About Jonathan Sturak

A writer living in Las Vegas. Author of "Vegas Was Her Name." On the web at sturak.com

The American Dream meets Las Vegas, an Interview with author Laura McBride

McBride1-Blue (Medium)

Laura McBride, Author

Las Vegas author Laura McBride stopped by Noir Nation recently to discuss her new novel, We Are Called to Rise (Simon & Schuster, June 3, 2014). A college instructor calling Las Vegas home, Laura’s new novel explores the collision of three disjoint lives in Sin City. But unlike the countless stories exploring the glamorous side of Las Vegas, We Are Called to Rise takes us to the real Las Vegas, the city, the community, the people who call this crazy place home.

NN: Why did you write We Are Called to Rise?

LM: I wrote a novel years ago, and it was a fabulously engaging, satisfying process.  I was always on the lookout for the chance to do it again.

Hmm, that’s the answer to why I wrote a novel.  Why did I write this novel?

I guess I thought the core incident had great dramatic potential; I wanted to write a story that captured the chaotic, hopeful, desperate, beautiful boomtown nature of Las Vegas; I wanted a novel that would entertain and satisfy a thoughtful reader.

NN: That’s an interesting title. Why did you choose it?

LM: My agent did not like my working title, and she asked me to come up with some options quickly. I offered three lines from poems, to get the conversation started, and she felt strongly about this one.  It took a while for the title to grow on me, but now I think it perfectly expresses an important theme of the book.  I didn’t have that theme consciously in mind while writing, but it is a central idea.  I’m grateful to my agent for her strong sense that this title was right.

NN: Why did you decide to go with multiple points of view? What are the strengths and weaknesses you’ve experienced with this format?

LM: I wanted to write in the first person, but I needed more than one person’s awareness to tell the story I was thinking about.  I think a strength of the format is that readers often feel a personal connection to the narrator who is speaking; a difficulty of the format (though not perhaps a weakness) is that it can be complicated to communicate critical information through a first person voice.  I had to trust the reader’s ability to pick up nuance, irony, guile.

NN: Do you think people misunderstand Vegas as a community?

LM: I think billions of dollars are spent, by creative and sophisticated people, to disseminate particular ideas about Las Vegas.  Those ideas often don’t represent my experience of living an ordinary life here.  I feel confident in my understanding of Las Vegas, but I recognize that many other people have equally valid ideas about the place.  And then some people have ideas that aren’t so valid!

NN: As a reader, what is your favorite book?

LM: An impossible question. I give.

I’m not just cheating here. I think the really good books one reads when one is young have terrific impact, because one has never before experienced reading in that way.  But those books are not my favorite books anymore, though they might linger in my mind quite vividly.  By the same token, books I really like now might be difficult to categorize as favorites.  I like them, I appreciate them, I am grateful for them, but I am too tested a reader to think of any as a favorite.

NN: Where do you see Las Vegas in ten years?

LM: I have no special prognostic powers.  I guess I think it will look a little bit more like a lot of American cities than it once did.  Already, people are much more likely to live next to someone whose economic situation is similar to their own than was true two decades ago.  I think we are generally sorting into more and more homogenous neighborhoods, which seems sad to me.  So much of what I found amazing about living here came from the salmagundi of being a boomtown.

On the other hand, I think Las Vegas will remain socially, culturally, politically, and ethnically diverse, because people will continue to come here from all over the world.  I hope our economy will be a little more broad-based, but that is not evident to me.

WACTRcover (Medium)Laura McBride is a writer and community college teacher in Las Vegas, Nevada. She once thought of herself as an adventurer, having traveled far from home on little more than a whim and a grin, but now laughs at the conventional trappings of her ordinary suburban life. She’s been married for 25 years to an ex-pat she met in Paris, and has two lovely children. A long time ago, she went to Yale. We Are Called To Rise is her first novel. (from Amazon)

Find Laura:

Web: http://lauramcbrideauthor.com

Twitter: @lmcbrideauthor



True Noir in the Philippines: An Interview with Author Trish Kaye Lleone

Trish Kaye Lleone

Trish Kaye Lleone, Author

Trish Kaye Lleone knows true-crime stories. Born and raised in the Philippines, Trish has a finger on the pulse of publishing in Asia and beyond. Today, Trish stops by Noir Nation to share insight into her new memoir, a gripping story about her own tragic struggle with child abuse. Told with stark realism, Finding Anna will take you on an intimate tour through the shadows of the Philippines in the ’70s, ’80s, and beyond.

