to be in order and Charlie’s only too happy to oblige. Problem is, everything’s bigger in Sin City – including the fall-out from petty crimes – and it isn’t long before Charlie and Victoria find themselves threatened with a one-way trip into the Nevada desert unless they can conjure up a small fortune in twenty-four hours. For Charlie, there’s only one viable course of action: break into as many hotel rooms as he can, steal as much as possible, and just hope that Victoria can summon Lady Luck to the gaming table of her choice. Mind you, it would all be a lot easier if Charlie hadn’t stumbled upon a dead woman, and if Josh Masters hadn’t vanished in the middle of his act…

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Cold Desert Sky by Rod Reynolds

Late 1946 and Charlie Yates and his wife Lizzie have returned to Los Angeles, trying to stay anonymous in the city of angels.

But when Yates, back in his old job at the Pacific Journal, becomes obsessed by the disappearance of two aspiring Hollywood starlets, Nancy Hill and Julie Desjardins, he finds it leads him right back to his worst fear: legendary Mob boss Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel, a man he once crossed, and whose shadow he can’t shake.

As events move from LA to the burgeoning Palace of Sin in the desert, Las Vegas – where Siegel is preparing to open his new Hotel Casino, The Flamingo – Rod Reynolds once again shows his skill at evoking time and place. With Charlie caught between the FBI and the mob, can he possibly see who is playing who, and find out what really happened to the two girls?

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4 a.m. Las Vegas by Michelle Jackson

It’s Halloween in Las Vegas and things are crazier than normal for Connie the wedding planner. Vicky and Frank are in town for their nuptials but she soon realises that he has more on his mind than wedding bells. Vicky’s teenage daughter Tina is less than impressed until she meets Connie’s moody and enigmatic son Kyle. Frank’s brother John is trying to hold everyone together but then something happens that turns the wedding party on their heads at 4am in Las Vegas! Life and love seem to have slipped through Suzanne’s fingers but then, new to Facebook, she stumbles upon more than she expected when she receives a friend request from old flame Ronan in Boston. He’s on his way to Las Vegas for a work convention and Suzanne’s friend Eddie convinces her that she should go too. What has she got to lose? When they all meet in Binion’s Casino the cards have already been dealt but will there be a winner?

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The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Part set in Las Vegas.

Told as a retrospective through the eyes of 13 year old Theo Decker based in Manhattan, where he lives with his mother. His father – a seemingly alcoholic degenerate – walked out on them the previous year. On a trip to the Met he sees a painting, The Goldfinch, by Carel Fabritius, his mother’s favourite painting. There, Theo’s eye is caught by a young red head, accompanied by a much older man… and then a terrorist bomb strikes, killing his mother.

The old man Welty, gives him a ring in the ruins and an enigmatic message and it is as though it all points to the painting, which he takes. These all come to influence his future life. As he is now orphaned he moves into the household of his schoolfriend Theo Barber, where life, apart from his PTSD following the bombing, finds a rhythm. He makes a new friend, Boris who become embroiled in the hidden story of The Goldfinch. Life moves along until Theo’s father turns up out of the blue with his new girlfriend, in debt and caught up in a web of gangster dealings.

The Goldfinch, Theo’s security and talisman, is in fact no longer in his possession, due to Boris’s actions and Boris devotes himself to finding it again. A massive hunt for the painting ends up in a shooting and Theo is left to ponder over his life to date.

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Fancy more books set in LAS VEGAS? Check out our database!

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750 - 3000 words with strong 'sense of place' theme

Short story, travelogue, or memoir

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Entries close 15th November 2020