Blue Vegas

My friends at CityLife Books have released their second offering, “Blue Vegas,” a collection of short stories by P Moss. (Note to readers: This isn’t a typo. Moss doesn’t use punctuation.)

Moss is the semi-legendary owner of the Double Down Saloon, arguably the coolest, most authentic drinking establishment in Las Vegas. Moss has obviously been paying attention; the stories in this collection capture the “real” Vegas (assuming there is such a place). You can almost smell the darkness and desperation. Moss writes in an assured, economical style that gets to the point fast.

And yet, I have a bone to pick with Mr. Moss. In CityLife’s initial press release announcing Moss’s signing last July, he was quoted as saying, “No quality Las Vegas fiction has ever been written. The soul of the city has never been captured on the printed page…I  believe I have done a good job of reversing this trend.”

A bold statement. And he’s mostly right. I certainly have railed against carpet-bagging writers who swoop into town for a few weeks and think they’ve got us figured out. I’m going on my fourth decade here and I’m still surprised by the complexity and contradictions that make up the core of our identity.

But Moss certainly isn’t the only local writer who “gets us.” Submitted for your approval (as Rod Serling used to say), Mr. H. Lee Barnes. Barnes, the most recent inductee into the Nevada Writer’s Hall of Fame (bet you didn’t know we had one), has a long and credible literary track record. I urge P (we’re on a first initial basis) to dip into “Candescent,” the best story in Barnes’ collection, “Talk to Me, James Dean.” It’s easily as good as anything in “Blue Vegas.”

Barnes isn’t the only one. Check out “Bring Your Legs with You” by Darrell Spencer, “Beautiful Children” by Charles Bock, or anything by Las Vegas ex-pat Tod Goldberg. And then there’s Vu Tran, winner of the prestigious Whiting Award and possibly the future of Vegas lit (no pressure or anything, Vu). Don’t believe me? Get your hands on CityLife’s first book, “Restless City,” and prepare to be impressed by Tran’s wrap-up chapter. I’m looking forward to the novel he’s working on.

If Moss is running around making outrageous statements because he thinks it’s a good marketing tactic, I understand. I’m a marketer myself. But if he truly believes he alone is the messiah of Las Vegas fiction, he’s been sampling too much of the Double Down’s famous ass juice.

I hope Moss vehemently disagrees and we start one of those literary feuds I’ve heard so much about. It’s good for business.