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Sharks in the Desert Hardcover – August 4, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Barricade Books; First Edition edition (August 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1569802742
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569802748
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #342,680 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Frank on October 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Sharks' a Fine Vegas History and Biography Combination

by Howard Schwartz

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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.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By D. Donovan, Editor/Sr. Reviewer on March 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The complete saga of Las Vegas from its early roots with the mob to modern corporate times is presented in a lively history of the city's real rulers in SHARKS IN THE DESERT: THE FOUNDING FATHERS AND CURRENT KINGS OF LAS VEGAS. Many made their fortunes developing the casino business the city is most famous for today - but many myths have surrounded their activities - myths which columnist Smith dispels in an investigative history which tracked mobsters and their connections to the city's rich and monied.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lifesamystery on October 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book is a fun read if you are someone who is familiar with Las Vegas. The book indeed delivers on what the subtitle, "..The Founding Fathers and Current Kings of Las Vegas" states. Each chapter is more or less devoted to discussing a specific person and the impact they had on setting the stage for the evolution of Las Vegas. I imagine those of you who have never been infatuated with Las Vegas will want to pass on this one.

Based on some of the anecdotes, it seems amazing that some of the Vegas hotels are still open today. The mobsters and the so called "straight laced" owners who ran (or still run) the hotels come off as either extremely brilliant or totally incompetent. It is no wonder that most of the Strip hotels have all been swallowed up by one or two companies. The author also seems to question if some hotels are completely honest when it comes to gaming.

The problem I had with the book was perhaps I was expecting something more chronological and dramatic. Instead, the book is like a compilation of old newpaper columns that are all put together in one place(of course, maybe that is not a surprise since the author is a newspaper reporter). Much like other books of that nature, the reading becomes almost repetitive and seems easier to take over a long haul rather than a week or two of reading cover to cover. Also note that there are a few typos and errors that make it seem like someone did a spellcheck with a computer rather than really proofreading it.

If you can stick with this type of book, you will probably enjoy it. Now this is the first book about Las Vegas I have read so I can not compare it to anything but I've got to believe there is probably something a bit more compelling.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By scherf.com on December 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With "Sharks in the Desert" John L. Smith wrote one of the best books about Las Vegas ever. This book has a lot of substance and it is full of information. Although it's nonfiction, it reads like a novel. Lots of valuable quality research are packed into the 400 pages. Although we have seen the TV specials about Las Vegas history, it was so refreshing to read John's book -- this is a great read from the first page to the last. The reader learns about today's casino moguls and the harsh but real techniques to separate casino patrons from their money. It also tells the story how like a gigantic masterplan Las Vegas rose from the barren desert into today's Sodom and Gomorrah. Smith is excellent in telling it like it is and this book is a great educational tool for anyone who wants learn more about the meadows, i.e. Las Vegas, and the people who developed this desert oasis in the past and who run this town like clockwork presently.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. snaider on September 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of the easiest, most organized and fun reads of Las Vegas history that I have ever read. The short chapters easily keep your interest and the way the book is laid outl, you can set it down for a while (although that is not easy to do) and return to it without loosing track of anything. I loved it!
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