Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This ambitious, jolting investigative history simultaneously explores the "secret history" of Las Vegas malfeasance and the expansion of the city's ethos of greed and artifice into a wholesale American model. Married co-authors Denton (The Bluegrass Conspiracy) and Morris (Partners in Power) offer an expansive, finely detailed, slightly convoluted cultural narrative, beginning with concise biographies of key figures (mobsters Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel, news tycoon Hank Greenspun, anti-crime-crusading Senator Estes Kefauver). Failed 1950s reform movements allowed for the ascendance of organized crime, fortified by huge "skim" profits from casinos. Operation Underworld, a WWII collaboration between government and "Syndicate" forces, forged extensive relationships between federal agencies, corrupted police and gangsters that proved central to Las Vegas's economic boom. The profits radiated corruption outward, evinced in such "blowback" as repeated CIA-Mob assassination attempts on Castro. Formidable researchers, Denton and Morris train gimlet eyes on compromised officials like J. Edgar Hoover, gambling tycoons like Benny Binion and killers-cum-businessmen like Sam Giancana. They look into the growth of more malignant, polyethnic (and, they claim) CIA-supported organized crime facilitated by stereotyping of the Italian Mafia. Although their conflation of glitzy Vegas profligacy with corporate politics and consumerism may seem unwieldy, the book is undeniably disturbing and engrossing. It concludes with the 1999 mayoral election of Oscar Goodman, notorious Syndicate attorney, which was an augury of business as usual in what the authors portray as democracy's spiritual capital. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Mar. 26) Forecast: With the authors' good reputations, the first printing of 75,000 copies, the nine-city tour (including a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette author luncheon), the unending fascination with Las Vegas-style debauchery and the Mafia, and certain media interest, this book can expect a big audience. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
According to Denton (The Blue Grass Conspiracy) and her husband, noted author Morris (Partners in Power), modern Las Vegas enjoys a thriving economy dependent on gambling, greed, political corruption, and drugs that mirrors what is practiced throughout America. The authors present many fascinating profiles of the men with the "juice," including founding father Meyer Lansky, leader of the Jewish mob that originally controlled postwar Las Vegas; Benny Binion, gambler, murderer, and one of the city's most feared casino owners; Hank Greenspun, editor of the Las Vegas Sun, who attacked corruption when it suited his purposes; and former governor and senator Paul Laxalt, who was elected with casino money and became gambling's national champion. Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton also fed at the trough of Las Vegas contributions, while, the authors speculate, President Kennedy and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy may have been murdered because they launched criminal investigations of the Mob. Sadly, much of the income from gambling continues to be skimmed off and ends up in the pockets of crooks and politicians while ordinary Las Vegans endure poorly funded public schools, mediocre universities, and ill-equipped hospitals. This lucid historical account calls out for campaign finance reform. Recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/00.] Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Township Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Husband-and-wife investigative reporters view Las Vegas as our shadow capital, a sordid symbol of the greed, corruption, and falseness that permeate the country. Like confident boxers, Denton and Morris begin from the opening bell to eschew the jab in favor of the haymaker. "Drug money founded modern Las Vegas," they announce, and throughout this tough, troubling volume they are rarely so timid. After an alarming prologue, they deliver dark portraits of players from Vegas' founding years-Meyer Lansky, Benny Binion, Pat McCarran, "Bugsy" Siegel, Hank Greenspun-and then conclude this rogues' gallery with an assessment of Estes Kefauver, whose congressional hearings on organized crime fizzled in the 1950s. "He was," they declare, "tragically shallow, even naïve, about what he would be confronting, and what it would cost." Denton and Morris then proceed chronologically to outline the history of the city and its criminal creators. Among their most useful observations is that the popular term "Mafia" (and its Italian "family" connotations) obscures the far more insidious combinations of people involved in the gambling, skimming, and drug trafficking that are the foundation of Las Vegas. They believe these illegal activities exist because of a vast but loose criminal conspiracy among casino owners, politicians, law enforcement personnel, journalists, labor leaders, religious leaders (they explore, for example, the heavy Mormon investment in Vegas), and government agencies. They tar virtually every US president since Truman with the black brush of Vegas (including an amusing account of a young Ronald Reagan's disastrous attempt in 1953 to become a Vegas entertainer), and theirprodigiousresearch leads them to see Vegas' tentacles extending everywhere-even to Bob Dole and Bill Clinton, both of whom accepted contributions from casino king Steve Wynn. Sometimes the guilt-by-association arguments collide with a sense of fairness, and the authors seem never to have met a conspiracy theory they do not embrace. Despite their always sensational (and sometimes florid) style, the authors manage to land some jarring punches in some very sensitive places. (16 pages b&w photos) First printing of 75,000
Read an Excerpt
Las Vegas–the name evokes images of divorce and dice, prostitutes and payoffs, gangsters and glitz. But beneath it all is a sordid history that is much more insidious and far-reaching than ever imagined. Now, at the dawn of the new century, this neon maelstrom of ruthlessness and greed stands to not as an aberrant “sin city,” but as a natural outgrowth of the corruption and worship of money that have come to permeate American life.
The Money and the Power is the most comprehensive look yet at Las Vegas and its breadth of influence. Based on five years of intensive research and interviewing, Sally Denton and Roger Morris reveal the city’s historic network of links to Wall Street, international drug traffickers, and the CIA. In doing so, they expose the disturbing connections amongst politicians, businessmen, and the criminals that harness these illegal activities. Through this lucid and gripping indictment of Las Vegas, Morris and Denton uncover a national ethic of exploitation, violence, and greed, and provide a provocative reinterpretation of twentieth-century American history.