THE VEGAS LEGACY by Ovid Demaris


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Frequent outbursts of murder, blackmail, and perversion can't disguise the poverty of imagination in this overheated political-thriller--which blends some dirty-dynasty clichÉs with implausible presidential melodrama. The novel begins at the Republican National Convention in Las Vegas--where shaky incumbent Prez Abbott is resisting pressure to give the VP nomination to charismatic, secretly slimy Sen. Randolph Godwin, whose maternal grandfather Rufus Boutwell is the power behind all Nevada business/politics. Then comes the bulk of the book: a flashback to the Boutwell/Godwin family history, circa 1925-1960, with the focus on Henry Godwin, Randolph's father. In the 1920s South young Henry loves light-skinned black Camilla; but, after a Klan attack, pregnant Camilla flees--and when Henry finds her years later in San Francisco, she's passing for white as Mafia-backed singer Daisy Miller, and Henry takes possession of little son Randolph. Meanwhile, Henry has become lawyer/aide to shady Nevada tycoon Rufus Boutwell, marrying his oversexed daughter Alicia: she agrees to raise Randolph as her own. . . but then tears off to Europe for kinky high-life and early demise. And so wee Randolph is reared by ruthless ""grandpa"" Rufus, who builds his mining/real-estate/gambling/hotel empire on murder, gangsterism (Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel), and political corruption. Rufus' master-plan: to make Randolph the US Prez, of course. So, with the tacit help of passive Henry, perverted Randolph (he's into sado-sex) is finagled into a US Senate seat at age 30--with homicide ensuing when blackmail-dirt about Randolph's wife Betty surfaces (Henry kills the blackmailer) and when Betty gets fed up with Randolph's foulness (he murders her). Then--back to the vaguely 1980s Convention again: Rufus literally buys delegates; Prez Abbott finally gives in to the pressure when Rufus produces secret evidence that Abbott's daughter Lisa is a porno movie-star. But when guilt-ridden Henry (now reunited with first love Camilla/Daisy) realizes that Rufus plans to have Abbott killed once Randolph becomes VP, he decides to expose the family's dirty secrets at last. . . while a psychotic movie-star's son is prowling around the hotel with more immediate assassination plans. Lots of crude sex, lots of essentially familiar Vegas dirt: unpleasant but unconvincing, with minimal tension and no characters (including supposed hero Henry) worth caring about.

Pub Date: March 16th, 1983
Publisher: Delacorte