Continuing my rather unexpected trip through books that inspired Martin Scorsese films (I finished I Heard You Paint Houses a week ago), here’s Nicholas Pileggi’s Casino. I was excited to read it because:
- I watched the movie years ago and remember almost nothing about it.
- I recently watched Hustlers and people kept comparing it to Casino.
- I enjoyed Pileggi’s other true crime mafia tale Wiseguy, which was the basis for the movie Goodfellas
So I went into this one with a lot of excitement. And it’s…fine. Just fine. Pileggi’s style is much more to my liking than Charles Brandt’s is. It’s structured the same way but Pileggi is a seasoned veteran; he knows what’s appropriate for the subject to share and what he needs to editorialize.
The thing is: it’s not that interesting of a story. Or rather, it’s not one that merits a 400 page treatment. It would make for an excellent longform article. But there was a lot of redundancy. Which is not Pileggi’s fault, he’s just telling the story as it happened, not fictionalizing it. Yet this left large stretches that were boring or annoying.
Again, I don’t remember much about the movie but I got the impression that Rosenthal and Spilotro (I’ve been saying “Spiltoro” all these years, my bad) were closer than they actually were. One ran gambling, the other did robberies and they kind of interacted. Individually, their stories were interesting but really nothing special. And the heart of the tale: Geri, Rosenthal’s wife, was destructive and this played into his tendencies in what was an abusive, loveless marriage with two poor kids at the center of it. It was kind of sad more than anything. Pileggi does a good job of centering the story around mob activity in Vegas; that’s obviously why most of us are reading it anyway. But the real story is the triangle between those three and I just found that depressing.
This book had the opposite effect of making me not want to revisit the movie. I’m done with this tale. Though I am curious about how Sharon Stone adapted Geri (she was nominated for an Oscar). So maybe some day.