As I'm writing this it's cold and snowy. By the time you read this I will be in Florida where it will be warm(ish) and sunny without snow. Going on vacation has me thinking about locations. While I'm not one who spends a whopping amount of time describing scenery in my fiction, I am always inspired by cool locations. Any time I find myself some place new, or interesting, my brain immediately begins piecing together stories that would work for the place.
Sometime they don’t always come right away, like a story I wanted to write after I came back from visiting Las Vegas for the first time, but they always come. Sometimes I have a story idea floating in my heading waiting for the right location, and other times I have a great location that is searching for a story.
But one location that has fascinated me for years but hasn't really fed much into my fiction is the casino. I always enjoyed movies and books about Las Vegas and I loved heist stories set in Vegas, but I grew up in a family that wasn't really into gambling so I never went to one until I was in my twenties. Even then, I was in Canada with a buddy of mine and we ate a restaurant with a casino attached so on a lark we both went in and put a couple quarters in a slot machine and that was the end of it.
But when I started dating Becky, we were going downtown Detroit a lot for football games and restaurants and such and the easiest and cheapest place to park was the Greektown Casino. You can park in their garage and take the People Mover to any other location downtown and then at the end of the night you just have to go into the casino to a machine to validate the parking ticket. It was great and she, who had been to several casinos by this point, talked me into visiting them and I loved it. I can't stand slots, but I love to play Blackjack. Now I'm the one who drags her to the casinos.
So we've been to all three Detroit casinos, the Caesar's Casino in Windsor, Soaring Eagle up by Central Michigan University, some sketchy backyard casino in the Upper Pennisula, two casinos in Niagra Falls, one in Arizona, and about six in Las Vegas. But so far I've only written two stories with casino settings, and even those are just peripheral scenes. I've never written a casino story and I can't figure out why. It seems like a setting ripe for fiction. And I've never turned away from writing about a place just because it's been written about so many times (how many friggin' strip club stories have I written??) so I don’t know what the answer is.
I suspect it has to do with my desire to write a big, fat, romping, heist novel at some point and I don’t want to spoil any of the magic. I also suspect it has to do with the research that would be required to write a good casino story. While all of the stuff on the floor is neat to see and think about, so much of what makes a casino a cool location for fiction is behind the scenes. Any of the characters: dealers, bartenders, waitresses, even janitors, do their job differently at a casino than they would anywhere else because of the security issues and to write them true I'd have to know more than I do.
So how about you all out there, what's a location you have a lot of exposure to but have never used in fiction? And for the readers, what are your thoughts on casinos and casinos in fiction?