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A Short History of Las Vegas Paperback – March, 2004
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From the Publisher
Barbara and Myrick Land, internationally distinguished journalists, have collaborated on six books, including A Short History of Reno. In addition to her articles and newspaper columns, Barbara Land has written four books. Myrick (Mike) Land was an editor of LOOK magazine and a prolific journalistic who published eleven books. Mike Land, who died in 1998, had recently retired as professor of journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Myrick Land (1922-1998) served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, then graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1945. He received a master's degree from Columbia University in 1946. During the 1960s and early '70s, he was senior editor and assistant managing editor of Look magazine in New York. Land came to Reno in 1976 as an assistant journalism professor in the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno retiring in 1993. He was inducted into the Nevada Writer’s Hall of Fame in 1996, along with his wife and literary collaborator, Barbara Land.
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While I had been to Las Vegas before, I had only vague awareness of the forces driving its explosive growth in the post WWII years. "A Short History of Las Vegas" is an excellent resource for clearing up some of that vagueness.
Myrick and Barbara Land take a straight-ahead chronologically ordered approach to laying out the history of Las Vegas. They begin with the archeological evidence of its pre-history, take us through the first native American, Mexican and European discoveries that have accompanying historical data. Then they walk the reader through the exploration of Fremont, the growth of the railroad (attracted by the fresh water springs that gave rise to the city's Spanish name..."the meadows"), the construction of the Hoover Dam, the growth of legalized gambling and liberalized divorce laws, and WWII and post-WWII growth from the growing entertainment (and organized crime!) and nuclear testing industries. Whew.
They close with another portrait of Las Vegas, the place that houses more than a million residents who not only make the gaming and entertainment industries work, but the place that serves as a suburban home for those who work there.
This is a book that is free of agenda, and doesn't offer a judgement on the goodness --or lack of-- in the illusion-manufacturing that drives much of the regional commerce. There is perhaps a little too much emphasis on the destruction of older gambling properties in favor of describing the town's second and third generation development...but this does not diminish the overall usefulness of the book in grounding the reader in the essential history of Las Vegas.
Whether you've been there, going there, or just have in interest in famous American places: if you want a fundamental understanding of how Las Vegas became what it is today, this book is a good choice.