A Vegas tale of mobsters, romance and redemption

Where does a mobster go when he’s through mobstering?

Jail. Witness protection. Heaven (or the other place). Or maybe he just inhabits a fixer-upper he once owned in Las Vegas, where he can meet a young reporter and help her investigate some shady dealings by a crooked casino owner.

Even if he happens to be, well, dead.

It’s a scenario that’s been percolating in the imagination of Las Vegas author Brian Rouff for years, and one that Rouff finally has the chance to explore in his latest novel, “The House Always Wins” (Huntington Press, $16.95).

Rouff, 63, managing partner of a Henderson marketing and public relations agency, published two books during the early 2000s. “Then, the economy tanked and I had to go back to work more than full-time, as we all did, and I just didn’t have the time or the energy to really get on a roll with this idea,” he says.

“But it kept nagging at me. So, finally, when things started to turn around and I realized I wasn’t getting any younger, it was time to just get it done.”

The story is a double-barreled one. One thread involves a crooked casino owner who’s trying to buy up properties — including the beloved home recently purchased by young Las Vegas transplant Anna — for a parking lot. The other is the story of two people dealing with new futures: Anna, who fell in love with a bass player in a band, packed up her things and moved with him from Michigan, and Meyer, a deceased Las Vegas mobster who’s adjusting to an extracorporeal lifestyle.

Meyer is “based on some famous Vegas mobsters like Moe Dalitz and Meyer Lansky,” Rouff says, and his story mirrors those of real-life wiseguys for whom Las Vegas offered a chance for character rehabilitation and a new life.

“I love the idea of Las Vegas being the land of reinvention,” Rouff says. “And you’ve got this guy with a very nefarious past, and he’s OK with it, but having, as we all do when we get a little older, some doubts and second thoughts about maybe how he could have lived his life differently.”

There’s also “a lot of my dad in there,” Rouff says. “He wasn’t a mobster, but he grew up with mobsters in Detroit.

“Not many people remember the Purple Gang, but they were pretty notorious. He grew up with them. He was invited to participate in some of their activities, but he had the good sense to decline, which is why he lived well into his 80s.”

In addition, the home in which Anna and Meyer coexist is modeled after a place on East St. Louis Avenue that Rouff and his family lived in during the early 2000s. The home was, he says, built by Jack Eglash, who, as orchestra leader at the Sahara hotel, worked with such stars as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lewis.

“It was a complete mess,” he says. “We picked it up really cheap.”

Rouff has lived in Las Vegas for almost 37 years, and his novel reflects his deep knowledge of the city’s history. It’s vital to get Vegas-centric details right “because you don’t want to take the reader out of the story,” he explains. “We’ve all had that experience while reading a book.”

He cites as one memorable example a book by “a very accomplished, well-known author who will remain nameless, but most of the story took place in Las Vegas and he referred to ‘the on-ramp to Maryland Parkway.’ I’m reading that and I’m like, ‘Oh, come on now.’

“The authenticity of my adopted home here in Las Vegas I take very seriously. And, then, within that, I want to create these characters that stay with you. When somebody says, ‘I want a sequel’ or ‘I want to learn more’ or ‘I was sorry when it ended,’ that’s the ultimate compliment.”

Rouff considers his book a genre-buster — part coming of age and part road trip story, as well as “a love story, a ghost story, a Vegas story.”

Writing from the point-of-view of a twenty-something woman was challenging, Rouff says, but “I’ve got grown daughters, and I work with about 10 young women who are mostly in that millennial category, so I was surrounded by consultants. So during the time I was writing from Anna’s viewpoint, I really felt I was in tune with the female side of me, which I didn’t know I had.”

Contact John Przybys at reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280. Follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Life
Kids become firefighters at Fire Station 98 open house
Henderson residents wore fire hats, learned about CPR and met firefighters at the Fire Station 98 open house Saturday, August 11, 2018. (Marcus Villagran Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
People from all over the world attend RollerCon 2018
RollerCon 2018 is a five-day convention focused on the roller derby community and culture at Westgate in Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Camp Broadway teaches kids how to sing and dance
The Smith Center's seventh annual Camp Broadway musical theater program gives 150 kids ages 6-17 an opportunity to learn musical theater skills from industry professionals over a five-day period. Marcus Villagran/ Las Vegas Review-Journal @brokejournalist
Las Vegas police officer on being PETA's Sexiest Vegan Next Door
Las Vegas police officer David Anthony talks vegan lifestyle and how he feels about being voted PETA's sexiest Vegan next door from his home on Monday, July 9, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
'NO H8' Campaign comes to Las Vegas
Hundreds of locals participate in the NO H8 campaign founded by Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley as a response to Proposition 8, a California ban on same-sex marriage. The campaign has since evolved to represent equal treatment for all. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Over 40,000 People Attend The 4th Of July Parade In Summerlin In Las Vegas
Over 40,000 People Attend The 4th Of July Parade In Summerlin In Las Vegas. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Star Wars and Golden Knights mashup at downtown art shop
Star Wars and Vegas Golden Knights fans attend the Boba Fett Golden Knight Paint Class at The Bubblegum Gallery in Las Vegas, Friday, June 29, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Bark-Andre Furry meets Capitals superfan Ovie the Bulldog
Two of NHL's furriest fans met at the Forum Shops in Caesars Palace on Tuesday, June 18, 2018, in Las Vegas. Vegas Golden Knights superfan Bark-Andre Furry and Washington Capitals superfan Ovie the Bulldog shared a plate of meatballs and spaghetti with help from Logan, "The Girl with the Hat." (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like