NN: Your new story Finding Anna is based on your own personal and often tragic experiences growing up in the Philippines. Was it hard to write as you looked back in time?

TKL: It was. I have kept all of the harrowing details to myself for so long because I felt it was the only way to be “normal.” I didn’t realize that although deeply and safely bottled up inside, the effects of what I had gone through manifest in my decision-making, values, principles, and in my own perspectives about life, particularly in my own relationships with others. I was already 36 years old when I realized that. When my partner first suggested writing everything down, I looked at him and thought for a moment he had gone crazy. Was he trying to torture me? But then, I started reading abuse-survivor blogs and many of them attest to the therapeutic value of writing down your own story.

It was difficult not to have moments of disruptive behavior, recalling everything including how each abuse felt, the pain of realizing that all of what I had gone through had a major contribution to the person I have become and the agony of living through the eyes of that little girl again even just for a few hours each day – horrifying and heartbreaking. findingannaweb

NN: Street crime in Asia has always had a noir flavor. Is it because of the densely populated cities such as Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Manila? Or does it have something to do with the roots of personal preservation and family honor embodied in the people inside many Asian countries? Since growing up and working in the Philippines, what are your thoughts?

TKL: I would have to say it is mostly poverty-based. As a result of poverty, people cannot afford to get proper education, and later on are not qualified for job positions. This drives them to resort to criminal acts in order to survive. People in rural areas relocate to the metropolis in hopes of escaping poverty; they’re tired of planting sweet potatoes, rice, and bananas from sun up to sun down so they try their luck in the city, only to arrive there without a place to live, without enough money to spend, and without a job that they would be qualified to apply for. They cannot go back to their provinces because they had sold their land or their livestock or are too proud to give up. There will always be reasons to stay in the city, even if it means stealing for food.

Recently, the world knows that a great part of the Visayan region was hard hit by a strong typhoon (Haiyan). People there lost homes, lives, and property. Many of them took the risk of going to Manila; they were captured on the news explaining that there is nothing left for them to remain in their beloved city. I asked myself, what are they going to do in Manila? When they get there, they will find an overpopulated metro that boasts of a higher cost of living and very few to nil job vacancies. It is sad to think this way, but there is a great possibility for most of them to end up as criminals or prostitutes.

NN: Do many Western depictions of Asian crime in stories and film capture the streets and the motivations of their characters accurately, or does an author or filmmaker have to live and breathe the air in this climate to truly capture it?

TKL: I would say authors and filmmakers who attempt at capturing Asian crime stories in film or print must first experience living in Asia to deliver a more accurate depiction. They have to stay not just for a few months, but for a long time to really understand what drives people to do what they do here. Asian culture is vastly different from Western culture. As an example, CNN’s Anderson Cooper covered the recent Haiyan devastation in central Philippines and he thanked the Filipino people for teaching the world “how to live.” That’s because Cooper witnessed how Filipinos can sleep without beds cushioning their backs, can survive on meager meals and sometimes even miss meals, can hold on to the corpses of their dead loved ones and still display happy demeanors despite the turmoil and the anarchy in their midst. For most of us who grew up and live here, those are ordinary, everyday occurrences. Many poor families don’t care much for a bed to sleep in at night; they can sleep on mats or even pieces of cardboard lined on the floor. I believe that people in Western cultures don’t get to experience this. Even the poorest of the poor receive social welfare assistance in the West, which makes a bed and a decent home to live in affordable, if not free.

NN: You are working toward an English degree and have worked in a variety of publishing and journalist positions in the Philippines. Where do you see the traditional publishing industry going? Have Asian consumers embraced e-books as the consumers have in America? Where do independent and small presses fit in?

TKL: I am a college undergraduate but yes I have worked as a journalist for many years before branching out to online PR and Marketing. To answer your question, traditional publishing will always be there. Readers will always crave for actual books and many authors would still prefer getting traditionally published, although they may self-publish at the same time.

As for me personally, I am a voracious e-book consumer. I prefer e-books than actual books because I can simply buy online and the book will arrive within seconds. Some of my Asian friends read e-books, but I cannot say for sure if Asian consumers have embraced e-books the way American consumers have.

