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Books That Cut to the Core of Casino Culture

Las Vegas was the setting Kentucky native Hunter S. Thompson chose for his grim analysis of the American dream.

Gaming has always been at the heart of the American capitalist ethos, epitomizing the spirit that has set the socioeconomic agenda in the country for the bulk of the last two centuries.

In this piece, we look at the American books that delved deeper than most into exactly what shapes the U.S.’s casino culture.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

Before Fear and Loathing, Thompson was already a well-established journalist hailing from Louisville, Kentucky, who specialized in covering Richard Nixon, the Hells Angels and other American characters who provided fodder for journalists wherever they went.

Indeed, Thompson’s style of so-called gonzo journalism was a sign of the times. Like many counter-culture classics, Fear and Loathing, along with its capers based in Nevada casinos, was largely shunned by critics and publishers when it was first released. Only later was it immortalized thanks to a movie by the same name starring Benicio del Toro and Johnny Depp.

The plot focuses on a journalist protagonist who is sent to Las Vegas to cover a news story, but who then gets sidetracked by an out-of-control lawyer and the many distractions that top casinos and resorts offer.

Of course, nowadays Thompson’s employers probably would prompt him to enjoy such entertainment at top casino sites online rather than paying expenses for him to go on a road trip all the way to Vegas.

Were Thompson writing the book today—and his ashes not yet launched into the edge of space on a rocket paid for by Depp—perhaps his protagonist would never have ended up in Las Vegas, instead opting for one of the top online casinos that are now available in multiple states all across the U.S.

We will never know, but one thing that remains certain is that Thompson’s seminal novel about the American dream and how closely it is tied to casino culture is one that every reader should treat themselves to sooner rather than later.

Tishomingo Blues by Elmore Leonard

While Fear and Loathing was about a man passing through casino resorts and observing the characters who inhabited them, Elmore Leonard’s Tishomingo Blues took a different approach, giving readers the point of view of a daredevil high-diver who earned his living entertaining customers at a casino lodge in Tunica, Mississippi.

As if his job was not dangerous enough already, the protagonist Dennis Lenehan is then roped into a high-stakes game being played on the edges of the law by a hustler from Detroit called Robert Taylor. As you can imagine, life becomes more fraught for Lenehan as the book goes on.

Leonard was always renowned for creating sharp dialogue and believable character interactions in his books, and Tishomingo Blues is no different, although it has yet to take its bow on the big screen as other works of Leonard have such as Get Shorty and Jackie Brown.

The Whistler by John Grisham

The Whistler, by one of the country’s most eminent crime and thriller authors, is a tale of exactly how a casino should not be run, with the novel’s protagonist, Lacy Stoltz, tasked with untangling the web of deceit that has been woven by powerful individuals who should know better.

The result is a page-turner with all the hallmarks of a Grisham classic that does a great job of unzipping the body bag that encases Florida’s underworld.

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