For those of us who love Las Vegas, we crave it when we return to our real lives. The feeling of when a dealer busts on the flop. The rush of a concert crowd. The thrill of a rooftop party. And raking in the chips after a winning round of Texas Hold’ Em. But we’re adults with responsibilities and can’t always go to Vegas on a whim. Don’t worry, though, because these authors have you covered. Whenever you have a hankering for Sin City, these five great eBooks set in Vegas will transport you there. Enjoy!
Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions, by Ben Mezrich
Everyone knows the adage “the house always wins,” but that isn’t the case in this book. For two years, a group of MIT students hustle Las Vegas casinos out of millions of dollars by counting cards at blackjack. Though counting cards is not necessarily illegal, it is still considered cheating in Las Vegas and thus highly discouraged. But should you find yourself smart enough to pull it off and have a group of friends willing to back you up, you just might get away with it. At least, that’s what happens in this book. Based on the author’s experiences following the real team around, the book is classified as non-fiction, but with Mezrich’s flare for liberties, it’s more like a realistic fiction novel. The book starts off at a sprint, dumping you into the action at the blackjack table, with “the suits” hot on the heels of the main character, Kevin Lewis. With non-stop action, quick pacing, and a glimpse into the world of card counting, this is a quick read perfect for those layovers while travelling. Follow it up with a visit to a site like CasinoSource, and you’ll feel like you’re right back in the heart of the Strip.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, by Hunter S. Thompson
“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.” This famous first line from the book, originally published as a two-part article series in Rolling Stone Magazine in 1971, pretty much sums up what you can expect from this novel. It is a drug-binging ride with no real plot and moments of clarity interspersed with drug-inspired madness. It’s suspected that the main character, Raul Duke, is an alter-ego of the author, Hunter S. Thompson. Meanwhile, the mentor archetype and attorney Dr. Gonzo is likely an alter-ego for real-life friend and famous Chicano attorney Oscar Zeta Acosta. The underlying theme is the search for the American dream and the discovery that this dream is a lie, set against the backdrop of Las Vegas. It seems the author is mourning the loss of the ’60s and trying to escape the shit show of the ’70s, all while misbehaving as Duke and Dr. Gonzo galivant across the desert like a couple of drug-tripping pirates. This book is a fun read that will make you laugh, but don’t take it too seriously.
The Stand, by Stephen King
Las Vegas is symbolic of escaping reality in favour of fantasy. So, if you love Vegas and science fiction/fantasy, this book is for you. It’s a long read, coming in between 1100-1200 pages, depending on the version, and is separated into three parts with a timeline that spans six months. In the beginning, a strain of flu is accidentally released from a government compound in the desert in the early ’90s by an infected soldier, who unknowingly infects his family and, inevitably, 99% of the population. After the initial infection, King describes society’s political and social breakdown, which is eerily congruous to what we’ve experienced during the current pandemic. This post-apocalyptic novel tells the story of the survivors who are eventually made to pick sides between Mother Abigail in Nebraska, who advocates for a peaceful way of life, and the antagonist and “Dark Man” Randall Flagg, who is building an army in Las Vegas. Whoever is left is called through dreams to join one or the other and eventually must make a last “stand” in Las Vegas. This is one of those reads that requires a time investment but is well worth it if you’re a Stephen King fan.
Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas, by Nicholas Pileggi
If you’re fascinated with classic Las Vegas and the mafia, like author Nicholas Pileggi is, then this book is for you. Pileggi, who also wrote Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family, was intrigued by mobsters and their power in his youth. He couldn’t understand how they could do things like double-park without anyone, even the police, ever saying anything. This childhood affinity contributed to his pursuits as a journalist and, eventually, as a novelist. Casino is the story of how the mafia ultimately lost their influence with the Teamster’s pension fund, a four-billion-dollar hedge fund, in the ’70s. This was a result of a love triangle between Frank Rosenthal, a gambler and casino mogul, Tony Spilotro, a gangster, and Frank Rosenthal’s wife, Geraldine “Geri” McGee, a showgirl. This love triangle ultimately resulted in six crime bosses being convicted in 1983, ending the mafia’s reign over Las Vegas. When Martin Scorsese asked Pileggi to adapt Casino into a screenplay, Pileggi provided him with 800 pages of notes across a single-spaced timeline, which Scorsese read in three weeks.
Leaving Las Vegas, by John O’Brien
Described as one of the best books of the year by Cliff Sargent, the man behind the Better Than Food YouTube channel, this novel by John O’Brien was first published in 1990. It was the only book of his to be published while he was alive because just two weeks after learning it would be made into a movie, he committed suicide. His sister and father describe this book as his suicide note. Despite the macabre backstory of the author, this novel is an honest look at the darker side of Las Vegas and a surrender to addiction. Ben Sanderson, the main character, is an alcoholic from Los Angeles who decides to go to Las Vegas to drink himself to death. When he gets there, he meets Sera, a prostitute, and they fall in love. The first half of the book follows their journeys to each other, while the second half focuses on the love affair that follows their meeting. Spoiler alert: it’s not enough to sway them off their original paths. If you prefer honest, authentic stories without the frills, this book does a magnificent job of portraying the importance of living in the moment and caring deeply for another person.
Markus lives in San Francisco, California and is the video game and audio expert on Good e-Reader! He has a huge interest in new e-readers and tablets, and gaming.