Today I welcome Al Moe to my site. He is the author of the nonfiction book, The Roots of Reno.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m married, have four girls, and live a busy life in Arizona where I squeeze as much writing as I can into my daily routine. Usually about two hours.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I was playing poker in a casino when an idea for an article that related to poker came to mind. I went home, wrote the article, and submitted it to “Poker Player” magazine and it was accepted. The $50 didn’t make me feel like a writer though. I felt like a writer when The Roots of Reno was published and I started getting calls to do lectures on Reno and the town’s casinos. That was a thrill.
What fuels you as an author to continue to write?
Curiosity. I wanted to know the history of the Nevada gaming industry and who owned the first casinos, since I had started collecting old casino chips. There wasn’t much information out there, so I started collecting stories from magazines, newspaper articles, and interviews I conducted. Eventually I decided to do a book of my own.
Please tell us about your current release.
My book is called The Roots of Reno. It is a nonfiction look at the men who really started the saloons and gaming halls of early Reno and Lake Tahoe. They worked in the mining towns of Tonopah and Goldfield, Nevada before moving to Reno, and they are the ones who truly turned Reno into “The Biggest Little City in the World.”
How did you come up with the title?
I was stumped on the title, and told my friend, Roy Ritner about the book, and what I wanted the title to convey (beginning, growth, maturity of Reno) and he suggested the title.
Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?
Just water. Eating distracts me from my project.
Do you have an all time favorite book?
Stephen King’s “On Writing” has given me hope, criticism, and improved my writing. Plus, it’s a fun autobiography of a very prolific writer.
Random fact: Writing is like therapy for me. If I miss my chance to write during the day I feel out of sorts and can’t wait for my “writer’s high” that comes with any good hour’s work.
Reno was truly Hell on Wheels in the 1920’s. The rest of the nation considered the town Sodom and Gomorra, but that’s only half the truth. Reno offered everything in the way of adult entertainment, from speakeasy’s and houses of ill-repute, to open gaming – legal or not. And it took plenty of sins by the founding fathers to make Reno “The biggest little city in the world.”
When the gold-veins of Tonopah and Goldfield ran out, the casino owners moved to Reno, where even greater riches awaited. Together, a group of four men (Nick Abelman, Bill Graham, Jim McKay, George Wingfield) took over Reno’s casinos and held sway over the town for the next three decades.
Together they administered policy, collected juice, ran politicians, and owned the red-light district and most of the town’s casinos.
When that wasn’t enough they took over the banks and laundered money for crooks like “Pretty Boy” Floyd, Alvin Karpis, and Ma Barker’s boys, and offered safety to “Baby Face” Nelson. It was a good gig.
The Reno Four dictated policy all over Northern Nevada, taking special care of Reno and Lake Tahoe casinos up until the late 1950’s. Their influence made Reno before Bill Harrah or “Pappy” Smith ever arrived, needing an introduction and permission to build their own casinos, Harold’s Club and Harrah’s.
Author Al W. Moe is a twenty-year veteran of the Nevada Gaming Industry. He writes Casino Gambling articles for magazines and web sites like About.com and Examiner, and plays poker and blackjack in his spare time. He calls Lake Tahoe his first inspirational place to write and would like to retire there someday.
Find out more about him on his blog.
You can purchase The Roots of Reno on Amazon.