Sun, Sin & Suburbia: The History of Modern Las Vegas by Geoff Schumacher
c.2012, Stephens Press
$19.95 U.S. & Canada
You’ve been working out. You’ve been exercising, eating right and getting enough sleep. Already, you’ve worked yourself up to a proud limit with weights, your bicep bulges, and you’ll keep doing what you’re doing – at least on your right side, anyhow.
That’s because you want to be sure you can handle several hours of lever-pulling, button-pushing and card-holding. You’re heading for Las Vegas – and “CHA-ching’s” the thing. But what do you know about Sin City?
With the new book Sun, Sin & Suburbia by Geoff Schumacher, you’ll learn even more. Many people think that Bugsy Siegel and the mob created Las Vegas, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Las Vegas was originally a mid-1800s settlement for Mormons who were sent to “preach the gospel to the Indians.” Later, it was a ranch, a fix-it shop for locomotives and a rest stop for miners. In 1929, Las Vegas held only slightly more than 5,000 residents.
The building of Hoover Dam changed all that. Not only did the influx of workers help the Las Vegas economy, but it also pulled in tourists even as the dam thing was being built.
By the early 1940s, the legalization of gambling had boosted the city’s population further, giving it its sparkly reputation.
The Strip, the Mob and Elvis cemented that reputation forever. And yet, says Schumacher, the vast majority of what you see in Las Vegas today has been built in the last few decades.
Twenty-one major hotel-casinos have opened there since 1989; seven aging resorts have been imploded since 1993. Planned communities have sprung up where there was once desert, and while the population of Clark County was just over 460,000 in 1980, it’s quickly approaching 2 million souls.
In this book, you’ll learn about the man Mark Twain called “a rotten human being.” You’ll read about the first integrated casino in Nevada. You’ll see the impact the federal government uniquely had (and has) on the expansion of Las Vegas.
You’ll find out the truth about living the good life there. You’ll learn how an implosion works. And you’ll read some “Weird Tales” about one of Vegas’ most influential icons.
Curiously enough, Sun, Sin & Suburbia felt to me like two books in one.
On this hand, there’s lots of travelogue between the covers. Author Geoff Schumacher tells lively stories of Las Vegas’ birth, its legendary rogues, well-meaning idealists and the city’s several ups and downs throughout the decades.
That makes this the perfect book to take with you on the plane while you’re heading there on vacation.
On the other hand, there’s plenty here that tourists aren’t going to care about: the origins of specific neighborhoods and “enclaves,” deep politics and transportation issues. Those are the pages Las Vegans will enjoy way more than anyone.
The good news is, there’s no rule claiming you have to read every word, so grab this book and roll the dice. They say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but Sun, Sin & Suburbia definitely should not.
Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was three years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.
Readers with questions or comments may write to Terri in care of this publication.