Independent and small presses will not lose their market share if they adapt to the industry’s trends and changes. For example, many of my former colleagues who own news publications are slowly realizing that the way to remain visible in the market is to branch out to the digital world. A few of them have and they tell me that while it is a learning curve for them, it has helped them remain in business. One colleague completely repackaged his product. From merely a business news magazine, he changed it into a lifestyle and business news magazine both online and offline, and it is surprisingly doing very well. Over dinner one time, he expressed how grateful he is for his wife’s ability to foresee the future and how lucky his wife is for having a husband who knows what sound judgment is. He changed his business model a lot earlier than most.

NN: What are some of your favorite films and books?

TKL: Ahh, films! I love timeless classics like Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, Love Story, The Godfather trilogy, An Affair to Remember, Ratpack, The King and I, and The Sound of Music. I know, that selection gives me away as a hopeless romantic, doesn’t it? What woman isn’t anyway? Lol. Oh, but if it would help, I could watch The Godfather trilogy over and over and over again and won’t get tired of it. I’ve seen it a total of seven times already and I watched all three films after the other in one sitting. Aside from these classics, I also love Legends of the Fall, Star Wars, all Superman films, Iron Man and X-Men. I have HUGE crushes on Robert Downey, Jr. and Hugh Jackman.

As for books, I am an extensive reader; I have read books by Sidney Sheldon and all the books by Johanna Lindsey, Tom Clancy, and Robert Ludlum. I love The Little Prince, Don Quixote, and The Diary of Anne Frank. I am interested in the biographies of Steve Jobs, John F. Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, to name a few. Lately, I am reading books from new and rising authors such as Jonathan Sturak, Amy Cancryn, Joyce DeBacco, John Jack Wigley, and the ever famous E.L. James. I have no particular favorite, I guess. I just love to read books.

NN: What creative projects are you working on?

TKL: Well, now that I’ve wrapped up work on Finding Anna, my first memoir-based novelette with Firebrand Publishing, I am just about ready to pull out my supposedly first novel, “Dear Tommy,” from the drawer and pick up where I left off. “Dear Tommy” is a story about disrupted adoption, infertility, and a failed marriage. It is one woman’s story of pain, loss, love, and redemption. I am also in the process of creating an outline for another book project; this one is about politicians behind closed doors – you know, the dirty and the despicable.

To Jonathan and the rest of Noir Nation, a huge thank you for this opportunity! It has been a lovely experience for me to be interviewed here and I really had a great time.
All the best!

You can get her new memoir, Saving Anna, on Amazon.

Connect with Trish on Twitter and Facebook.


noir nation banner no 3noir nation banner no 2

When Words Can Get You Killed: An Interview with Chris Abani


Chris Abani, Author and Poet

Crime fiction deals with life and death experiences all the time. The very nature of fiction provides the author (and the reader) an escape into the universe of a story. But what happens when these life and death experiences transcend the story and threaten the life of the author?

Chris Abani knows the answer to this question all too well. Chris is part of a new generation of Nigerian writers working to convey to an English-speaking audience the experiences of those born and raised in Africa during its divided past of apartheid and unrest. His first novel, Masters of the Board (1985), portrayed a government coup that eerily resembled a real coup carried out in Nigeria just as the novel was being released. This sounds like a perfect marketing platform for the novel, right? However, for Chris, it meant six months in prison on suspicion of an attempt to overthrow the government, which ultimately led to torture and a sentence on death row!

Today, Chris is a Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University where he continues to share his voice through award-winning literary works. Recently, he stopped by Noir Nation to share some fascinating insight into his journey as an author, as well as to discuss his exciting new crime novel, The Secret History of Las Vegas.

Noir Nation: Your writing career has spanned decades and started during your childhood in Nigeria. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Chris Abani: I published my first short story at 10 and my first novel at 16, so I guess I’ve always sort of known. But truly I believe all writers come from being avid readers, so that’s probably when the bug bit me. In the end, it doesn’t matter when we know, only that we spend the rest of our lives trying to get good at it.

The Secret Life of Las VegasNoir Nation: Your new crime novel The Secret History of Las Vegas has just been released by Penguin Books. Please tell us about the book.

