23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2001
This book should be categorized as American History instead of being assigned to the social niche of Las Vegas gangster lore. The implied dynamic between uniquely American styles of Good and Evil is expressed in Miltonian terms, where Evil is more than simple badness, it also is endlessly energizing and fascinating. Denton and Morris propose what few Americans would willingly admit. The Mobs and sub Mobs in this country are not a thing apart, but very much part and parcel of who we are. The suggestion is here that we must grow past the _light on the hill_ fantasy of American purity and exceptionalism and accept the harsh truths of the real America without flinching. The secondary suggestion I think Denton and Morris put foreward is that America has operated in an atmosphere of denial. The psychology of denial was one of the consequences of the cold war era, when overt criticism of the American system was judged as seditious or unpatriotic. The Las Vegas mechanism was, as the authors illustrate, connected to the McCarthy period, red scares, xenophobia, atomic testing ( guests in Vegas hotels paid premium to have views of the desert bomb tests )in a morbid symbiosis. The shadowy figure of Meyer Lansky haunts the entire scene as the mastermind who may have so effectively compromised J.Edgar Hoover that virtually none of the mob activities would be admitted to, much less prosecuted. This book is In Your Face history, not abstract chin stroking. Too controvesial for your average university, where it is the very book that ought to be assigned. You won't be able to get a complete handle on the American condition without taking The Money an The Power into consideration. If you can find it in the used section of your local bookstore, read Dark Victory : Ronald Reagan, MCA and the Mob by Dan E. Moldea too. The picture will begin to flesh out.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
"Sixty years ago, Las Vegas was a gritty, wind-whipped crossroads of faded [houses of ill-repute] . . . and honky-tonks with stuttering neon." "It is a city in the middle of nowhere that is the world's most popular destination." The city is all about "diversion, entertainment, money, sex, escape, deliverance, another chance, a last chance, and another life for a few hours, days, forever." From these threads, the authors portray Las Vegas as the archetype of what America is becoming. Whoever has the money calls the tune, whether it be crooks, hustlers, businessmen or politicians. The person who controls the action "has the juice" and everyone dances to that person's tune. The basic story line is that Las Vegas has never seen money or people it didn't like. From Las Vegas, the authors tie the corruption centered there to the United States government, many foreign governments, Nevada government, and to many other institutions and facets of American life.
Although the book covers the last half century of Las Vegas, the book also deals with the roots of the town earlier. The real focus, however, is on the most wide-open gangster years in Las Vegas from the 1940s through the early 1960s. You will learn a lot about Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Benny Binion, Senator Pat McCarran, and Hank Greenspun who were the major figures involved in the early development of Las Vegas. What may be news to you is how many "above-board" people were involved with gangsters. Most of them will be names you recognize, and some will be attached to people you admire (possibly like the Kennedys, Richard Nixon, or Lyndon Johnson).
I suspect that one of the reasons that the book focuses more on the early years is that it takes a while for investigative reporters to locate all of the crooked deals that have gone down. By now, everything up the the Kennedy assassination is probably pretty well exposed. While not so much is said about the 1990s, you are left wondering if perhaps the gangster infuence may not be as great now, or just isn't exposed as much. As someone who follows public companies that do business in Las Vegas, I have certainly noticed that profits from the casinos are more measly than make sense now. Is someone else getting the rest? In the old days in the cash room, it was "three for us, one for the government, and two for Meyer [Lansky]."
The book details the role of Las Vegas in laundering crooked money, skimming off profits for mobsters, and suppressing competition for gambling revenues. The mobsters appear to have been buying politicians (on both side of the fence) all along, and gotten their money's worth.
As described, this may sound shocking to you. On the other hand, I noticed that there was little in the book that had not already been reported many times before. The book's genius is its ability to connect the dots so that you see the pattern of corruption behind glittering lights on the Strip and in Glitter Gulch.
The authors also detail some of the social problems in Las Vegas, including the history of racism, high rate of suicide, rough treatment of workers by casinos, prostitution, drugs, and lack of cultural activities for a city of its size. Interestingly, Las Vegas has been the nation's fastest growing metropolitan area for a long time. It does make you wonder about what may be coming if other areas follow this example.
The book's main strength is the writing style of the co-authors. They make old news fresh and interesting. The sentences and their images are vivid and clear, as the quotes in the beginning should show.
The book has three main weaknesses. First, the case isn't really made that this pattern of corruption is developing in the same way elsewhere. Perhaps it is, and perhaps it isn't. But having raised the point, I would have liked to know more. Second, there is some unnecessary repetition in the book. Juicy stories seem to be retold just to get the reader excited, rather than to add new information. Third, a lot of the characterizations are based on who hangs out with whom. The degree of connection can never be exactly established, so the case may be understated or overstated. Obviously, if there were more information it would have been revealed.
