Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2008 | 11 a.m.
Raised by pawn shop owners, Bock lived through the hot summers in the underbelly of America's glamorous city.
There probably aren't many other chances to read such eloquent prose about the dirty, desperation that lingers in Las Vegas pawnshops or the flavor of locals casinos where the "energy is shaded with blue-collar pragmatism" in "the warehouse-size halls."
"Here, the vibe is tangibly different from the Strip: all the overblown pretenses and fantasies have been stripped away. Frequent-player slot clubs provide senior citizens with rebates at area grocery stores, and pick-the-parlay football contests require a Nevada driver's license to enter."
But Bock does more than color the picture. In "Beautiful Children," the impressionable 12-year-old Newell Ewing disappears, leaving his parents to piece his life together through the friends he keeps -- a list of "urban nomads" that include a comic-book artist, a stripper and a mouthy anarchist. Local literati have been talking about this one for a while. Find out what all the hype is about.