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'Reno' by Guy Clifton - Book Review

What's Inside

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Cover Photo courtesy (Arcadia Publishing)

Images of America - Reno

Cover Photo courtesy (Arcadia Publishing)
'Reno' A pictorial history and celebration of Reno, Nevada, is Guy Clifton's contribution to the Images of America series that celebrates the history of neighborhoods, towns, and cities across the country. Archival photographs present the distinctive stories from the past that shape the character of the community of Reno today.

High Points

  • Over 200 vintage photos of Reno
  • Well organized chapters
  • Written by respected newspaperman Guy Clifton who presents his hometown as more than just an original American gambling mecca
Low Points
  • All black and white photos
  • Very little text
  • Images of America Reno by Guy Clifton was released in 2012
  • 126 pages in 6.5 x 9.5 softback format, over 200 photos
  • Publisher: Arcadia publishing

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Images of America Reno is exactly what the name suggests, over 200 great photos of the gaming town of Reno, Nevada as presented by 30-year veteran newsman Guy Clifton. Clifton, a Reno native, authored the excellent biography of 1930's Reno resident and Heavyweight Boxing Champ Jack Dempsey.

In Reno, Clifton offers vintage photo after photo showing the growth of the town, its most famous characters, and the city's amazing contributions to American society from boxing championships and the Reno Rodeo, to open gambling, that helped make the once small town, "The Biggest Little City in the World."

The book cover shows a wonderful shot of a late 1940's Fourth of July parade on Virginia Street as it passes the Frontier Club, most notably owned by "Pick" Hobson, who later owned several other Reno casinos including the most famous Reno landmark, the Riverside.

In July of 1946, Dallas nightclub owner Fred Murrill was granted some very high limits on the craps game at the Frontier, including a $23,000 pass line bet with $46,000 odds on the point of four. It hit, and the $115,000 win was one of the highest on a Reno crap game for years. Unfortunately, the Frontier didn't have the cash to redeem Murrill's chips at the end of his play, so co-owner Dub McClanahan had to fly to Dallas the following week to pay Murrill the $141,375 still owed from his streak of Reno luck!

Birthplace of Gambling

Reno could never be called the birthplace of gambling, as there were casinos all over the country for years and years, but Nevada, Reno in particular, which as refereed to in magazines of the 1920's as the harlot of America) was the first state to allow open gambling in 1931. The town of Reno openly embraced gambling, but offered much more to visitors, from easy divorces to sports, recreation, and big-time entertainment like the Reno Rodeo, billed as the "Wildest, Richest Rodeo in the World," for years.

The Photos

Obviously a book called "Images of America" is going to be dependent on the photos found inside, but in the case of Guy Clifton's Reno, the photos certainly don't disappoint. They highlight Reno the way it used to be, and the way it changed over the years, including a most famous landmark, the Reno arch, which also changed over the years.

Other landmarks in Reno, like the Mapes hotel casino, are seen when they were brand-spanking new, and when they were so old they had to be imploded. Great photos of the casinos of Reno are sprinkled across many chapters, and later photos even highlight current favorites like the Eldorado and the Peppermill.

Readers will also enjoy photos and snippets of information about casino owners like Harold Smith and Bill Harrah, who each had success and failure before arriving in Reno. However, Reno's open gaming and the town's residents and visitors helped both become legends in the gaming community.

The Bottom Line

Long before Las Vegas was much more than a railroad water-stop in the desert, Reno was a news-making, no-holds-barred city of gambling, divorce, and freedom. Residents reveled in their on heaven of open spaces, beautiful sun-filled skies, and the choices that a wide-open town offered.

Guy Clifton's Reno allows readers to experience what the town was like back in it's hey-day. How can anyone ask for more than that? The bottom line is this: the photos are great, the author's notes about them are concise and revealing, and the overall experience is terrific.

If there was anything I could wish for, it would be even more text about a town I hold near to my own heart after spending much of my life there, but truth be told, anymore would probably be superfluous. The book stands on its own. Enjoy!

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