From Publishers Weekly
Las Vegas deserves a deeper lookAand this book makes a good start. As Littlejohn, Professor Emeritus of journalism at the UC-Berkeley, points out in his introduction, not only is Las Vegas the fastest growing urban area in the country, it is the number one tourist and convention destination, despite its disturbingly high rates of crime, bankruptcy, divorce and high school dropouts. The shadow behind those statistics, of course, is the gambling industry on the Strip, which Littlejohn's writing team of Berkeley graduate students have kept firmly in mind. A social worker says the "24-hour town" aspect furthers gambling and alcohol problems among the poor, while a family therapist contends that it frays marriages. For the elderly, casino bingo halls have become de facto social centers, while the growth of megachurches seems to mirror the bigger-is-better casino entertainment. Specific chapters focus on black Las Vegas, water policy and the sex trade. Some of the writing is awkward, and the transitions between chapters are not always smooth, but Littlejohn's cautionary conclusion rings true: some trends visible in Las Vegas portend an America of unplanned growth, but the city will remain sui generis. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
A mixed bag of essays, mostly good, on America's strangest city. Las Vegas, writes Wall Street Journal correspondent Littlejohn (Architect: The Life and Work of Charles W. Moore, 1984, etc.), is the ultimate company town, a huge and growing city that pretends to economic diversity while drawing most of its revenue from a single industry: casino gambling. Visitors to the city leave behind some $5 billion annually at the gaming tables, to say nothing of billions more at hotels, restaurants, and shopping centers; small wonder, Littlejohn suggests, that so many other American cities and states are plunging headlong into legalized, government-controlled lotteries and casinos. And small wonder, he adds, that so many people are now flocking to Las Vegas to stake a share in the jackpot: between 1990 and 1997 the metropolitan area grew by an astonishing 48 percent, ``a record no other large U.S. county even comes close to matching.'' This growth, in Littlejohn's view, is of itself neither good nor bad; it merely is. His contributors take a similarly morally distanced, reportorial point of view. One, Boston Globe writer Marie Sanchez, travels inside a Las Vegas high school to find widespread drug use, alienation, violence, and a penchantat least among girlsto turn to prostitution for spending money around Christmas; another, freelance journalist Lisa Moskowitz, looks into the surging growth of housing in the Las Vegas Valley, a growth that comes in defiance of all economic senseand of the arid realities of this desert place; still another, magazine editor Lori Leibovich, writes of the seemingly contradictory rise of vast ``megachurches'' that rival the casinos for architectural splendor. Not all the pieces are as good, but the volume adds up to a valuable snapshot of America's fastest-growing city. (For another tour of Las Vegas, see David Thomson, In Nevada, p. 1213.) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.