I did have one check on the book that you won't have. I have spoken with one of the people profiled in the book by telephone. During that experience (the details of which I promised to keep confidential), I definitely came away with the feeling that something was wrong with the person I was talking with. The material reported in this book about this person certainly fits in with my impressions of someone who was not strictly on the up-and-up.
I think the main question raised by this book is how much the social fabric is at risk with criminals having so much influence in the United States. The answer would seem to be quite a bit.
Be sure you know whom you are dealing with before you go ahead.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2001
For the younger generation of American and tourists of the world, Las Vegas is a city of glitz and extravagance; however, underneath all the light, noise and the make believe world of casino there lies a deeper truth.
"The Money and the Power" by the husband and wife team of Sally Denton and Roger Morris tells the story of the true Las Vegas that sprung up in the sands of southern Nevada after WWII.
The book tells the story of the important figures that shaped, started, bribed, killed, strong armed their way to start an empire that became the city of the 21st century.
The book encompassed such figures that we might have seen in movies that tried to portrait the lives, but this book does it much better and more colorful. People like Lansky, Bugsy, Wynn, Binion, Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton, the Mormon Church, Union members, etc.
This book is a must read ("I can't put it down", "up all night reading it", "Kept me on the edge of my seat", "So-and-So at their best", "Buy a copy now!", "Must have in your library", etc) not only for people who are fascinated by the city and its glitz. But also for the people who are interested in the history of southwestern United State, the Teamsters, politicians, and of course, the Mobsters (Syndicate) that started all this with the downtown casinos and progressed to the strip with its mega-billion dollar hotel/casino.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2006
Most Las Vegans hated this book. We are used to "exposes" written by journalists who fly in for a few weekends and then purport to deliver "the real truth" about what goes on in Vegas. Having lived here for twenty years, this book finally reveals what became apparent to me after the first five years of living here: Las Vegas and the casino industry have been influencing politics nationwide since at least the Kennedy administration and everyone comes here to drink deelply from the great river of cash which floats through this town. Why would every presidential candidate since Kennedy visit a State with so few electoral votes? There are copious references throughout the book and in the back for sources. It is well researched and packed with information. It will disappoint those looking exclusively for lurid scandals in tabloid writing styles which have characterized most other Las Vegas histories. The interactions between organized crime, intelligence agencies and political figures did not surprise me. Like it or not, Las Vegas is a major player in American politics and the only place in America where the back rooms are lit by neon. Say what you want about Vegas, but what goes on here is deeply tied to the fabric of American society by politicians who choose to participate. No one held a gun to their heads to sit down at the cash table.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2001
Authors Denton and Morris should be highly commended for having brought to the attention of the Nation through their painstaking research the long standing corrupt inner workings of Las Vegas, Nevada.
At the very heart of this sociological phenomena is pure and unadulterated greed. Separating the sucker from his dollar and making him feel good at the same time is the cultural more that serves its masters, the mob in the past and corporate America presently.
As outlined in the Book the combined political, economic and one member of the Fourth Estate, in the person of Herman Milton Greenspun, ran a scurrilous campaign of defamation directed at me personally as FBI Special Agent in Charge. Their efforts to destroy legally predicated cases directed at casinos engaged in mob skimming, corrupt politicians and a crooked Federal Judge was shocking even to myself, a thirty-two veteran of the FBI who thought he had experienced the machinations of many highly sophisticated criminals in New York, Miami and Boston.
The money and the power of Las Vegas continues as I speak. Many local, state and federal politicians and officials have been greased all over the nation as the Las Vegasizing of America moves forward. Hopefully this book will alert people to the deleterious consequences of a business, once considered a vice, will have upon the democratic institutions of our country.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2001
The authors do an excellent job of tying together the seemingly disparate threads (eg. the Syndicate, domestic and possibly foreign intelligence services, corrupt law enforcement and other government officials) that account for the political (and by implication moral) corruption that pervades the American "body politic". The conclusion that any intelligent reader will draw from this book is that America is no longer a constitutional republic with democratic input but rather some kind of enormous racket with enough crumbs and goodies spread downward to keep the "masses" content and amused; otherwise they might start to wake up and cause some real trouble for those currently benefitting from the current system.
