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Posts Tagged ‘las vegas’

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Allison Johnson (usually referred to here as ‘the girl’) as desperately in need of escape from her current life. Pregnant, stuck in an abusive relationship with boyfriend Jimmy and heavily dependent on alcohol, she decides to move away from Las Vegas to Reno to make a fresh start. As is always the way though, she carries her demons with her.

This book charts Allison’s life in Reno, from a detached, third-person point of view. It follows her as she decides what to do with her baby, finds work as a waitress, strikes up tentative friendships, and unfortunately, continues to drink heavily and end up in dangerous situations with unpleasant men. In her darkest hours, she imagines conversations with her favourite film star Paul Newman, and these conversations help her through.

As I always do when I finish any book, I looked for reviews of this online, and the vast majority I read were hugely positive. I really wanted to like this book – and there are lots of positives about it. The short abrupt chapters and eloquent writing meant that I flew through chunks of it really quickly and I thought it captured the late night smoky atmosphere of Reno pretty well (although I’ve never actually been there, ha!)….but the aforementioned detachment, and the very spare style of writing meant that I never engaged with any of the characters, because I never felt that they were fully fleshed out. And it is just so depressing and exhausting to read!! Just when I thought things were going to turn around for Allison, she screws it up again.

Although it’s a quick read, it doesn’t exactly flow like a novel, and often felt more like a series of vignettes from Allison’s life with a connecting theme running through them. I love Paul Newman, but I also didn’t see the point of her imaginary conversations with him.

So all in all, perhaps this was not the book for me. I can see why some people enjoyed it, but by the end of it, my main feeling was relief that it was finished.

 

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This book is a gossipy, lurid, but always readable account of the rise and fall of the Rat Pack – Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop.  It charts how they came together in the first place (the name Rat Pack was given to them by Lauren Bacall, the wife of Humphrey Bogart, who Sinatra regarded as a hero), talks about their glory years when they seemed to rule the entertainment world from Las Vegas, and then the inevitable fall into, variously, drug abuse, alcoholism, bankruptcy and depression, leaving behind them a trail of broken marriages, broken hearts and more.

The book is not a biography of any of the Rat Pack members – their childhoods and very early careers are barely touched upon – and shouldn’t be read as such.  Instead, it covers the most successful and most volatile parts of their various careers, including such things as Sinatra’s involvement with the Mob, and the Kennedys (and both together at some stages).  Sinatra is the main focus of the book, with the others seeming to orbit around him – with the exception of Dean Martin, who, it seems fairly apparent, would kowtow to nobody.

Actually, despite the author’s obvious and understandable love for Sinatra’s singing, Frank does not come out of this account very well.  He is shown to be domineering and paranoid, unpredicatable – apt to change his mood in a moment – and a womaniser, who had little respect for anybody other than those he feared.  Dean Martin came out of it a little better – at least he was his own man.  Sammy Davis Jr was probably the most interesting of all of the Rat Pack members, for me anyhow.  The racism and abuse he had to deal with was shocking – while hotel and casino managers were happy to have him perform and entertain a crowd, they certainly were not about to let him mingle with that same crowd.  The section about the eventual desegregation in Vegas was illuminating and very interesting.  Sammy also seemed to be out of his depth in the Rat Pack – detested by white people because of the colour of his skin, and detested by black people for being friends with white men like Sinatra and Martin, he was caught between a rock and a hard place.  Peter Lawford came across as a sad character – born to looks, charm and charisma, Frank spat him out after he believed that Peter had double crossed him, and it’s sad to see how such a beautiful man as Lawford ended up sinking into a haze of drugs and alcohol, which cost him his life.  Joey Bishop was possibly the most enigmatic of the group – seemingly able to rib Frank without fear of reprisals, and remaining his own man as far as possible within the confines of such a group.

The Kennedys feature in the book – Frank was an ardent admirer of the family, and an overt campaigner for JFK when Kennedy was running for the democratic presidential nomination, and then the president.  The family as a whole do not come over well(!)  Also covered extensively was Frank’s connection with various gangsters – who were happy to use him, but clearly had little respect for him.

It was nice to read about a time when Las Vegas was a genuinely cool, sexy and glamorous place to be, unlike the commercial money making machine which it is these days; what a place it would have been to visit at the time!

