Eddie G is a pit boss at the Sands Casino in Las Vegas, where he’s worked since the place was a year old. He’s originally from Brooklyn, but he’s left all that behind him. As well as he can, anyway. Eddie G isn’t mobbed up, but it’s an open secret that Vegas is.
Eddie is also the go-to guy in Vegas. He has the town wired up. If you want to know something about Sin City—and especially about The Strip—Eddie G is the guy to ask. If he don’t know it, he’ll find out.
Eddie is the main character in Robert J. Randisi’s Rat Pack Mysteries. He lives in Las Vegas in the early sixties. The first book, Everybody Kills Somebody Sometime, takes place in 1960. The Rat Pack—Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr, and Joey Bishop—are in town, ready to begin filming Ocean’s 11. The Rat Pack boys are the kings of cool, at the top of their game—and they need Eddie G’s help.
You can imagine Eddie’s surprise when Joey Bishop approaches him while he’s working and asks for his help. He knows Joey in a casual way—it’s hard not to when you work in one of the most popular casinos on The Strip—but it’s not what you’d call a close friendship. But Joey approaches Eddie, saying that Frank Sinatra wants to meet with him.
Eddie G is reluctant. He’s heard the stories about how Frank has ties to the Mob, and he doesn’t want to get involved with that kind of thing. In fact, it’s a little scary for him. So he bows out with good grace.
The problem is, Frank has a two percent stake in the Sands—and he knows Jack Entratter, Eddie’s boss. Jack calls Eddie into his office and makes it clear it would be better if Eddie G met with Frank. If, after meeting with him, Eddie doesn’t want to do Frank a favor, so be it. But at least meet with the man.
The upshot of the meeting is that someone’s been sending threats to Dean Martin. The scene where Eddie meets Dino is a good one. Eddie’s a little star struck. He thinks Dean is the King of Cool, everything the rest of the Rat Pack is trying to be. Dino don’t need Frank or Sammy, but they maybe need him. He’s just made Rio Bravo with John Wayne and shown he has acting chops. His Vegas runs are top billing, and he’s at the height of his career.
Dino might not need Frank, but it looks like he needs Eddie G. Dean isn’t convinced the threats are serious, but Frank is, and Frank considers himself Dino’s number one fan.
Mr. Randisi writes these books as if he lived in Vegas during the time period in question and remembers every little detail of what it was like. It’s all here: the showgirls, the casinos, the strip clubs, all the little and not so little seedy secrets Vegas hid back in those days. Under Randisi, we get the feel for what it was like to walk into the Sands, the Riviera, the Flamingo, the Desert Inn or the Thunderbird. We see the blackjack and poker tables, rub elbows with high stakes players, hear the ding of the slot machines. We get to go to a Rat Pack show, and get to go backstage afterwards.
I started reading this series with the newest book, The Way You Die Tonight, and loved it. I like reading these historical crime/mystery novels. I’ve enjoyed Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane. I like going back to the days before computers, cell phones, and CSI techniques when a guy had to solve the crime the old fashioned way: by being a gumshoe. Pounding the pavement. Meeting folks in person and taking the risks involved. There’s nothing high tech in them, and that makes them appealing. A nice getaway. The same reason I enjoy reading westerns.
I’m now in the middle of Everybody Kills Somebody Sometime, the first book in the series, and I plan to read every one of them I can. They all have titles that tweak the old show tunes—Luck Be a Lady, Don’t Die, Hey There (You With the Gun in Your Hand), and You’re Nobody ’Til Somebody Kill You just to name a few—and they all take you back to those halcyon days when Vegas was a wide open city, the place and time where everyone wanted to be.
So if you like your mysteries told with more than a dash of nostalgia, pick up any of The Rat Pack Mysteries by Robert J. Randisi. You won’t be disappointed.
Addendum: Since writing this post, I’ve finished the second book in the series, Luck Be a Lady, Don’t Die, and I have to say it’s getting better as I go along. Each book has had a logistical mistake in it, some big, some small, but the writing and the overall stories are so good that you keep going anyway. Highly recommended.