Book Review: “Maximum Rossi”

Maximum “Max” Rossi comes to Las Vegas to escape his past…and finds trouble.

For the past nine weeks or so, I’ve been missing Las Vegas. I’m here, but because of the shutdown, I’m not.

But then I bought a book called Maximum Rossi by Paul Papa. For the hours spent reading the book, I was on the town again, pushing through crowds, loving the bright lights, playing poker, seeing shows, eating out and even learning the rules for the years before my own arrival as a visitor.

Maximum Rossi, in a Facebook ad, had been described as a “Las Vegas Crime Noir”. Bored with the daily routine, that description was enough to send me to Amazon for a purchase. (The 6″ by 8″ paperback was $9.99.)

When I picked up the book, I almost stopped at page one where a couple of too cute descriptions (“He was a lemon of a man, sour as they come”) made me wince a bit. But I read on…and I loved every page after that first one.

Author Paul Papa lives in Las Vegas and his background includes years of security work at the Sands Hotel and Casino. In fact, when the Sands closed, the book notes that Papa was the man who looked the doors for the last time.

No wonder then that Papa’s book is set at the Sands. Papa has written other books, most of them dealing with early Las Vegas history. In this, his first novel, he lobs lots of Sands and Las Vegas details into his settings, even suggesting real menu items served at the Sands’ Garden Room Cafe at the time.

The hero of the story, Maximo “Max” Rossi, is a young man from Boston who attends a bachelor party in Las Vegas and decides to stay. He gets in a bit of trouble with a local mobster, is accused of a murder he didn’t commit, and most of the book is Max trying to get himself out of that trouble.

Along the way, Rossi meets cops and showgirls, plays poker, sees shows and is quite the big tipper (something folks in the 50s were “required” to do in a mobster-run town). The descriptions are complete for the Vegas neophyte (for example a short, but complete description of the game of Texas Hold-em), but the details also provide nostalgia for the long-time visitor. Crime enthusiasts are also an audience for “Maximum Rossi”; the action is fast-moving.

In short, for me, the book takes the readers on a wonderful journey away from the news of the day. And the best news? I am told another Rossi novel is on its way this summer; sign me up!

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