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2017 Fall Culture Guide: Literature and Ideas

Courtesy Mob Museum

Tod Goldberg

Food, festivals & Family | Music | Theater & Dance | Literature and Ideas | Visual Arts

{September 5

There’s a man with a gun over there

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There are two elements of American life you can’t discuss without talking about guns: the Warren Zevon songbook, and the story of crime and law enforcement. Since there’s no Warren Zevon Museum in Las Vegas,  the Mob Museum will pick up the slack. Ashley Hlebinsky, curator with the Cody Firearms Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, will discuss and demonstrate specific firearms associated with mobsters and cops, from the Tommy gun to Tony Spilotro’s .22 pistol. This is your chance to see some of the weapons in the museum’s collection. (SD) Mob Museum, 7p, $20,


{September 8

The words are coming from inside the city!

The Writer’s Block bookstore hosts its monthly Expo reading series, in which selected writers read for five minutes apiece. It’s briskly paced, enjoyable, and lets you sample the variety of literary industry taking place in Las Vegas. Future dates: October 13, November 10. (SD) The Writer’s Block, 7p, free,

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{September 13

Literary infusion

 It’s always a good thing when good writers are introduced into the city’s bloodstream, even temporarily, which is why we’re fans of the Black Mountain Institute’s fellowships. The latest: Lesley Hazleton, author of Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto (“vital, mischievous,” says The New York Times), and Tayari Jones, whose forthcoming novel An American Marriage continues her revitalizing of Southern literary traditions. (SD) UNLV’s Rogers Literature & Law building room 101, 6:30p, free,


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{September 15

Hey, everyone, Olivia’s back!

 How worthy of notice is Olivia Clare’s new volume of short stories, Disasters in the First World? The New York Times busted out a Sunday review of it not long ago, and it was a good one. Now’s your chance to see why. Plus, Clare used to live around here and deserves a hearty welcome back. (SD) The Writer’s Block, 7p, free,


{September 18

We the (sigh) people

 Few things in American life are more contested than our Constitution — a sacred document to some, to others a shield or club with which to engage one’s opponents, and to others still, an enshrined hypocrisy — “ain’t no Constitution in Ferguson,” says an African-American man in the new documentary Whose Streets? How this document came to be is George William Van Cleve’s subject in his University Forum lecture, “The Tumultuous Road to the Constitution.” A professor in law and history at Seattle University’s School of Law, he ought to know. (SD) UNLV’s Barrick Museum, 7p, free,


{September 28

Bzzz (yes, yes!) bzzz (yes, yes!) bzzz (oooh, YES!)

 UNLV women’s studies professor Lynn Comella discusses her new book Vibrator Nation, about how pioneering women entrepreneurs changed the paradigm of women’s sexual empowerment. (SD) The Writer’s Block, 7p, free,


{October 2

When the man comes around

 However irascible Dave Hickey may be as an art critic, this blurb yields to no one in its respect for Hickey as a writer. A contemporary master of the essay form in such books as Air Guitar, Pirates and Farmers, and the forthcoming (in November) Perfect Wave, his prose manages to be dense with ideas yet musically nimble in expression, and frequently quite funny. So when he gives a lecture on writing, as he will this night, it’s worth braving UNLV’s crappy parking situation to hear. (SD) UNLV’s Barrick Museum, 7p, free,


{October 5

If only there were recent developments to give this some topical urgency

 Cybercrime. Who hasn’t fallen victim to it in one way or another? In this Courtroom Conversation, a panel of experts will discuss the global scope and monstrous impact of online crime, from identity theft and malware to gambling and hacking. They’ll also address measures that can be taken to curtail it. (SD) Mob Museum, 7p, $25,


{October 6

Moss growing

P Moss is a real-life Vegas character of the first rank, and in Jimmy Dot, raconteur hero of his new novel Vegas Tabloid, he’s created a classic fictional Vegas character. Hear him read and talk about it. (SD) The Writer’s Block, 7p, free,


{October 10

Somewhere, a Pixar executive turns to another and says, “This could work …”

 A wolf eats a mouse and a duck — who, smartly, decide to live merrily in the wolf’s belly. What sounds like a parable for maintaining sanity in modern America is actually the premise of kids’ book The Wolf, the Duck, and The Mouse, the latest collabo between Mac Barnett and Caldecott medalist Jon Klassen. (SD) Venue and time to be announced, t


{October 10

One to watch

The Amazon page for Lesley Nneka Arimah’s debut collection What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky features nearly a book’s worth of praiseworthy blurbs. No wonder. One story is about a woman who wants a child so much that she weaves one out of hair; the title story is set “in a world ravaged by flood and riven by class.” See what the fuss is about. (SD) UNLV’s Rogers Literature & Law building, 7p, free,


{October 14

We have nothing to fear but fear itself. Also spiders. And heights. And dentists. And guys wearing hockey masks in non-hockey contexts. And flying. And commitment. And airborne sharks. But mostly spiders.