I think that the authors (hopefully only because they did not think that there was enough room to cover the topic in this book) might have included a bit more on the history of the "dope trade" in America. As author John Beeching described in his book "The Opium Wars", the opium addiction business was started in a serious way by both the British and Dutch East India companies in the nineteenth century and there were (still) prominent American families who benefitted from this business. As late as the early 1920's the British were still resistant to the idea of giving up the opium business in the Far East. This combined with recent and not-so-recent documentation of British propaganda activities within the United States (see "Desperate Deception" by Thomas Mahl and "Propaganda For War" by Petersen) designed to subvert the democratic will of the American citizenry further makes one suspicious that there is a large foreign intelligence component to the problems described by Denton and Morris. Author Mahl documents the great influence British Security Coordination under William Stephenson had on the attitude and "style" as it were of the OSS (later to become the C.I.A.). Given that the American intelligence services were formed with great input from the British intelligence services during World War II, and given the behaviour of the American intelligence services in "running interference" for drug smugglers one might wonder how much of your American policy is in fact being influenced by foreign powers such as the British. Is this what the so-called "special relationship" is about?
Hopefully the American public will wake up as to what is in fact going on, but when I listen to contestant and audience members on late-night shows such as Leno and Letterman, I am not optimistic.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2002
The Money and the Power begins as an intriguingly detailed history of Las Vegas, digging deep into mobster mythology to present a "true" history in a field steeped in mythos. The underlying theme is that the peculiar set of circumstances that allowed legalized gambling in Nevada have allowed the corruption the entire (presumably previously uncorrupt?) country.
This is an interesting argument, and at first the authors do a good job of marshalling impressive battalions of detail into a compelling narrative. Soon, however, the prose turns oddly purple, and each chapter end seem culled from gothic melodrama.
Readers of James Ellroy will recognize the basic scenario from his American Tabloid/Cold Six Thousand series, but it plays better as hard-boiled fiction than curiously naive history. One can agree with many of the authors' historical points without concuring with their increasingly strident and unsupported conclusions.
When the corporations finally take the casinos over from the mob, we're told they are in fact no different from their murderous predecessors. The proof: they routine lobby congress for legislation favorable to legalized gambling, and because the casino business is very profitable, they routinely get what they want.
This dastardly turn of events has surely never happened in this country before...
The first half of this book can be recommended as an impressively researched and well-written chronicle of Vegas' early days. But the later portions, long on hysteria and short on clear analysis, are tough going.
25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2004
The book has some excellence. It is also extremely breathless in its pace, the way a lot of muckraking books are, and it suffers from an unfortunate habit of inserting the most mundane phrases in quotes and following them (or preceding them) with attributions like "with what one casino manager called" or "as a team of writers would see them" or "as one journalist reported."
Entire paragraphs without attribution (except maybe in the endnotes) that beg for it -- and then in almost every paragraph, one of these pointlessly recurring attributions. It makes for an annoying reading experience.
Either cut back on the pointless attributions, create your own descriptions for what you are attributing, or don't attribute at all.
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2002
As an author and professional tour director I'm always on the lookout for insightful material to share with my travel clients. This book was recommended to me by a bookstore in Las Vegas saying that this was the real history of the city.
I found this book to be more than a Bugsy Siegel or Godfather Part II interpretation of the past. The cast of characters is far more reaching (Steve Wynn, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, the Kennedys, Howard Hughes, Senator Paul Laxalt, the Rat Pack, the Jewish underworld, etc.).
I particularly found the part about Joseph P. Kennedy to be interesting. Here's a man that was head of the SEC and our Ambassador to Great Britain, yet a man who President Truman said is "As big a crook as we've got anywhere in this country."
I would also recommend a book titled, "Double Cross" as one to read when it comes to understanding the Syndicate, the Kennedys, Hollywood, and Las Vegas.
This book gives you a deep understanding of how Las Vegas was created and helps make a trip to this city far more interesting and intriguing.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2003
Sorry, I see the reviews here for this book which is why I ordered it, and it certainly does NOT read like a thriller. I labored through about 300 of the 400 pages. The authors are little overboard on the whole conspiracy issue, Kennedy, Lansky, Hoffa, Hughes, Wynn, Nixon, Bugsy, etc. An argument can be made that any major metropolis; NY, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, is the center of an international crime network, how they try to link Las Vegas to some of them is too much. Las Vegas is not the heart of all things evil. There is a great deal of chronological detail in the beginning and then many time skips and jumpbacks, very annoying. Good points; details on many back stories on the "founders" of Las Vegas, deals, side deals and stuff you didn't know. If you look what was there in 1950 compared to what it there today it is astounding. 100,000 hotel rooms in the middle of the desert, billion dollar structures dedicated to our fascination of beating the house. Without our desire to gamble the city could never have reached its growth and popularity. The authors detail the influential power of gaming, but casinos have as much clout as any other trillion dollar industry.