Effectively a precursor to Dennis N Griffin’s Cullotta biography, the author’s 2006 title, The Battle for Las Vegas: The Law vs. the Mob charts nearly four decades of the war between Las Vegas’ leading authorities and prominent mob figures. Focusing on the infamous criminal Anthony “The Ant” Spilotro, Griffin’s book depicts the life and times of the police and gangsters, chronicling the lengthy cat and mouse chase that the authorities had to go through in order to catch and sentence some of Sin City’s most notorious mobsters. Following our recent review of Griffin’s Cullotta, it’s fair to note that The Battle for Las Vegas is slightly weaker than its successor. However the book still offers an original and gripping account of Las Vegas’ organised crime years.
Anyone with an interest in the tales surrounding organised crime in Vegas will recognise the majority of The Battle for Las Vegas’ pivotal characters: Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal and his fiery wife, Geri, former mob lawyer turned mayor Oscar Goodman, as well as Spilotro and Griffin’s future biography subject, Frank Cullotta, feature heavily in the book. However, what separates Griffin’s title from the many other true crime publications is his emphasis on the role the authorities had in Las Vegas’ most formidable mob years. In a recent interview with Casino Online, Griffin suggested that the reason why most authors emphasise the actions of the mob is because “the lawmen have to conduct their investigations according to the law.”
While it might seem crass to suggest, police men and women going by the book in order to offer justice to victims of crime usually doesn’t make entertaining reading. Fortunately though, this is not the case with Griffin’s book, which is no doubt down to the author’s power to weave together narratives in order to depict the harsh, stark reality of Las Vegas’ criminal links. When reading Griffin’s book, it’s possible to imagine the sheer desperation some officers and FBI agents felt when investigating the likes of Spilotro. In order to alleviate boredom on surveillance, some officers began playing “mind games with their subjects”. As Griffin explains, a favourite cop game was to:
Aim the laser sight of their rifle on one of the bad guy’s chests as they stood around talking outside a bar or restaurant. Until the targets realized what was going on, their reactions when the red dot of the laser was noticed centered over someone’s heart were often comical. Thinking the dot was a stain on their shirt or jacket, they tried to wipe it away. Eventually, they figured it out, then become angry, or sometimes scared.
The Battle for Las Vegas details various anecdotes such as the above, with some proving undeniably humorous, such as Nancy Spilotro’s account of tackling Geri Rosenthal to the ground because of Geri Rosenthal’s increasingly dangerous behaviour. To suggest that this is all Griffin’s book offers though would be to do it an injustice: The author is perhaps the first to bring together a range of narratives which accurately document John D. McCarthy’s time as Sheriff in the area, as well as the troubles his administration faced. With the mob so deeply entrenched in the political arena, McCarthy, his officers and the FBI struggled against hostile press, lawyers and even crooked officials. Thought provoking and enlightening, The Battle for Las Vegas established Griffin as one of Vegas’ leading true crime writers. An accolade which was well and truly awarded to the author with the publication of Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster and Government Witness.