Perhaps the most fun of a bushel of books about the "new" Las Vegas, 24/7 is as surreal and addictive as a hot game of blackjack at 4 a.m. In this first-person chronicle of a month in Las Vegas, Andrés Martinez whirls through casinos and hotels with his $50,000 book advance, taking notes on characters, nightclubs, and hotel lobbies between wild betting sprees at the blackjack table or roulette wheel.
Part of what makes 24/7 enjoyable is the fact that Martinez is no down-and-out gambler, but a former lawyer with an Ivy League pedigree whose main vice seems to be an addiction to Diet Coke. He takes to his exploits with the intoxication of someone released from dull routine, without ever falling down on the job. As a result, he's never too delirious to note the weirdest details of this desert mirage. It's a city "where buildings themselves perform," lined with such features as a Jules Verne theme park, erupting volcanoes, and battling pirate ships. Early on, the author gets philosophical: "What type of city did we build in the middle of a desert, a metropolis with no reason, beyond our willpower and playful imagination, to exist?" Anyone who's ever asked themselves the same question will satisfy their curiosity with this entertaining, firsthand view of the fastest-growing city in America. --Maria Dolan
From Publishers Weekly
Here's the concept: ex-lawyer and ex-Wall Street Journal reporter Martinez visits some 10 casino hotels in five frantic weeks, jeopardizing $50,000Amost of his book advanceAat blackjack, baccarat, roulette and the slots. His overstuffed journal sandwiches brief glimpses of the changing cityAvia such characters as a local historian and a minister/bathroom attendant at a topless barAwithin a lengthy blow-by-blow account of his time at the tables. Some engaging passages do capture local lunacyAMartinez's betting pace quickly gets him comped, and he shepherds a Gamblers Anonymous member cashing her paycheck at a casino so that she will leave the premises without gambling her money away. And Martinez displays a sly wit, observing, for example, that future archeologists will conclude that "Las Vegas was an important religious center." However, though he ends each section with a report on his ever-fluctuating "nest egg," and inserting reflections on Dostoyevski's The Gambler, Martinez doesn't elevate his notebook into narrative. He recounts the antic thrill of dropping $450 in new winnings on a gift for his wife, but never reveals enough to convey what risking his stake means to him. Indeed, though the author, returning to Vegas after his initial stint, ends up losing big, he concludes his book with a happy shrug, having "felt the exhilaration of truly letting go." His whimsicality makes one wonder about the source of his immunity toward ill fortune. (Nov.)
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