Re-reading after seven years, I’m struck by two things: I’m not entirely comfortable reviewing books that I don’t like, and the general quality of writing about Las Vegas has not much improved.
Let me explain: as a writer, I absolutely hate saying negative things about other writers. I know how hard it is to find the discipline and vision to write a book, then go through rounds of revisions and editorial haggling. To do all this and then see your work ripped to shreds is just heart-breaking.
But sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind, I’ve heard, and sometimes the writer isn’t the victim, the reader is. Maybe the writer took a nice advance then realized that he didn’t have anything meaningful to say on the topic. In that case, I’ve got no pity: I’ve been offered projects that I didn’t feel I could do justice to, and I’ve turned them down, even though it meant passing up a payday. Before I start writing, I feel an obligation to the reader to approach the topic in good faith.
And the more crap that’s out there, particularly the more well-marketed crap, the less room there is for real writing in the book ecosystem: it’s literary kudzu, or snakeheads, or whatever invasive species you can think of. Theodore Sturgeon was probably right when he said “ninety-five percent of everything is crap,” and in regard to Las Vegas/gambling that’s probably a generous estimate. But since for whatever reason I’m in a position to have some influence, I try to encourage good writing. I’m not saying I practice it or anything, I’m just saying I can recognize it and, like a soused undergrad seeing that guy from his o-chem class across the haze of a frat party, say, with an equivalent nod of the head, “Dude!”
As you’ll see, I’m not saying “dude” for this book.