Welcome to StorySlam, in which ordinary Las Vegans are invited to the stage to share true stories from their lives, based on the theme “facing your fears.” To get involved, email by September 9. Unless you’re afraid of public speaking, that is. In which case, what better way to face your fear? (SD) Charleston Heights Arts Center, 7p, $5 suggested admission, 702-229-ARTS


{October 19

The book on Vegas

Launch event for Volume 8 of the Las Vegas Writes series, published annually in conjunction with the Las Vegas Book Festival. This year’s anthology, Back to Where You Once Belonged, features 10 local writers contributing essays on the theme “the weight of the past on the present.” Topics range from ancient petroglyphs to black culture to personal tragedies overcome. Full disclosure: The volume was edited by this guy —> (SD) Clark County Library, 7p, free,


{October 20

Murder times four

True-crime author Cathy Scott — whom long-timers will recall from her stint as a reporter at the Las Vegas Sun, as well as her books about Vegas-related mayhem — takes a look at four murders connected to Las Vegas: the mob’s whacking of Fat Herbie Blitzstein; the shooting of Tupac Shakur; the kidnapping and homicide of local salsa queen Ginger Rios; and the execution-style death of Susan Berman, daughter of a Vegas mobster. Scott knows her stuff. (SD) Mob Museum, 1p, $20,


{October 21

One book festival to rule them all

The Las Vegas Book Festival, where to start? It’s bursting with significant names: Kevin Young, a major poet (and poetry editor of The New Yorker); Daniel Handler, novelist and Lemony Snicket creator; important children’s author Sharon M. Draper; New York Times book critic Dwight Garner; novelist and essayist Walter Kirn; romance writer Sylvia Day; Washington Post journalist Wesley Lowery; novelist Britt Bennett; and dozens more. It’s bursting with significant themes: race and justice; writing in the age of Trump; LGBT youth; the future of journalism; plus plenty of genre writers, an overflowing raft of YA authors; fun; food, and more. Plus-plus, stay for the evening program at Inspire Theatre. Presented by the City of Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Clark County Library District, Black Mountain Institute, and Nevada Humanities. (SD) Historic Fifth Street School, 10a, free,


{October 24

Seems kinda quaint now

The Kennedy assassination is the big conspiracy of modern America, generating theory after theory of varying crackpottery. With declassified documents related to the event going public this year, the Mob Museum is gathering a pair of experts to debate one of the most enduring Kennedy-killing notions: that the mob was involved. Author Gus Russo will argue that Oswald acted alone, while author Dan Moldea will suggest that Jimmy Hoffa and organized crime was behind it. Maybe they’ll settle it once and for all. (SD) Mob Museum, 7p, $20,


{October 24

Area man peddles book

But when that area man is Brian Rouff, it’s worth a look. His new novel, The House Always Wins, sounds like a grab-bag of delights: a love story, a ghost story, a mystery, and more. Plus, he’s a heck of an engaging guy in person. (SD) Clark County Library, 7p, free,


{October 30

If only there were recent developments to give this some topical urgency

Tonight’s talk, by Brown University professor Sergei Nikitich Khrushchev, is titled, “The Significance of the Russian Revolution 100 Years On.” (SD) UNLV’s Barrick Museum, 7p, free,


{November 4

Cultural exchange

We hate to sound like a post-Trump togetherness meme, but there is a tremendous upside to learning about other cultures — particularly Native American. Well, here’s your chance. Cree medicine man Sean Wei Mah and Ann Vannoy share such aspects of native life as connection with nature, spirit animals, and the concept of “walking in balance.” You gotta go if you want to know. (SD) Centennial Hills Library (11/4) and Summerlin Library (11/12), 2p both days, free,


{November 4

If only there were recent developments to give this some topical urgency

Barbara J. Risman, sociology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, discourses thusly: “Where Will the Millennials Take Us? A New Generation Wrestles with the Gender Structure.” Relevant, much? (SD) UNLV’s Barrick Museum, 7p, free,


{November 4


When you have comic books, comic-book cosplay, comic-book workshops, plus all the trimmings — by which we mean face painting, food trucks, etc. — we have to be talking about the Vegas Valley Comic Book Festival. Now in its whopping 10th year! A full day of nerd-out fun with creators and fellow fans. (SD) Clark County Library, 9:30a, free,


{November 6

Food, festivals & Family | Music | Theater &  Dance | Literature and Ideas | Visual Arts

If only there were recent developments to give this some topical urgency

This lecture, by UNLV assistant professor of family medicine John Christiaan Bester, will tackle the question, “Should My Child Get a Measles Vaccination? Can’t I Just Rely on Herd Immunity?” (SD) UNLV’s Barrick Museum, 7p, free,


{November 17

Get out! (And hike, we mean.)

But first, equip yourself with knowledge by sitting in with Branch Whitney, author of Hiking Las Vegas: The All-in-One Guide to Exploring Red Rock Canyon, Mt. Charleston, and Lake Mead. (SD) Rainbow Library, 3:30p, free,


{December 4

Awesome times two

Black Mountain Institute recently revived the much-loved (in lit circles) magazine The Believer (tip: subscribe now at, and it’s under that magazine’s aegis that the organization pairs two absolutely major contemporary novelists, Paul Beatty, who won the 2016 Man Booker Prize for The Sellout, and Viet Thanh Nguyen, who won the Pulitzer Prize for The Sympathizer. Topics include: satire, literature as political, and the other.  Enter this onto your e-calendar now! (SD) UNLV’s Rando Hall, 7p, free,



It’s no mystery why crime writers set their tales in Vegas. Where better to whack someone than a city famous for sin, spectacle, and a risk mentality?


October 20

Rabbi Glock, I presume?

Tod Goldberg, author of the best-seller Gangsterland (recently optioned for TV), will sign copies of his highly anticipated follow-up, Gangster Nation, which continues the violent misadventures of a Chicago mob hitman hiding out in Vegas, pretending to be a rabbi. In addition to being a fine writer, Goldberg is a hoot in person. (SD) Mob Museum, 3p, $20,


November 7

Murder most Megan

Local novelist Megan Edwards, who launched her Copper Black mystery series this year with Getting Off on Frank Sinatra, is already back with her follow-up, the prequel Full Service Blonde. Prostitution, long-distance romance, the homeless, Christmas — Copper’s got a lot of balls in the air. Edwards reads and signs. (SD) The Writer’s Block, 7p, free,