04 October 2014

CHEER AND ROVING IN LAS VEGAS: A Guest Post by Chrysler Szarlan

Our guest author, Chrysler.   

Hi, y'all.  I'm away in Memphis for the weekend, but I bribed asked my co-worker, Chrysler Szarlan, to  fill in for me with a guest post.  Chrysler's new book, The Hawley Book of the Dead is a wonderful and richly atmospheric debut, and I hope to post my review of it soon.  It's the story of real magicalism, intrigue, and witchery, and it's one of the funnest books I've read in a long time.


When the heroine of my novel, The Hawley Book of the Dead, let me know that she was a magician, and a famed Las Vegas illusionist at that, I said, "Really? Las Vegas? Wouldn't you rather be a poet in Key West or something?"

For I am a writer, and a reader, most inspired by place. I love traveling while reading of the places I'm traveling to. For trips to California, I bring Steinbeck and John Muir. For Ireland, I stock up on Yeats and Elizabeth Bowen (though she was Anglo-Irish). For Europe, Henry James. When I do research for my writing, I love to immerse myself in the places I write about. And I had zero interest in Las Vegas. Especially since my reading set in Las Vegas had been limited to Stephen King's post-apocalyptic version in The Stand, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and the chapter in Tom Wolfe's The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, which, oddly, also mentions my tiny hometown of Wilbraham, Massachusetts. 

In my mind, the city was not pretty. It was as seedy as it was glitzy, and just as crime-drenched as sun-drenched. But I was compelled by my characters. So I went, husband and friend Leon in tow, to help me navigate. We found ourselves in Vegas on a windy March morning. 

And I LOVED it, almost immediately.

It was over the top, the neon city rising from the desert, as if by magic. It was magical at every turn. Our hotel room balcony had a view of the New York City skyline, the Chrysler building, and the Statue of Liberty at 1/3 scale, but plenty impressive.

There were jaw-droppingly befeathered showgirls in the bathrooms.

And very cool retro neon on the old Fremont side of town, more than I could have imagined in one place.

We rode horses in the desert.

And got our photo taken with a million dollars, for free.

We even went for gondola rides at The Venetian. Altogether, we found Las Vegas to be a cheery, sunny place for roving.

And I found books about Las Vegas, and the surrounding desert, books I could love and sink myself into, as I sank into the huge Jacuzzi in the bathroom of our suite, after a long day of touring the world in miniature. The Art of Disappearing, by Ivy Pochoda, about a magician in Las Vegas whose magic is as real as the magic my heroine possesses, just grittier and even more troublesome. Battleborn, by Claire Vaye Watkins, brilliant, stark stories of the city and the desert, reminding me a little of Annie Proulx. For non-fiction,Fooling Houdini, by Alex Stone, the story of his quest to win at the Magic Olympics and become a master magician.
So, altogether it was a great trip. I found inspiration for my magical heroine and the series she would inhabit, at the big illusion shows of David Copperfield and Criss Angel, at Area 51, and the very ancient, petroglyphed Valley of Fire. But I expected inspiration from those places. What I hadn’t expected was the vibrancy and the real, true beauty that the shining city held, and the fine books about it that I discovered. As unexpected as the proverbial white rabbit pulled out of a hat, the first time you ever saw it. 
Chrysler with an Evil Rabbit
So, to spice things up, Chrysler and I are doing a joint giveaway for a signed, first edition of The Hawley Book of the Dead.  All you need to do to enter is leave a comment here and hop on over to Chrysler's author website, www.chryslerszarlan.com, and sign up!


  1. What a lovely post about following characters' demands and loving a crazy city. I look forward to reading the book! :-) Melanie MP (Emily's friend in CT)

  2. So interesting to read this! I have been in two minds for a long time as to whether I would love or hate Vegas. Some friends have visited and told me I must go as I'd find it incredible and others have said "don't go, it's not for you!"

    You began as a Vegas sceptic and really liked it. Now I'm thinking maybe I would too!

    Is your book published in the UK?

    PS Have a great trip to Memphis Emily. Somewhere else I've never been so I do hope you will write about it.

  3. Yes, yes, this post is magical and the book sounds great. I love the fact that it is also funny. I too have a love-almost hate relationship with the city that guzzles the precious water from the Colorado River to water its lawns and keep those constantly evaporating fountains evaporating. And the canals? Yet, it is childlike in many ways and as we all know, kids can be brats.

  4. Glad you found the magic, there is much to be had.

  5. Ok I love that Rabbit picture... Also standing near a million dollars how fun. Currently reading your book (well listening to it on audible) and loving it. Congrats!


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