The Magnificent Esme Wells

Adrienne Sharp. Harper, $26.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-268483-7
The glamour of pre–WWII Hollywood and the glitz of postwar Las Vegas are the playgrounds of young Esme Wells and her dreamer parents—her small-time crook and unlucky bookie father, and her mother, a movie star wanna-be who never gets past showgirl roles in B-musicals. Sharp’s fourth novel (following The True Memoirs of Little K) is a grimly sad story of big dreams, bad luck, and worse decisions, as Esme and her parents move from Hollywood’s scams and cheesy musicals to the Las Vegas world of casinos, high rollers, suckers, and gangsters. By 1945 Esme’s father works for mobster Bugsy Siegel as the gangster’s vision of a gambling city comes true, exposing young Esme to power, money, greed, and violence. Underage, she works as a casino cigarette girl, where her good looks draw the leering attention of Nate Stein, a ruthless thug who intends to take over all of Las Vegas. After Bugsy is bumped off, Esme falls in with serious mobsters like Stein, Mickey Cohen, and Meyer Lansky, eventually becoming Stein’s teenage mistress and chorus line showgirl, despite her father’s warnings. When Esme discovers her father’s involvement with the less-than-legal dealings, the story builds to a dangerous boil. Sharp’s narrative is a bold and gritty portrayal of unreachable dreams, anchored by its notable depiction of Esme. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/12/2018
Release date: 04/01/2018
Genre: Fiction
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-279923-4
Ebook - 352 pages - 978-0-06-268481-3
Compact Disc - 978-1-5384-9963-4
Compact Disc - 978-1-5384-9961-0
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Audio book sample courtesy of HarperAudio
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