The 150-word Review: Charles Bock’s Las Vegas is a glittering monument to our society’s vapid depravity and it’s aversion to anything unpleasantly “real.” Underneath the persistent glow of neon, an unfortunate multitude scuffles along unacknowledged, shaped by misfortune, fear, loneliness, and pain.
Bock’s novel, “Beautiful Children,” is a testament to street kids, littered across pedestrian walkways and side alleys, abandoned to create their own morality. It’s also a testament to suburban families, the seemingly lucky ones, who are just as adrift as the rest.
The story’s catalyst is the frustratingly inexplicable disappearance of Newell Ewing, a hyperactive 12-year-old obnoxious brat, during one eventful Saturday night. This allows Bock to explore an eclectic lot of lost souls, including: Newell’s emotionally paralyzed parents; his artistically talented but painfully introverted older friend; and a grotesquely-enhanced stripper and her boyfriend, a scheming, cocksure veteran street punk. The result is a fast-paced, sometimes cluttered, but ambitiously inspiring debut.
Having this book on your shelf will impress: ex-showgirls and convention sales executives; purveyors of smut and perversion; dirty Goth street urchins; decrepit third-string Rat Packers; the literary cognoscenti; and anyone who’s familiar with the fine establishments on Industrial Boulevard.
This book will go great with: a cover charge and a two-drink minimum.
Set the mood with: Viva Las Vegas by Dead Kennedys
Clavinism (stuff that will not make you look cool in a bar): Actually Norm, Charles Bock comes from a family of pawnbrokers who’ve operated pawnshops in downtown Las Vegas for more than thirty years.