Chris Abani: It’s Halloween night in Las Vegas when detective Salazar encounters a set of conjoined twins wading in Lake Mead, who upon questioning can’t explain the drum of blood near their pickup. Positive he’s apprehended the killers responsible for a series of murders of Las Vegas’ homeless—which has haunted him for years—Salazar enlists the help of Dr. Sunil Singh, a South African transplant who specializes in the study of psychopaths. But unknown to Salazar, Singh has been conducting a series of violent experiments on human behavior at a local institute, linking him to the killings.
Over the course of three days, as Singh simultaneously tries to psychoanalyze the twins and ward off Salazar, the implications of his study grow darker, and it becomes clear that he has his own demons to reckon with. Endlessly distressed by his betrayal of loved ones back home during apartheid, he seeks solace in the love of Asia, a prostitute with hopes of escaping that life. But Sunil’s own troubled past is hard on his heels in the form of a would-be assassin.

Noir Nation: Why did you set the story in Las Vegas?

Chris Abani: I love Las Vegas. It is perhaps the last frontier in America, one that is the fringe of a deeper inner self. Vegas gives the impression that everything is possible there, a place of total permission, and yet it is run with the tightest security. It is in many ways the only place left in the U.S. where everyone can feel free. A real place for nomads and transnationals. I could go on, but let’s just say it offers a lot of layers and possibilities.

Noir Nation: Where do you see Las Vegas in ten years?

Chris Abani: One of the world’s melting pots. A place that always grows and adapts – or else, a city buried under the sand and Lake Mead. All of it is possible.

Noir Nation: Media outlets have dubbed you as part of a new generation of Nigerian writers working to convey to an English-speaking audience the experiences of those born and raised in “that troubled African nation.” Do you feel this contributes to your creativity as a writer today or do labels inhibit creativity and expression?

Chris Abani: I think that I am a writer who is interested in the places of our common humanity. I have a global perspective and don’t feel I am trying to convey anything to the world. I simply put my humanity on trial with stories that have exciting plots and marginal characters and hope that my readers find a measure of themselves in the work.

Chris holds a BA in English (Nigeria), an MA in Gender and Culture (Birkbeck College, University of London), an MA in English and a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing (University of Southern California). He is a Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University and the recipient of many prestigious literary awards including the PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, the Prince Claus Award, and a New York Times Editor’s Choice for his novel Song For Night (Akashic, 2007). For more information, visit ChrisAbani.com


noir nation banner no 3noir nation banner no 2

Must-See Film of 2013: “Oldboy”

Oldboy_2013_film_posterOriginally a Japanese manga from 1996 – 1998, and then adapted into a 2003 South Korean film, Oldboy has just received the Hollywood treatment. This 2013 version is directed by Spike Lee with Josh Brolin taking the lead as Joe Doucett, a seedy businessman who rubs everyone the wrong way. Part crime mystery, part suspense drama, Oldboy takes you on an intimate journey with Joe as he finds himself ripped from his wife and daughter and locked up in an inescapable hotel room for twenty years. Why is he there? Who put him there? Will he ever get out?

Oldboy explores the demons that plague man as the film slowly and methodically culminates in a twist like no other. A must-see film for all crime fiction lovers!


noir nation banner no 3noir nation banner no 2

Apple Loves Noir!

ios-7Did you know that you might be walking around right now with Noir in your pocket? The folks at Apple must subscribe to Noir Nation because they included free photo filters in the new iOS 7, available now for your iPhone 4, 4S, 5, 5C, 5S or other i-devices. Simply click the Photo Filter icon on the bottom right inside your camera app to look at the world through the lens of Noir.

No Filter

No Filter

Noir Filter

Noir Filter










Leave your best Noir-inspired photos in the comments!


noir nation banner no 3noir nation banner no 2

Fall 2013 Film Preview

Crime, Thrills, Suspense, and Revenge—all themes that like to share a bed with Noir. This fall, don’t miss these exciting new films, which will leave you craving a cigarette afterwards.

Which one are you most excited about? Did any miss the list? Leave a comment.

(Details courtesy of IMDb)

The Family

1. The Family

13 September 2013 (USA)

The Manzoni family, a notorious mafia clan, is relocated to Normandy, France under the witness protection program, where fitting in soon becomes challenging as their old habits die hard.

The Fifth Estate

2. The Fifth Estate

18 October 2013 (USA)

A dramatic thriller based on real events, THE FIFTH ESTATE reveals the quest to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power that turned an Internet upstart into the 21st century’s most fiercely debated organization.

The Counselor

3. The Counselor

25 October 2013 (USA)

A lawyer finds himself in over his head when he gets involved in drug trafficking.

