Casino – Nicholas Pileggi

Nicholas Pileggi is the esteemed true mob crime author of two of the most prominent mob books ever written; Casino and Wiseguys. Both of these books lead to collaborations with director Martin Scorsese, and became the highly acclaimed films Casino and Goodfellas. Pileggi was a crime journalist for the Associated Press for nearly 30 years with a focus on mob crimes. Having begun his career in the 1950’s, Pileggi was reporting crime at the very time the events in his book Casino were beginning to take place. Pileggi sat down with several of the real-life players in the story, including Frank (Lefty) Rosenthal, and wrote Casino based on these interviews. Casino is an accurate, intense and vivid insider look into the rise and fall of the Las Vegas mob.

The Book

Casino is the story of the Las Vegas mob in the 1970’s and 80’s. A graphic portrayal of the true-life events of mobsters Frank (Lefty) Rosenthal and Tony (The Ant) Spilotro, and this book is not for the faint of heart.

In very colourful language Casino tells the story of a young Frank Rosenthal, who was sent to Las Vegas by the mob bosses in Chicago and hoping for a fresh start. Rosenthal meets and marries the exquisitely beautiful showgirl Geraldine McGee. The story follows his rise to riches and fame as Rosenthal is made a silent partner at several of the casinos in Vegas. He basically runs the show and delivers the (heavily) skimmed cash to the never-present owners.

While Rosenthal is the brains of the operation, a lower level thug and straight-up maniac named Tony Spilotro is the muscle. As partners, Lefty and The Ant run the gambling scene without opposition or question. Everything is going nice and smoothly for the two, that is, until Spilotro begins an affair with Rosenthal’s coveted wife.

Now about this time, late 1970’s to 80’s, the FBI are looking to crack down on Vegas. Clean that town up. They know the Chicago mob is somehow connected to and controlling the scene in Vegas, but they can’t pinpoint where the connections are, and they are keeping an eagle eye on Tony Spilotro.

Suffice it to say that Casino is an action packed and emotionally charged read from beginning to end.

What Critics Have to Say

Critique for Casino is a wide spectrum with the majority of readers agreeing that it is a fun and informative read, but many also describe it as difficult to get through because of the fact packed content. One comment that is repeated frequently was that Casino is in no way as good as Wiseguys, which seems to have set the bar pretty high. However, a redeeming factor for Casino is that it its first person narrative from multiple characters allows the reader to feel truly submerged in the story, and lets readers into the very heart of each character’s experience.

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