The slang used in the book emulates the period covered, with mention of broads, dames and swells routinely peppered throughout the book.  This may annoy some viewers, but I actually enjoyed it a lot.  Overall I very much enjoyed the book, and it has whetted my apetite to find out more about the various Rat Pack members.

(Autor’s website can be found here.)

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Harry Bosch has recently retired from the LAPD, but he is still haunted by a case of a young woman’s murder, which went unsolved, and which may or may not be connected to the robbery of $2 million dollars from the movie set where the young woman worked. 

As Harry delves back into the case, he finds himself warned off investigating it, both by his former colleagues, and the FBI.  But this only serves to heighten his interest, and make him more determined to find out the truth.  However, Harry no longer has the protection and back-up of a Police badge, and this investigation is going to lead him to some dangerous places…

This is the first Harry Bosch book I have read, although it is the ninth in the Bosch series.  The previous books feature him in his role as an LAPD detective, with this one apparently being the first one where the character is retired.  Although I normally like to read a series in order, I did not feel that not having read the earlier books was any kind of disadvantage. 

I liked the character of Bosch a lot – a problem I find with a lot of crime fiction is that there are often so many cliches applied to the main character (he’s usually a loner, who gets on the wrong side of his bosses, often with a drink problem and an attitude problem to match).  However, Bosch is altogether more believable.  He is stubborn and tenacious, but he’s basically a decent man, with morals.  His has an ex-wife, with whom he is on good terms (and who clearly, he is still in love with), he likes a drink but isn’t a drunk.  He does irk his ex bosses though!

The story itself was full of twists and turns, and I was never able to predict what the outcome would be until it happened.  However, it didn’t rely on deliberately leading the reader up the wrong path; rather it just showed the investigation through Harry’s eyes, and we progressed through it with him.  It was suitably complicated, but still easy to understand and read, and was exciting enough for me not to want to put it down.

The story is told in the first person, which (I believe) is not the case in the other Bosch novels.  Why Connelly deviated from his usual third person narrative is not known, but it worked for me. 

Los Angeles is shown as a glamorous and exciting place, but which has a sometimes murky truth lurking just beneath the surface – the perfect setting for the murder and robbery on a Hollywood movie set! 

Definitely one to recommend for fans of crime fiction – I would like to go back to the beginning of the series and read the other Bosch books.  This was an exciting, pacy and unpredictable read.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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Jack Singer (Nicolas Cage) loves his girlfriend Betsy (Sarah Jessica Parker, in her pre-Carrie Bradshaw days), but has no intention of ever getting married.  But when he realises that if he doesn’t commit to marriage, he will lose Betsy, he decides that they should go to Las Vegas and get married straight away. However, when they arrive in Vegas, and before they go to get married, they are seen by Tommy Korman (James Caan), a wealthy professional gambler. Korman immediately falls for Betsy, because she reminds him so much of his dead wife.  He sets up a rigged poker game with Jack, and when Jack inevitably loses and ends up owing Korman $65,000, which he has no hope of being able to pay, Korman suggests that he gets to spend the weekend with Betsy in lieu of payment.  Jack is reluctant and Betsy is furious.  However, she agrees to the plan, and even starts to have a good time with Korman.  Jack meanwhile is overcome with jealousy and decides to follow the couple…will Betsy fall for Korman’s charms – or will true love conquer all?

I really enjoyed this movie.  Sarah Jessica Parker is as endearing and sweet as ever, and Nicolas Cage – not normally an actor I particularly enjoy watching –  is perfect in his role.  James Caan meanwhile, is suitably devious.  There is also a great cast of supporting characters, and while the film never strays far from the main storyline, there are a couple of extremely funny scenes which, while probably not necessary in terms of moving the story forward, certainly added to the laughs.

This film is a romantic, old-school comedy, with some tender moments, and some slapstick moments.  In many ways, it had a similar plot to the drama Indecent Proposal, which came out a year later, but this film is far more enjoyable.  There are plenty of laugh out loud scenes, and I certainly came away from it with a big smile on my face.  Highly recommended!

Year of release: 1992

Director: Andrew Bergman

Writer: Andrew Bergman

Main cast: Nicolas Cage, Sarah Jessica Parker, James Caan

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