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The Battle for Las Vegas; The Law vs. The Mob Looks at Vegas Crime in the 70's and 80'sBook Review by: Tim King Salem-News.com
Flashback to 2006: No punches are pulled in this hard-hitting historical account of some of the most vicious men to ever walk the face of the earth.
(LAS VEGAS) - Sin city meets hard truth in a new book by Dennis N. Griffin called The Battle for Las Vegas; The Law vs. The Mob. Never again will the reader see those characters who ran Vegas during the hard years in the 70's and 80's in the same light.
In this gritty real life drama about America’s most corrupt city, Griffin removes the facade and allows this desert gambling place to tell true stories about real events from a police perspective, and that is different.
These were the years when the Chicago Outfit dominated oeganized crime in Las Vegas.
Sort of like Bonnie and Clyde, without the likeability and charm of Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty. You know the real Bonnie Parker was not as, shall we say, photogenic? Sort of like Las Vegas if somebody yanked the plug that keeps the millions of dollars a month in neon lights glowing, it wouldn’t look like much at all.
The book’s cover shot is a scene from the older days of Las Vegas. The author walks the reader through the years from 1829, when an 18-year old Mexican scout who worked for a trading caravan found the area. He had been sent off in search of a new trade route between Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Los Angeles, California.
His discovery of Las Vegas, which translates to the meadow in Spanish, remained fairly low keyed, only being shared with other Mexicans and local Paiutes until the arrival of John Fremont in 1844, the namesake of Fremont Street in downtown sin city.
Fremont Street today is a covered area free of car traffic, and the most amazing video images travel over or totally occupy the area with the brightest, boldest and biggest images I’ve ever seen in an outdoor environment. This is an aspect of Las Vegas that is family-friendly and memorable, I can’t imagine how much it must have cost to build and create.
My five years in Las Vegas, Nevada were only years in the shadows of the events passed along in this unique piece by Griffin, who looks at the high crime years during the 1970’s and 1980’s through the eyes of the investigators who finally won their war, sort of anyway.
Spilotro was known as a person who could have another person murdered with little more than the blink of an eye. Most of the actual crime centered around burglary, which I recall being rather surprised to learn.
There are payoffs and “skimming” casino earnings, but the book explains how Spilotro and his boys were really a bunch of ruthless burglars, and at the time, it was, “God help anybody who gets in their way.” Tony “the Ant” Spilotro was known for being vicious, and many of his murders are said to have involved great amounts of torture, as his own death also eventually would.
Even the most cold-blooded people have a soft side, and Griffin documents some of Spilotro's charity, community spirit, love for his family, and even a desire to help poor, struggling employees.
But he was no Al Capone. Chicago truly benefitted from Capone's money, whereas Spilotro and his troop were, for the most part, out for themselves.
They say that in the end, Spilotro grew out of control, and the superiors in Chicago ended his reign of terror in Las Vegas by leaving his body, and that of his brother Michael, clothed only in their underwear, beaten and buried in a shallow grave in a Midwest cornfield, probably while still alive.
Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
Another take on Goodman is that he relentlessly pursued the freedom of his murderous clients each time they were arrested. He got them off when it came to murder charges and not just once. The book delves deeply into the crooked cops also, guys who would totally jump ship and move directly into organized crime.
A great example from the mid-70’s is the story of Joe Blasko, a detective for Las Vegas Metro Police, and Phil Leone, a sergeant in the department’s anti-crime unit. Each man reported directly to Sheriff Ralph Lamb, who had vowed to take the mob out of his city. Without his knowledge, they also directly reported to Spilotro and other Vegas mobsters. Then they got caught by the department, slapped on the wrist and fired, and switched overnight into mobsters.
Some cops retire, some stay busy with secondary careers, and in Las Vegas, some join the Mafia.
I suppose my favorite part comes from the other people who were close to the problem. That’s right, nothing less than the local news media. Several people from the Las Vegas market that I know write short chapters with their memories of the time.
That is when I heard many of the stories related in Griffin’s book, the first time. In the movie Casino, Gwen plays the Business Week reporter who does the interview with Robert Deniro in the movie Casino. In real life, Gwen actually did that interview with “Lefty” Rosenthal.
Along with several other journalists of the time, Gwen lays down her memories in a way only she can, “That period was an oddly-fascinating, but tough and grueling time. It was probably the most weird complex chunk of time in organized-crime history. And it occurred on the open neutral turf of Las Vegas. I don’t believe there is any other city where mob activity played out this way.”
I know people who will tell you that without a doubt, he was murdered. With Ned Day, ended a constant dagger of public consciousness in Spilotro’s side that he didn’t like at all.
Ned Day’s death was ruled an accident.
Today Las Vegas is a different place, and the mob does not at least overtly, control what is going on there. That is, unless you consider Goodman’s role in the whole affair.
I would check out The Battle for Las Vegas; The Law vs. The Mob. by Dennis N. Griffin. It is a real eye opener that illustrates the power of corruption and the downside of where gambling based industry can lead.
Dennis Griffin is a Las Vegas resident who retired after a 20-year career in law enforcement. He is the author of six published mystery thrillers including the first two books of a Las Vegas based trilogy. Look for Dennis's book The Battle for Las Vegas; The Law vs. The Mob. published by Huntington Press on Amazon and other quality booksellers.
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