The Wolf of Wall Street

4. The Wolf of Wall Street

15 November 2013 (USA)

Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government.


5. Oldboy

27 November 2013 (USA)

Obsessed with vengeance, a man sets out to find out why he was kidnapped and locked up into solitary confinement for 20 years without reason.

Out of The Furnace

6. Out of the Furnace

6 December 2013 (USA)

When Rodney Baze mysteriously disappears and law enforcement fails to follow through, his older brother, Russell, takes matters into his own hands to find justice.


Interview with Sheila Horgan, mystery author pioneering the hybrid novel

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhether you call her books cozy mysteries, comic mysteries, or women sleuth adventures, Sheila Horgan loves writing series. Her popular “Tea Series” has seen tens of thousands of sales and hundreds of unique reviews and has prompted her to create a spin-off series featuring familiar characters on their own adventures, dubbed the “Girls Series.” Today, Sheila gives Noir Nation a glance into the hybrid format she is pioneering.

Noir Nation: Your successful “Tea Series” is described as a hybrid of the traditional novel and the serial novel. Please talk about this type of unique format. What made you choose to release your series in this type of format?

Horgan: I came to writing quite by accident. My kids grew up and chose to have lives of their own. One day I decided to take the advice of every stranger I’d encountered for several years and write a book (it dawned on me much later they might have simply been asking for silence while waiting in line for the grocery clerk). Not knowing all the tried and true things you’re supposed to do when writing a novel – things like arcs and protagonists and pace – I simply told a story. I got an email from a woman that said that reading my book made her laugh her way through chemo. She wanted to know when the next book would be out. I started writing the second book within moments of getting the email. I’m now writing books 11, 12, and 13.

Noir Nation: Do you think ebooks have made serial novels more popular?

Horgan: I think because you can turn a book around much more quickly, a serial novel makes more sense now than it has in the past. If you can supply your reader with a book a couple of times a year, a serial novel makes sense.

Noir Nation: Your new “Girls Series” features characters first introduced in your “Tea Series” books. Did you always know you wanted to give these characters their own book or did you decide to feature them because of the fans?

Horgan: Actually, they were just characters that I thought were interesting. I believe women “of a certain age” have a lot to say and not a lot of places to say it. There was a time when crones were a welcome part of the community. Not so much any more. The girls get to say things that younger women might not be able to say with impunity. Today people are so mobile and families are scattered. Having an older woman to share some insights with might be helpful.

Noir Nation: Your books feature mystery, humor, and women sleuths. Which element comes most natural for you as a writer?

Horgan: Humor. I am a strong believer in the power of humor. It can heal, teach, and diffuse. It can endear, inspire, and motivate. Mostly it can take you out of your problems and help you step back for just a moment to see that life is to be enjoyed. My books are not going to cure cancer. But they’ve been proven to help at least one cancer patient.

Noir Nation: Why did you set the first book of the “Girls Series” in Las Vegas?

Horgan: “The Tea Series” is set in Tampa Bay, Florida. I lived there at the time. Then I moved to the Las Vegas area. Yeah, I’m tricky like that.

Noir Nation: What’s the strangest thing you’ve witnessed firsthand in Vegas?

Horgan: I saw a woman walking down the street with her little girl. The woman was probably in her early thirties. The little girl was probably about five. They were dressed exactly alike. If you were in Disneyland, that might bring to mind matching mouse ears and sweatshirts. In Vegas, it meant lots of Bedazzled Lycra, heels that were much too high for a mere mortal – and certainly for a little girl – low cut belly shirts, and hot pink boas. They were also wearing matching makeup complete with lashes. The strangest part was that no one paid much attention to them.

Noir Nation: Where do you see Las Vegas in ten years?

Horgan: I can’t begin to imagine. Vegas is going through major construction and a complete redesign right now. From a huge London Eyestyle ride, to tearing down the facades of major casinos and doing complete revamps, to a huge casino and resort that is supposed to include a replica of the Great Wall of China, Vegas is a chameleon and able to shift with the trends and demands of those who wish to come and enjoy what it has to offer.

Noir Nation: What are you working next?

Horgan: Right now I have Happy Tea, the tenth book in “The Tea Series” almost complete. Hawaii Can Wait, the second book in “The Girls Series,” is almost complete. I am doing a minor rewrite on Consequences, the first book in Lessons, The Series and will republish it soon.

