VIDEO VAULT | Southern Nevada displayed in fiction in new exhibit at UNLV's Lied Library

The exhibit "Writers Imagine Las Vegas" is free to the public at UNLV's Lied Library through June. (Tom Hawley | KSNV)

The Video Vault is usually a place to set the facts straight about people, places, and incidents in Southern Nevada's past. But our area is also the subject of a lot of fiction. It's the subject of a new exhibit at UNLV's Lied Library.

"Many of the works here are by authors who do not live in Las Vegas who have chosen to set their books for thematic reasons or because it makes sense for the story that they're telling," said UNLV Humanities Librarian Priscilla Finley. "And then there are also local authors who set their books here and maybe have a deeper knowledge of our community."

Finley has spent months gathering and classifying books, which are in tabletop cases, as well as glass enclosures along the wall.

"The display I'm standing in front of is the poolside read," said Finley, gesturing to a collection of novels—some by big names. "So we have some light reading. We have Jackie Collins included. James Patterson and James Ellroy, both of whom are very prolific authors and have put some best-sellers together. We also have reached deep into the Special Collections archive to pull out some nice old pulp fiction from the 1950s."

The 2008 Selimaj Shooting

It's not all light reading. Laura McBride's "We Are Called to Rise" is a fictionalization of a controversial incident News 3 covered in 2008, where an ice cream truck driver's wife was shot to death by Henderson Police, in what appeared to be a cultural misunderstanding with the Albanian immigrant family.

"I want justice," a tearful Zyber Selimaj told News 3. "For this to happen to me and my family."

"[McBride] was dramatically affected by it," said Finley. "She had encountered the ice cream truck driver that the novel centers around in her real life at one point. We see a number of different members of the community whose lives are changed dramatically by that event. And we see how they support each other and sort of how community develops as a result of the tragedy."

Eventually, Selimaj was awarded a $700,000 settlement by the City of Henderson.

Crime and Boxing - Tales of Las Vegas

Of course, many fictional books set in Las Vegas involve nefarious activities of shady characters.

"It is not unusual for organized crime to feature in some of the books that we've displayed here," noted Finley. "Some of them get it right and some of them it's just pure fantasy."

Boxing books are also prominently represented.

"Because they're telling the story of a hero who is sort of up against the world. Las Vegas works pretty well as a backdrop for the world conspiring against someone,” said Finley.

Open to the Public

Whatever topic seems interesting, Finley wants visitors to understand these re-creations of Las Vegas are for the most part readily available.

"I hope they'll run upstairs and find a copy [at UNLV Special Collections] or find a copy in their local library,” said Finley.

The exhibit "Writers Imagine Las Vegas" is free to the public at UNLV's Lied Library through June. You don't have to be a student to check it out.

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