The best Las Vegas-based crime novels featuring cons

Why am I passionate about this?

I love the psychology behind a good con. Con artists are the ultimate anti-heroes - masterful manipulators and highly observant, but unscrupulous at heart. And after reading a GQ article on “real-life superheroes” – people who dress up in homemade costumes and patrol their neighborhoods – I became fascinated by that psychology, too. Las Vegas is the capital of con and Cons—a unique city bursting with swindlers and cosplayers decked out in full regalia. What better place to set a crime novel? And thus—voilaCon Me Once was born.


I wrote...

Con Me Once

By J.L. Delozier,

Book cover of Con Me Once

What is my book about?

When Frank Lambda, a bumbling superhero wannabe, witnesses a mob hit gone wrong, he ends up running for his life. 

Enter the mysterious Keira, whose secret academy claims to turn wannabes like Frank into real heroes. Frank knows a con when he sees one. But desperate for an escape, he joins three other recruits for training in Las Vegas. Against the backdrop of a thousand spandex-clad cosplayers Keira’s true agenda—a multimillion-dollar heist from her mobster brother—is exposed. With their lives and a fortune at stake, Frank and his team of misfits fight to become the heroes they always wanted to be.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Ocean's 11

J.L. Delozier Why did I love this book?

This 1960 book by George Clayton Johnson, who wrote the scripts for The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, and the sci-fi film Logan’s Run, was a tie-in for the original Ocean’s Eleven movie featuring the Rat Pack. It’s hard to find, but worth it as it contains all the elements of a classic Vegas con – the mob, the girlfriend, the complex relationships between the conmen and their marks. It delves into the characters more than either movie, although admittedly, it’s impossible to read the book without picturing the 2001 film and its star-studded cast. 

By George Clayton Johnson, Jack Golden Russell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ocean's 11 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of Take Down

J.L. Delozier Why did I love this book?

The tagline says it all – “Whoever says crime doesn’t pay isn’t doing it right.” Pubbed in 2015, this book is often compared to Ocean’s Eleven as it contains the same main elements: the con artist and his experienced crew, the girl, Vegas. What’s opposite is the focus – this book emphasizes plot over character. While I love this book’s complex con-within-a-con, Billy Cunningham is not particularly likable as a main character. If you enjoy Vegas’s dark side, this book and its two sequels, Bad Action and Super Con, are for you. 

By James Swain,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Take Down as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Whoever says crime doesn't pay isn't doing it right.

There are hundreds of casinos in Las Vegas, and Billy Cunningham knows how to rip off every one. His scams are a thing of beauty-so perfectly orchestrated that onlookers believe he and his crew are winning fair and square. In a town where bosses will kill to protect their profits, Billy can't afford to make mistakes, but even the best-laid plans can go wrong...

Desperate to keep his team out of jail, Billy agrees to help stop a legendary family of thieves from taking down a casino. But he has no…


Book cover of The Good Thief's Guide to Vegas

J.L. Delozier Why did I love this book?

If you’re burned out from all that darkness, this book takes a more lighthearted approach to the classic Vegas con novel and features another mainstay of Las Vegas entertainment – the magician. It’s not haute literature—it got mixed reviews– but it’s also a fast, fun read with a great audio version, if you prefer. It’s part of a globetrotting series with stops in Amsterdam, Paris, Venice, and Berlin, featuring thief/magician/crime novelist Charlie Howard and his literary agent, Victoria.

By Chris Ewan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Good Thief's Guide to Vegas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Chris Ewan's The Good Thief's Guide to Vegas is the next caper in a series that’s being called “impressive… comic…fresh” (Publishers Weekly--starred review). Charlie Howard isn’t only a part-time crime writer and part-time thief; he’s also a magician. For his next trick, he’ll relieve Josh Masters, the famous illusionist vying for the affections of Charlie’s friend Victoria, of $60,000 in casino chips stashed in his hotel safe.

Revenge would be sweet—if there weren’t a dead redhead floating in Masters’ bathtub and if Masters hadn’t just disappeared in a puff of smoke after cheating at roulette. Convinced that Charlie was in…


Book cover of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

J.L. Delozier Why did I love this book?

I hesitated to recommend this one because the book is gonzo, but one can’t discuss Vegas-based novels without at least mentioning it. It’s a classic, drug-soaked trip through the city – gross, appalling, yet altogether original. While not typically thought of as a crime or con novel, I’d argue it’s both - the main characters, a journalist on assignment and his attorney friend, do nothing but con their way through a drug-fueled haze, destroying cars and hotel rooms while somehow not managing to get arrested or kill themselves. I hated it, but I held my nose and read it anyway because it’s become a classic piece of American literature. I’ll let you decide if you think it should be on a “best of” list. 

By Hunter S. Thompson,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like, "I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive ..."'

Hunter S. Thompson is roaring down the desert highway to Las Vegas with his attorney, the Samoan, to find the dark side of the American Dream. Armed with a drug arsenal of stupendous proportions, the duo engage in a surreal succession of chemically enhanced confrontations with casino operators, police officers and assorted Middle Americans.

This stylish reissue of Hunter S. Thompson's iconic masterpiece, a controversial bestseller when…


Book cover of The Stand

J.L. Delozier Why did I love this book?

Another outside-the-box pick, but hear me out: this epic novel is all about the human representations of good versus evil conning their respective followers into an epic showdown in New Vegas after a devastating plague. At over 1,000 pages long, my summary is definitely the cliff-notes version, but it works. There’s a reason King’s Randall Flagg chose Vegas as his new base of operations. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, right?

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked The Stand as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stephen King's apocalyptic vision of a world blasted by virus and tangled in an elemental struggle between good and evil remains as riveting and eerily plausible as when it was first published.

Soon to be a television series.

'THE STAND is a masterpiece' (Guardian). Set in a virus-decimated US, King's thrilling American fantasy epic, is a Classic.

First come the days of the virus. Then come the dreams.

Dark dreams that warn of the coming of the dark man. The apostate of death, his worn-down boot heels tramping the night roads. The warlord of the charnel house and Prince of…


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By Jan Sikes,

Book cover of A Beggar's Bargain

Jan Sikes Author Of The Edge of Too Late

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Why am I passionate about this?

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What is my book about?

Historical Fiction Post WW2.

A shocking proposal that changes everything.

Desperate to honor his father’s dying wish, Layken Martin vows to do whatever it takes to save the family farm.
Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time—a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.

But the banker firmly denies his request. Now what?

Then, the banker makes an alternative proposition—marry his unwanted daughter, Sara Beth, in exchange for a two-year extension. Out of options, money, and time, Layken agrees to the bargain.

Now, he has two years to make a living off the land while he shares his life with a stranger. If he fails at either, he’ll lose it all.

A Beggar's Bargain

By Jan Sikes,

What is this book about?

A shocking proposal that changes everything.

Desperate to honor his father's dying wish, Layken Martin vows to do whatever it takes to save the family farm.

Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time-a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.

But the banker firmly denies his request. Now what?

Then, the banker makes an…


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