My most exciting project right now is that my oldest son and I are writing a psychological thriller together. He came to me one day with the idea for a book. He also suggested a very unique way that we could write together and exploit the fact that we think very differently. He has written for magazines but is not interested in writing a novel, yet he has extraordinary ideas for novels, so we decided to try it out. I am hopeful that we can turn this into a grand enterprise. I enjoy working with him.

About Horgan: Blessed to be born into a strong Irish American family, Sheila describes herself as “one of ten.” Sheila raised her son, as well as a plethora of other children she calls her own, and now enjoys the title of Grandma.

When asked about her writing, Sheila states, “I devoted the first phase of my life to my parents and family, the second to my children, this last phase is for me. I love to write, share my somewhat skewed vision of the world, and with luck, make people laugh now and then.”

Visit Sheila Horgan’s Amazon Author Page and her Blog.


Jay Rankin: Vegas Doorman Reveals the Secrets of Sin City in his Memoir


Jay Rankin is a very interesting man. Working as a doorman at one of the largest resorts in the world, Jay witnessed first-hand many dark and enigmatic human interactions at the core of true-to-life noir. Today, Jay gives Noir Nation a behind-the-scenes interview of his memoir, Under The Neon Sky.

Noir Nation: Under The Neon Sky shares your experiences as a doorman working on the Las Vegas Strip. When did you know that you had to write this book?

Rankin: Having a background in psychology (my favorite course was on addictions, yikes!) and dealing with my own demons had a lot to do with my need to write. Life is about our chapters and I needed to write this one down. I had experienced my own partying days so I was immediately taken with what I saw and perceived while on the job. What really became clear was how people including myself, handled a place with no boundaries mixed with drugs and alcohol, gambling, and any sort of 24/7 pleasure you can come up with plus, no sleep. My shift was from 7 pm to 3 in the morning. This was the largest hotel in the world (MGM Grand Las Vegas) with over 5,000 rooms, 3 showrooms, one of which held 15,000 people, a theme park, 2 nightclubs, god knows how many restaurants, and a convention center. It was a high energy job that gave new meaning to “being slammed.” I experienced intense excitement, lots of laughter, raw anger, and some very sad moments. It’s absolutely amazing what humans are capable of when placed on Vegas soil. For me, it was a daily electrical charge and challenge. The more I was exposed to, the more I needed to write it down. It didn’t take very long for me to take notes if for no other reason than to give me some relief like therapy. Writing was like talking to a friend, or beating on a body bag, or taking myself for a walk in 110 degree heat to release the toxins that came with the job.

Noir Nation: What attracted you to Las Vegas in the first place?

Rankin: For as long as I can remember, I have always had a need for excitement. Even the people I chose as lifetime friends were wild. When I was 14 years old, I wanted to one day own a nightclub. I first visited Vegas to see my biological father when I was 11 years old. He was a gambler so he knew all the “good old boys.” Everyone he introduced me to was either named Tony or Vito. As a child, being there was my first real rush, seeing all the colors, hearing all the excitement, smelling the cigars, alcohol mixed with men’s colognes and women’s perfumes. My world had changed. I was the kind of person who even as a child loved mingling with the dark side of human nature. Las Vegas was always a high octane, colorful place so when the opportunity came, I jumped on it. One of my initial jobs was being a field reporter on Las Vegas’ first real local business shows. I had the chance to meet a lot of people who ran the town—the mayor, governor, hotel and restaurant owners, etc. It was the very early nineties and the town was exploding, or in many cases, imploding—the new hotels, housing, businesses, schools, hospitals. The infrastructure of all the new streets, bridges, and traffic signals was way behind schedule. I loved being there during those days, it was like watching an empire grow into something much more than it was just weeks ago.

Noir Nation: What is more challenging? Dealing with spoiled celebrities, drunks, hookers, and hoodlums, or Writing a Book?

