I’d wanted to write a Las Vegas story for a long time. The city has always fascinated me but until recently my impressions were all based on television and movies. I’d read some non-fiction books and watched some documentaries, but I didn’t have any real sense of the city outside of the cliches and I knew if I was going to write a Vegas story I wanted it to be about the other side of Vegas. I didn’t want to write a heist story or a gambling story or a starting over story, but other than that, I really didn’t know what else I wanted. The two things happened. I had two kids back-to-back, which fried my brain and my patience, then I actually had a chance to visit Vegas. With kids.
Wow. It’s not something I will ever do again with kids, but man, it was a gold mine for the type of story I knew I wanted to write. Because If I’d just went there with my wife we wouldn’t have left the hotel after we checked in. But with kids, and only my dad as an intermittent baby sitter, our time in the casinos was limited and we were forced to find other ways to amuse ourselves. Like going to the outlet mall. Yes, Las Vegas has an outlet mall by the airport and it plays a strong role in my story. But even more than the mall itself, the drive out there provided me with all of the details I needed for my “other side of Vegas” story.
Prior to leaving for Vegas, I read the Vegas Noir anthology from Akashic books and saw the variety of stories that were possible with the city and this fueled my desire to contribute my own. The other thing I wanted to do, was play around with the issue of kids in fiction. I once heard Michael Connelly say that after he had kids, there were certain things he couldn’t write about anymore. I could sort of understand, but also thought, as a writer, it was lame. So after I had kids I knew I wanted to challenge myself and see where I could go. It didn’t hurt that with two kids a year apart, it was easier for me to think about getting rid of them or dropping them off at a church or whatever unsavory things I could think of. So that, combined with all of these new details I had been exposed to on my trip gelled together nicely. This is one of my favorite stories and I think probably my best one so far.
A note on where it’s published. When I first finished it, I was sending it out for reads and someone mentioned I should send it to Ellery Queen for their Black Mask section. I thought that might be cool, but when I went in and started to polish the story up, I found was I took out all of the swearing and sex the story fell apart. That’s not always true with my stories, but in this one, with it’s location and with the themes I was trying to work through, it was necessary. So even more than my last one, I think this story is a perfect fit with Plots With Guns. It meshes all of the transgressive elements inherent in a story about Vegas with a strong literary tradition that is virtually unmatched by any current publication. And I couldn’t be prouder to be part of it.