Desert Companion

Truth in fiction

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Andrew Kiraly

Andrew Kiraly, Editor

For a city with so many stories, characters, contrasts and conflicts — not to mention this whole ultralounge-on-Mars setting we’ve got going on — Vegas sometimes seems like a living novel. We’ve got gaming titans with outsize fortunes and personalities doing battle on the Strip, hard-working families seeking fresh starts, and countless eccentrics and longtimers with fascinating backstories that trail for generations. Throbbing luxury, routinized debauch, holy deserts, clock-punch lives. No wonder it’s an irresistible draw for fiction writers who seek to mine the city for meaning and material. Must be nice to find a place where the everyday truth is so strange and resounding you don’t have to make too much stuff up.

The stories in our Summer Reading Issue (p. 68) are sure to ring with the sense of the true in the way that only fiction can. The phrase “summer reading” usually conjures the promise of juicy poolside page-turners and breezy, beach-ready paperback bricks, but the stories we feature in our inaugural issue offer more than escapist fare — they offer deeply observed insights about life in the Las Vegas Valley. If fiction gets at its truth by considering the human condition, it generates its realism from specificity, and these two mandates intersect in the distinctly Las Vegas stories in the pages ahead. Aurora Brackett’s “Dorothy and the Scarecrow” is a quietly intense story of a child’s experience of grief, and how place — in this case, Sunset Park — can be a locus of loss as much as a loved one’s voice or touch. David Armstrong’s “Coyotes of the Apocalypse” is an unflinching look at the peculiar cruelties of the teenage years, but with a twist. And last but not least is an excerpt from Vu Tran’s upcoming novel Dragonfish, set in the Vietnamese underworld of Las Vegas. In Tran’s novel, Robert, an Oakland cop, comes to town to search for his ex-wife Suzy, who’s disappeared after marrying a violent Vegas smuggler and gambler. Part noir, part psychological thriller and part literary meditation on the refugee experience, Dragonfish may ultimately rank up there with some of the canonical Las Vegas novels (or at least my favorites) such as Leaving Las Vegas and Vegas: Memoir of a Dark Season. If your attention span needs to do some stretching beforehand, we’ve got three exceedingly clever flash fictions from Mercedes Yardley, Brian Rouff and Kris Saknussemm to start you off.

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After that, time to eat! For our sixth annual DEALicious Meals (p. 57), once again we spanned the valley with forks and knives, finding some of the best meal deals around. From fine dining finds to best-kept suburban secrets, we’ve got more than 50 must-eat dishes for you to try — and if you’re on the run, be sure to check out our series on fun and unusual drive-thrus serving quality grub on the go — pad thai, baguettes, fried turkey slabs, you name it. Whether you’re a bookworm or big foodie, there’s plenty of sustenance ahead.

 

Next  Month

A feelgood hit: Our health and medicine issue

If you’ve enjoyed this read, wait until you get your hands on a bunch of these reads from contemporary voices mining the good stuff from Las Vegas — all laid out in a gorgeous design experience. Subscribe. It comes to your house. For real!

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