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Three questions with Gangsterland author Tod Goldberg

Tomorrow, Sept. 20, novelist Tod Goldberg will sign copies of Gangsterland, his new Vegas-set novel, in the gift store of the Mob Museum. He'll be there from 1-5 p.m. The book has been getting raves and buzz galore, and is worth reading, and Goldberg is funny and engaging in person, worth a visit. The darkly comic story features a mob hitman fleeing a botched assignment, who turns up disguised as a rabbi in Las Vegas. For a quick taste, check out the  excerpt that ran in the September edition of Desert Companion. We asked him three quick questions.

Where did the story — mob hitman hides in Vegas disguised as a rabbi — spring from?

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From a short story I wrote for the anthology Las Vegas Noir, entitled “Mitzvah.” My task was to write something dark and violent about Summerlin, and this idea of someone pretending to be a rabbi and using a Jewish cemetery as a con just popped into my head. Once I finished the story, I knew there was an entire novel — maybe a couple — yet to be written on the topic.

Did you ever consider setting it in a different city? No, never. I specifically saw it taking place in Las Vegas right at the turn of the century, when the gangster culture of the city was suddenly back in vogue. I wanted to play on that boomtown feeling that had captured the city in 1999, when Summerlin was carving through the desert, turning a barren landscape into a giant resort. 

What’s the funnest part of writing about the mob and Vegas? Finding out that even the most outlandish idea I’ve had — all the scams and cons and grifts — have already been done successfully by local politicians ... historically speaking, of course.

Scott Dickensheets is a Las Vegas writer and editor whose trenchant observations about local culture have graced the pages of publications nationwide.