Casinos, and the sometimes-intriguing characters who inhabit and work in them, have often intrigued authors, who are drawn to the highs and lows of the casino experience and the emotional impact it has on characters.
However, getting the right mix of technical detail, narrative drive and character development has often proved illusive for many top writers. Only some get it right, such as ‘A Desperate Place‘, a novel we recently reviewed.
Here are some of the times that the literary world got it just right, with author and editor on the same page, creating some of the best thrillers and fiction that features casinos and the games that go on within them.
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
Casino Royale was a sell-out success when it was first published back in 1953. Readers became fascinated in how the world would be shaped by the planet’s special forces and intelligence agencies.
Few at the time could ever have realized just what a smash hit the James Bond franchise would become, with the book being made into a movie in 2006. The movie stuck quite closely to the book, but there were some differences. Still, the film was a huge success.
The plot centers around a bad guy who owns a casino, with Bond going in to take the casino tables by storm in order to bankrupt the house and rile the dastardly Le Chiffre.
There is no doubt that, had Fleming written the novel post-digital revolution, the storyline would have been somewhat different, with perhaps even Bond turning to online games to achieve his objective. However, both land-based and online casinos are far better regulated today, meaning that players of the many online casino games available can rest assured that there are no ulterior motives behind the games they partake in, nor the sites they are based on.
Regulations at online casinos are also backed up by new tech security techniques such as RNGs (Random Number Generators), which effectively shuffle the cards better than any human and ensure fair play. 007 would most certainly approve.
Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich
There are many social commentators and academics who decry the fact that many of the world’s sharpest minds now earn their crust trying to build algorithms simply to create better online ads.
Never was this more in focus than in this Bringing Down the House, a book published in 2002 that followed the exploits of a team of young academics from MIT who discovered how to beat the house at blackjack.
Of course, the real intrigue here had more to do with the breakdown of the relationships that existed in the team, as greed and power got the better of them.
Casino by Nicholas Pileggi
Think of the Sopranos being set in a Las Vegas casino and you are pretty close to knowing what Casino by Nicholas Pileggi reads like.
With Hollywood going through something of a love affair with mob related movies in the 90s, the book was turned into a motion picture in 1995, directed by Martin Scorsese and starred the likes of Robert De Niro and Sharon Stone.
However, although the movie was not a total flop, it never quite managed to deliver the same emotional punch as the novel, which dared to trawl the psyches of some of America’s most dangerous men and the industry they once dominated.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
Some books manage to transcend art, especially when the author embodies the characters he writes, but that was always the gonzo journalistic style of American wild man Hunter S. Thompson who, when he was not writing scathing attacks of Richard Nixon for Rolling Stone magazine, was penning books such as Fear and Loathing and the incredible Rum Diaries or Hells Angels.
Fear and Loathing was set for the most part in a Las Vegas casino, and plunged the depths where the American dream had gone to rot and die, if it had ever truly existed in the first place.
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