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Gaming Guru

 

'Sharks' a Fine Vegas History and Biography Combination

7 September 2005


John Smith, one of Nevada's finest newspaper columnists and authors (the Bob Stupak bio, No Limit Stupak biography and the Steve Wynn bio, Running Scared among others) has penned one of the best biography-history combination books ever with Sharks in the Desert: The Founding Fathers and Current Kings of Las Vegas (400 pages, hardbound, $24.95). His book is a new arrival at Gambler's Book Club. It focuses on those folks who made big money in the casino business, or as the publisher (Lyle Stuart) puts it: "From the made men to the corporate tough guys -- they're all here. Things only appear to have changed. The corporate hard-asses have the same goal as the mobsters who preceded them: to make as much money as possible without regard to who gets destroyed in the progress."

How HAS Las Vegas changed since the early days? Who were the visionaries, the entrepreneurs, those who anticipated what it has become today? Also, what changed the perception of Las Vegas as an "outlaw city," to "a community that prospered because it remained intriguing and was able to constantly reinvent itself"?

From Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel, the Flamingo and El Rancho to the earliest days of the Frontier and Stardust, Smith takes us on a historic trip, focusing on the people, their dreams, what went right, what went wrong and how it all led to the Las Vegas we know today.

It's a journey down memory lane with a cast of characters -- some gunned down, others who became billionaires. Packed with photos, a tremendous index of names and places and facts drawn from more than 100 books and other documents, the book presents Johnny Rosselli, Marshall Caifano, Frank Costello, Ralph Lamb, Tony Spilotro, Frank Rosenthal.

There's much territory to cover and yet Smith does it well. He continues with the roles of Moe Dalitz, Estes Kefauver, Jimmy Hoffa, Sid Wyman, Morris Shenker, Howard Hughes as the century rolled on and times changed.

The book shifts to the downtown area with Jackie Gaughan and Mel Exber, back to the Strip for Bill Bennett and Jay Sarno, Ralph Engelstad and Bob Stupak.

Two of the city's most important people who get plenty of attention are Steve Wynn and Benny Binion. Remember Meshulam Riklis at the Riviera? Smith reminds us, while examining what went right and wrong at the original Aladdin, later at the Tropicana. He focuses on the rapid rise of the Fertitta and Boyd families and their many successes, the visionary William Harrah; then moves to "relative newcomers" Sheldon Adelson, Carl Icahn, the Maloof family, Peter Morton (the Hard Rock), and the sometimes mysterious but respected Kirk Kerkorian.

This is one heck of a book about one heck of a city and as one wise guy once said: "... the place (Las Vegas) remains one thing above all else: Irresistible."

Howard Schwartz
Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

Howard Schwartz Websites:

www.gamblersbook.com
Howard Schwartz
Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

Howard Schwartz Websites:

www.gamblersbook.com