Year’s end good time to turn some pages about Vegas |

Year’s end good time to turn some pages about Vegas

by John L. Smith

Tough town, Vegas. It has its share of mob hit men and mysterious millionaire sports bettors. Even the town’s biggest rock band is called The Killers.

The best part is that you can get to know this tough town vicariously thanks to a collection of literary efforts.

Whether it’s the latest insider’s guide to gambling or a glitzy photo book, there’s something for every taste. Here are a few.

MAFIA COPS: There are few more chilling true-crime stories than the tale of Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, the decorated New York Police Department officers who were accused of being on the take and carrying out contract killings for the Lucchese crime family.

Several books on the Eppolito-Caracappa saga are in the publishing pipeline, but the first one out promises to hold up as one of the best.

“The Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdered For the Mafia,” by Guy Lawson and former lawman William Oldham, takes you through the long, winding investigation that led to the federal indictment of the so-called “Mafia Cops,” who retired to Las Vegas in 1991 and must have thought they’d found a safe haven in the land of wannabe mob guys.

Recommended Stories For You

They slipped the noose in the first federal trial, but their chances of staying out of jail won’t improve should they reach a Las Vegas courtroom.

Though I’m looking forward to legendary newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin’s take on the case, “The Brotherhoods” is a dynamite place to learn all about the case. And the chapter titled “Mob Vegas” is priceless.

KILLERS’ DESTINY: If Las Vegas in 2006 is long remembered, it might be as the year several local music acts established themselves in the big time. No band was bigger than The Killers.

The multi-platinum group is so hot that it even generated its own biography by local poet/journalist Jarret Keene titled “Destiny Is Calling Me.” Keene is the perfect person to tell the story. Not only do his literary sensibilities serve him well, but he’s also well-acquainted with the band members and knows the local music scene inside and out.

‘MONEY’ PLAYS: I have to admit I still don’t know what to make of Michael Konik’s “The Smart Money: How the World’s Best Sports Bettors Beat the Bookies Out of Millions.”

The book, which Konik calls a memoir, is interesting on many levels and is sure to appeal to sports betting junkies from here to Miami.

In brief, Konik went to work as a runner for Bill Walters, the golf course developer who is considered the biggest and brightest sports bettor in America. Konik clearly was consumed by the sports gambling subculture.

Frankly, I’m still a bit bewildered about why Konik chose to change the names of the main characters in the book, including transforming Walters into Rick “Big Daddy” Matthews.

Once you get past that, however, you probably will be intrigued by Konik’s insight and personal candor.

And you’ll probably wonder whether Walters and Konik have much to say to each other these days. I’ll bet a month’s pay that they don’t.

DEVILISH HISTORY: Sally Zanjani long has been one of my favorite Nevada writers. If you’re unfamiliar with her name, it’s probably because you haven’t been keeping up with your Nevada history.

Zanjani, a member of the political science department at the University of Nevada, Reno, exercises her literary gifts with her latest book, “Devils Will Reign: How Nevada Began.” This brief history will grab you with its insightful mix of colorful rascals and political intrigue.

Read about the men and machinations behind the creation of the state, and you’ll be left wondering: Have things changed all that much in more than 140 years?

LAS VEGAS REFLECTIONS: Stephens Press, a publishing relative of the Review-Journal, produced a number of worthy efforts in 2006. One of my favorites is “The Stardust of Yesterday: Reflections on a Las Vegas Legend” by Mike Weatherford and Heidi Knapp Rinella. It’s a handsome, photo-intensive book that fans of the Stardust and Vegas nostalgia will love.

Finally, there’s “Springs in the Desert: A Kid’s History of Las Vegas” by Jonathan Peters, who gathers some of the lively characters and incredible events that shaped our recent past.

• John L. Smith’s column, reprinted from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, appears on Thursdays on the Appeal’s Opinion page. E-mail him at or call (702) 383-0295.