When you mix Vegas with boxing, the result is always something unexpected. Like in 1991, when Mike Tyson destroyed Razor Ruddock in seven rounds, but because the ref stopped the fight while Ruddock was still (miraculously) standing, one of the biggest melees in fight history broke out and the ref had to be escorted from the ring by armed guards. (Vegas demands the coup de grace.)
Or how about in 1993, when Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe were battling it out for the heavyweight title, and in the seventh round a man parachuted into the ropes, stopping the bout for half an hour while security tried to figure out what the hell was happening. Then in 1994, George Foreman stunned the fight crowd at the MGM Grand when he KOed Michael Moorer in the 10th round to become the oldest fighter (at age 45!) to ever win a championship. The underdog bettors made a fortune on that one!
Then there was the infamous 1997 heavyweight bout between Tyson and Holyfield, in which Tyson bit off part of Holyfield’s ear. I could go on.
Vegas Knockout, P Moss’ second book, may be fiction, but in this anything-can-happen-on-fight-night town, the premise is a gem: “Killer” Kong, an undefeated fighter who has already killed one opponent in the ring, is going up against The Champ—the most popular fighter of all time—in a title bout at the MGM Grand that’s being billed as “the fight of the century,” a fight that was sold out the minute tickets went on sale. Kong has pledged to kill The Champ in the ring and the betting is wild, with some even making bets outside the sports books over whether or not the death will occur.
Technically, Vegas Knockout is a collection of 16 short stories, all (more or less) centered around the big fight. Some of the characters in this collection of stories were characters in Moss’ first book, Blue Vegas (see review here). And many of the characters in these stories converge on one another, so that by the end, loose ends are being tied up, with characters in some stories meeting characters in other stories for a grand finale.
I liked Moss’ first book and I like this one even more. Like Blue Vegas, this book focuses on the people who live in Las Vegas. It’s a view from the inside, which is a lot different from the tourists’ perspective. In “Choked,” a couple of out-of-town reporters (Lawford and Darla) are talking to a local hooker (Annie) and denigrating the town. Darla complains:
“Las Vegas is built on gambling and debauchery.”
“I call that freedom.” Annie found herself on a soapbox. “Drinking, drugs, smoking, sex. All sorts of bad behavior is embraced here, or at least that’s the world’s perception. That’s why the tourists come, to do all the things they can’t do at home. And that’s why people move here and call it home. They may have square jobs in an office or at a grocery store or a dry cleaner, but they embrace the fact that freedom is in the air all around them. It’s the glue that holds this city together.”
Moss accentuates his point about the bond between Las Vegans with the one story in this book that focuses on outsiders. In “Drinking Buddies,” three successful attorneys from the East Coast who went to law school together come to Vegas for the big fight, having planned a weekend of fun and talking about old times, but instead find themselves looking for hookers on their iPhones rather than hanging out together. What divides them, despite their similar outcomes in life, is the difference in social class of their parents. That’s exactly the kind of prison most Las Vegans came here to escape.
Although the stories in Vegas Knockout can each stand individually as short stories, you definitely want to read these stories in order if you want to experience the whole punch. Vegas Knockout has a number of romantic angles, and in order to understand all the implications of what’s happening between the characters, you can’t skip back and forth picking the stories that most appeal to you. The surprise of the book for me was that Moss shows a talent for writing tender love stories with his offbeat characters. That really knocked me out.