The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Review: 'Blood Aces' tells story of the wild ride of Texas gangster Benny Binion

  • Print

"Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker" (Viking), by Doug J. Swanson

Benny Binion, native of tiny Pilot Grove, Texas, began his career as a crooked horse trader, graduated to bootlegging, took over the policy racket in Dallas, broke into the big time by opening the Horseshoe casino in Las Vegas, launched the World Series of Poker and turned the once back-alley game of Texas Hold'em into a worldwide spectator sport.

Along the way, as author Doug J. Swanson tells it in this new biography, "Blood Aces," Benny cavorted with gangsters; corrupted cops and U.S. senators; and ordered an untold number of murders. Among the dead was his chief Dallas rival, Herbert Noble, who survived 11 attempts on his life — but not the twelfth.

Despite the bodies Benny left in his wake, the law barely laid a glove on him. A target of federal investigations for decades, he did just five years behind bars for tax evasion.

And on Benny's 83rd birthday, the likes of Gene Autry and Willie Nelson joined 18,000 people in serenading him at a Nevada sports arena.

Swanson, an award-winning Texas reporter, researched his subject meticulously, going through court records and FBI files and interviewing survivors who know parts of the tale. The result is not only a fine biography but also a history of the pre-World War II rackets in Dallas and the birth of Vegas as seen through the lens of charming but ruthless Benny.

The book's characters are a parade of the era's leading figures, from billionaire Howard Hughes to poker idol Thomas "Amarillo Slim" Preston. There are gangsters: Tony Accardo, Clyde Barrow, Mickey Cohen, Angelo "Gyp" DeCarlo and Meyer Lansky. Crime busters: FBI directors J. Edgar Hoover and William Sessions, and U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Politicians: U.S. Senators Estes Kefauver and Howard Cannon, and Congressman (now U.S. Senate majority leader) Harry Reid. Entertainers: Don Ameche, Jerry Lewis, Clark Gable, and a famous stripper named Candy Barr. To name a few.

Swanson is a fine writer, spinning the tale with the verve and humour he displayed in previous crime novels including "House of Corrections."

___

Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award, is the author of three crime novels including "Providence Rag."

___

Online:

http://www.dougjswanson.com/# !

http://brucedesilva.com/

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Gail Asper says museum honours her father’s vision

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A Canada goose protects her nest full of eggs Monday on campus at the University of Manitoba- Standup photo- Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A monarch butterfly looks for nectar in Mexican sunflowers at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Monday afternoon-Monarch butterflys start their annual migration usually in late August with the first sign of frost- Standup photo– August 22, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think volunteers dragging the Red River is a good idea?

View Results

Ads by Google