by Doug J. Swanson
Published in 2014 by Viking Adult.
Reviewed by Kendra Crispin.
If you’re not an avid reader of Texas criminal or Vegas gambling history, you’ve probably never heard of Lester “Benny” Binton. Given how gangsters are money-making fodder for movies and television, this is an oversight. Binton overcame multiple near fatal childhood illnesses to join the ranks of the ruthless crime bosses, known as “The Cowboy”. He was illiterate and yet managed to evade arrest as he created his illegal empire, relocating to Las Vegas when the pattern of buying off the police began to fail in Dallas. While he took advantage of opportunities in Nevada, it took a protracted effort by the Texas authorities not bribed by Binton to finally nab him in the same way Al Capone was – and this was despite the sometimes less than helpful Federal efforts.
Yet how many gangsters have statues and are remembered for public charity? Or founded an event that’s gained national respectability? This gangster is the man responsible for the World Series of Poker. That is a feat unmatched by any other crime boss of days gone by, and possibly today. Denials are a way of life for organized crime members, but the Texas style of the Cowboy makes for a narrative worth reading. Doug J. Swanson has managed to craft a compelling addition to the true crime annals.
Having three novels to revise didn’t stop Oregon transplant Kendra Crispin from starting a non-fiction project on Doctor Who for Camp NaNoWriMo. An alumna of UT-Austin and Norwich University (Vermont), she loves reading and hopes to soon see her own books being reviewed on this site.