24/7: Living it Up and Doubling Down in the New Las Vegas

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9780375501814: 24/7: Living it Up and Doubling Down in the New Las Vegas
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In April 1998, Andrés Martinez withdrew fifty thousand dollars from the bank--most of the advance he was paid for this book--and boarded a plane to the fastest-growing metropolis in America: Las Vegas. Armed with a wad of traveler's checks, Martinez spent a month within the belly of the beast. 24/7 is the round-the-clock chronicle of his wild ride through America's neon Gomorrah.
        
Every chapter--each is named after one of the fabled hotels where Martinez holed up with his bankroll--is a fly-on-the-wall view of a different aspect of Las Vegas. From the sumptuous Bellagio to the off-Strip grind joints that cater to local addicts, 24/7 evokes a city that is both human and larger than life.
        
We are introduced to the people who work in, pass through, and thrive on Vegas: a minister who shines shoes at a topless joint, a school superintendent who must build a new facility every twenty-eight days, and a water czar who covets her neighbors' share of the Colorado River. Martinez hobnobs with conventioneers, befriends a professional sports gambler who raised six kids while losing eight million dollars, and dines with a retired Israeli "security officer" whose lifelong ambition was to move to Vegas and become a blackjack guru. Martinez wanders into the Liberace Museum, attends Easter Sunday mass in the Strip cathedral of the world's most rapidly expanding Catholic archdiocese, and ponders the meaning of it all with Vegas's leading historians.
        
Interwoven throughout are dispatches from the green-felt front. Martinez laces his blood with adrenaline in an exhilarating all-night session of baccarat with some well-heeled Chinese and idles over slots with an abandoned bride. Above all, he goes mano a mano at blackjack--learning the ropes from his dealer, gathering tricks of the trade from his breakfast companions, and experiencing the angst of Dostoevsky and the sheer ecstasy of the triumphal gambler.
        
Thought-provoking, hilarious, personal, and journalistically brilliant, 24/7 is a rush of a read, a head-on exploration of a unique American landscape.

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Review:

Perhaps the most fun of a bushel of books about the "new" Las Vegas, 24/7 is as surreal and addictive as a hot game of blackjack at 4 a.m. In this first-person chronicle of a month in Las Vegas, Andrés Martinez whirls through casinos and hotels with his $50,000 book advance, taking notes on characters, nightclubs, and hotel lobbies between wild betting sprees at the blackjack table or roulette wheel.

Part of what makes 24/7 enjoyable is the fact that Martinez is no down-and-out gambler, but a former lawyer with an Ivy League pedigree whose main vice seems to be an addiction to Diet Coke. He takes to his exploits with the intoxication of someone released from dull routine, without ever falling down on the job. As a result, he's never too delirious to note the weirdest details of this desert mirage. It's a city "where buildings themselves perform," lined with such features as a Jules Verne theme park, erupting volcanoes, and battling pirate ships. Early on, the author gets philosophical: "What type of city did we build in the middle of a desert, a metropolis with no reason, beyond our willpower and playful imagination, to exist?" Anyone who's ever asked themselves the same question will satisfy their curiosity with this entertaining, firsthand view of the fastest-growing city in America. --Maria Dolan

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24/7: Living It Up and Doubling Down in the New Las Vegas

The story of Las Vegas is less about hotel rooms and gambling than it is about American mythology. Las Vegas is our mirror out in the desert, all shiny like a mirage should be, reflecting our basest urges. What type of city did we build in the middle of a desert, a metropolis with no reason, beyond our willpower and playful imagination, to exist? And what does it say about us that this monument to American optimism and technological arrogance in the Mojave Desert has become the largest American city born in the twentieth century and its fastest-growing one going into the twenty-first?

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