Rankin: You didn’t include hotel management and co-workers on that list; they too, were very challenging. In a Vegas hotel, the money flows like a river and this can cause a feeding frenzy amongst the employees. The lack of trust is an awful feeling for working conditions each day. I didn’t mind the spoiled celebrities because giving service to people, even those who felt entitled, was the job description. It is very important not to offend people from different cultures. 5 Star service is the hotel motto. The most entitled were the shareholders, or in some cases, the high-rollers. Most of the celebrities were actually very nice. I loved the hookers and street-wise types because they understood and acknowledged exactly who they were without the bullshit, and I could relate to them, but dealing with people who were polluted was a huge challenge. Alcohol and drugs do things to people, make them behave in ways they would never behave without the influence. The brain loses its ability to protect itself, numbs the filtering process, and shuts down the emotional controls. So someone who may be very kind with a big heart, a great guy, can, if high enough, become an uncontrollable, screaming, and violent guest. While holding his wife’s hand, a guest could ask a hooker, “how much?” I’ve seen how alcohol can help people let go of everything. The real problem was that the hotel wanted that guest to come back and call our resort home. I had to swallow a lot of shit from people. Writing a book takes a lot of passion, dedication, discipline, and sacrifice. It’s all about a day at a time. You start off thinking how unique you are and through re-writes become a real writer; it’s not easy. Let’s see; writing or dealing with drunks, writing or drunks, hmmm.

Noir Nation: Some say that Las Vegas doesn’t let you leave once the lights have you. Did you find it hard to leave the job, the lights?

Rankin: Before Las Vegas, my world was work, marriage, sleep, and watching TV. It was all pretty standard, black and white normal—paying bills, deciding on what to eat for dinner, watching Monday Night Football and the news, etc. Vegas was like a frontal blast, a laser wake up call for all my senses to stand up straight, a new reason to take deep breaths. If all that we are is a complex web of pathways in the brain, then Vegas carved a trench into my lobes. When it was over, there were pieces of me lying around but the addiction to the rush, the complex yet vibrant smells, the glow of all the lights was hard for me to walk away from. After I left, it took me a while to come down. The first few weeks away were like the DT’s. Even today, years later, I still miss it.

Noir Nation: What is the most memorable experience you would like to share from your book?

Rankin: That’s a difficult question because of all the stories of the guests and what eventually happened to some good friends, but I would have to say the night Mike Tyson fought Evander Holyfield. Steven Spielberg could not have created what that night was like. I decided to place that event in the 1st chapter. That was probably one of the most memorable and shocking experiences in my life.

Noir Nation: Local magazines and the Art District downtown are trying to establish Vegas as a cultural center instead of just a tourist center. Do you think Las Vegas has any culture or do you think that the transient nature harms the roots needed to foster the arts?

Rankin: With a population of 2 million plus 40 million visitors a year, I believe a cultural center is long overdue and would be wonderful for the town if it’s done right. This is still Las Vegas and even a cultural center needs to be done with some flash to create a destination. When taking a wide-angle picture of Vegas, there are a lot of great things the city offers other than the main industry of hotels and casinos. If you look at all the quaint, cultural centers in big cities, it’s a draw, and for Las Vegas it would be a great addition. It would help to create and bring more depth to the town.

Noir Nation: Where do you see Las Vegas in 10 years?

Rankin: Great question and a tough one. If there is ever a town that had a history of re-inventing itself, it is Las Vegas. There was the corporate re-invention from the mob-owned days. The Steve Wynn re-invention when he opened The Mirage and Bellagio. The MGM Grand Hotel and theme park not only re-invented Vegas, it re-invented the other end of the Strip. I believe the MGM opened the floodgates of visitors targeted as families, the twenty and thirty-something, different cultures. The High-rise condos and all that new real estate certainly re-invented what the Strip had been. The CityCenter Resort re-defined what a Vegas destination was going to be in the future. But then the worldwide recession crept across the planet. When things were good in Las Vegas, revenue from new housing developments and industry was exploding. The building of new casinos worldwide has taken its toll along with the recession. The latest targeting seems to be a younger crowd, lots of alcohol, nightclubs, etc. In 10 years, Las Vegas could become stagnant if things don’t improve. The new Asian casinos seem to be keeping Vegas afloat. Virtual gambling may have an impact. The casino corporations may even decide to do something unheard of, get rid of debt. Possibly a new industry will keep the town growing. Then again, the Strip could recreate itself once again, who knows.

Noir Nation: What are you up to creatively and professionally?

Rankin: I’ve been working on a few writing projects, one of which is about the world of professional boxers. There are some seasoned screenwriters I have been meeting with developing a possible series based on the book. For years, I have been working on a second book based on a doorman. I am also a single dad raising my 11-year-old son. Raising a child by yourself takes a lot of creativity.

Contact info: www.JaysLasVegas.com

Under The Neon Sky….A Las Vegas Doorman’s Story

Amazon & Barnes & Noble

Jay Rankin