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Monday, March 27, 2017

Wish List 5: Reminiscences on My Trip to Las Vegas

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Once a month I am planning on sharing with you all 5 of my biggest wish list books broken up by theme. I know that you all need more on your TBR!!!  This month my inspiration came from my recent trip to Las Vegas.  At some of the locations we visited, the gift shops featured books about the local attractions, both fiction and non-fiction.  I thought it would be cool to explore some of these books in my wish list this month.  This list is a little eclectic in genre – not all are Hist-Fic.

Down the Great Unknown: John Wesley Powell’s 1869 Journey of Discovery and Tragedy Through the Grand Canyon by Edward Dolnick (Non-Fiction)

down the great unknown0n May 24, 1869, a one-armed Civil War veteran named John Wesley Powell and a ragtag band of nine mountain men embarked on the last great quest in the American West. No one had ever explored the fabled Grand Canyon; to adventurers of that era it was a region almost as mysterious as Atlantis -- and as perilous.

The ten men set out down the mighty Colorado River in wooden rowboats. Six survived. Drawing on rarely examined diaries and journals, Down the Great Unknown is the first book to tell the full, true story.

Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century by Michael A. Hiltzik (Non-Fiction)

ColossusAs breathtaking today as the day it was completed, Hoover Dam not only shaped the American West but helped launch the American century. In the depths of the Great Depression it became a symbol of American resilience and ingenuity in the face of crisis, putting thousands of men to work in a remote desert canyon and bringing unruly nature to heel.

Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Michael Hiltzik uses the saga of the dam’s conception, design, and construction to tell the broader story of America’s efforts to come to grips with titanic social, economic, and natural forces. For embodied in the dam’s striking machine-age form is the fundamental transformation the Depression wrought in the nation’s very culture—the shift from the concept of rugged individualism rooted in the frontier days of the nineteenth century to the principle of shared enterprise and communal support that would build the America we know today. In the process, the unprecedented effort to corral the raging Colorado River evolved from a regional construction project launched by a Republican president into the New Deal’s outstanding—and enduring—symbol of national pride.

Yet the story of Hoover Dam has a darker side. Its construction was a gargantuan engineering feat achieved at great human cost, its progress marred by the abuse of a desperate labor force. The water and power it made available spurred the development of such great western metropolises as Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and San Diego, but the vision of unlimited growth held dear by its designers and builders is fast turning into a mirage.

In Hiltzik’s hands, the players in this epic historical tale spring vividly to life: President Theodore Roosevelt, who conceived the project; William Mulholland, Southern California’s great builder of water works, who urged the dam upon a reluctant Congress; Herbert Hoover, who gave the dam his name though he initially opposed its construction; Frank Crowe, the dam’s renowned master builder, who pushed his men mercilessly to raise the beautiful concrete rampart in an inhospitable desert gorge. Finally there is Franklin Roosevelt, who presided over the ultimate completion of the project and claimed the credit for it. Hiltzik combines exhaustive research, trenchant observation, and unforgettable storytelling to shed new light on a major turning point of twentieth-century history.

Waterbourne by Bruce Murkoff (Historical Fiction)

waterbourneA panorama of human desire and enterprise, Bruce Murkoff’s first novel is exceptional for its ambition, its grasp of history and, above all, its stunning array of characters.

Waterborne is set in the Great Depression, and culminates at the Boulder Dam: the greatest engineering project of its time, and a beacon of hope capable of altering the course of society. The nation, crippled by poverty and despair, clearly needs a transformation, and the same is true of the people. Filius Poe grew up with everything, then lost nearly all of it. Lew Beck felt deprived of everything, and now means to have his revenge. Lena McCardell, who thought she had exactly what she wanted, discovers almost overnight that only by taking her son and joining the multitude already on the road will she have the chance of a fresh start and a brighter future.

From various directions and distances, these three are inevitably drawn to this vast construction site in the Nevada desert, along with the stories of their families, their friends and their fellow travelers–the novel itself developing the force of a mighty river, then channeling and harnessing its prodigious energy. With generous understanding and absolute authority, Bruce Murkoff captures the conflicting imperatives of these vivid lives as well as the heart and breadth of the country through which they move, and whose destiny they help shape.

Cold Deck by H. Lee Barnes (Fiction)

cold deckJude is a Las Vegas casino dealer who barely survived the deadly MGM fire in 1980. More than two decades later, he's still dealing, a tired, middle-aged man, divorced, struggling with debt, and trying to be a good father to his children. Then he loses his job and his car is totaled in an accident. When an attractive woman friend offers to help him get another job, Jude is happy to go along. Gradually, he realizes that his new job is part of an elaborate scheme to cheat a casino and that his own fate and that of his children depend on his finding the courage and ingenuity to extricate himself.

"Cold Deck" is the exciting story of an ordinary man who finds himself in extraordinary circumstances. Moving from Las Vegas's mean streets to the insider's world of casino workers, this is a story of survival set against the greed, fears, and glitz of Sin City.

Grandissimo: The First Emperor of Las Vegas by David G Schwartz (Non-Fiction)

grandissimoJay Sarno built two path-breaking Las Vegas casinos, Caesars Palace (1966) and Circus Circus (1968), and planned but did not build a third, the Grandissimo, which would have started the mega-resort era a decade before Steve Wynn built The Mirage. As mobsters and accountants battled for the soul of the last American frontier town, Las Vegas had endless possibilities—if you didn’t mind high stakes and stiff odds. Sarno invented the modern Las Vegas casino, but he was part of a dying breed—a back-pocket entrepreneur who’d parlayed a jones for action and a few Teamster loans into a life as a Vegas casino owner.

For all of his accomplishments, his empire didn’t last. Sarno sold out of Caesars Palace shortly after it opened—partially to get away from the bookies and gangsters who’d taken over the casino—and he was forced to relinquish control of Circus Circus when the federal government indicted him on charges of offering the largest bribe in IRS history—a bribe he freely admitted paying, on the advice of his attorney, Oscar Goodman. Though he ultimately walked out of court a free man, he never got Circus back. And though he guessed the formula that would open up Las Vegas to millions in the 1990s with the design of the Grandissimo, but he wasn’t able to secure the financing for the casino, and when he died in 1984, it remained only a frustrating dream.

Sarno's casinos--and his ideas about how to build casinos--created the template for Las Vegas today. Before him, Las Vegas meant dealers in string ties and bland, functional architecture. He taught the city how to dress up its hotels in fantasy, putting toga dresses on cocktail waitresses and making sure that even the stationery carried through with the theme. He saw Las Vegas as a place where ordinary people could leave their ordinary lives and have extraordinary adventures. And that remains the template for Las Vegas today.

Grandissimo is the story of how Jay Sarno won and lost his casino empire, inventing modern Las Vegas along the way.
In Grandissimo, you'll learn Jay's fascinating story, and also plenty of things you never knew about Las Vegas, including:
- the true story about how Jimmy Hoffa's Teamsters Union first started funding Sarno projects
-how Steve Wynn ended up answering the telephone in Hoffa's suite on the second day Caesars Palace was open
- how Sarno, represented by Oscar Goodman, beat a seemingly-airtight case against him when he was accused of offering the largest bribe in IRS history to an undercover agent
- how Sarno's unbuilt Grandissimo became the template for the 1990s "mega-resort" era in Las Vegas
From start to finish, it's the story of the man who inspired modern Las Vegas.

 

If you are looking to add more books to your list, here are some of the wishlists from a few of my friends this month (to post as they go live):

  • Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede –
  • Colleen @ A Literary Vacation –
  • Erin @ Flashlight Commentary –
  • Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired Books –

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