“Bright light city gonna set my soul/Gonna set my soul on fire.”
So begins the popular Elvis song Viva Las Vegas, portraying a desert town where anything goes, a city filled with people living a “devil may care” existence. In Dealing Out Death, Jo A. Wilkins does a brilliant job of pulling back the curtain of this neon city to reveal the broken lives created by those suffering from an addiction to gambling. Told through the eyes of Annie Mcbain, it is the story of a family shaken to the core by lies, deceit, and murder. Annie’s mother, Connie, is a compulsive gambler, risking everything for the thrill of another pull of the slot machine handle. Rather than giving us a narrative of numbers and statistics, Wilkins gives us a story from the heart. A fictional story based on fact and told from the center of a family falling apart. After reading this book, and because I live in Las Vegas, I did some research into this crushing addiction. Gambling presents the illusion of harmless fun and easy money. For some, this illusion can lead quickly to financial ruin. The odds are always with “the house.” The fantasy that the big win will come with the next pull of the handle is just that. A fantasy. Lives are ruined, dreams are crushed. Or, as the song goes: “I’m gonna have me some fun/ If it costs me my very last dime.”
Dealing Out Death is a must read for anyone who knows someone with a gambling addiction, or who suffers from one themselves. It’s a story that had to be told, and I, for one, am glad that Wilkins found the courage to tell it.