A Vegas Ghost Story: A Brian Rouff Book Review

Part cross-country road trip. Part coming-of-age romance. Part haunted mystery. All Vegas.

Brian Rouff’s The House Always Wins is a genre-bending novel based around fictional character Anna Christiansen and her life as a reporter in small town, Michigan. When she gets the opportunity to cover a retro alt country blues band at her local venue, her night goes from bad to worse in a matter of hours.

Just when she thought her night couldn’t possibly go more wrong, one of the band members actually agrees to her interview. Not even 12 hours later, she agrees to move back to Las Vegas with him.
As Anna and her now-boyfriend Aaron Eisenberg move into their fixer-upper home on the outskirts of town, they find themselves getting mixed in with city corruption and a haunted house. Will she get to keep her house? Or did her bad luck follow her to Vegas?

Rouff’s fascinating take on multiple genres is partially based on a house his family lived in for three years as they remodeled it. The home was previously owned by Jack Eglash, the band leader for the old Sahara Hotel. The house was vacant for many years before Rouff’s family began restoring it.

“While we worked on it, I felt like we were bringing back a ghost, not an evil entity but more of a trickster that messed with temperature, clocks, drawers and doors, etc.,” Rouff said. “As a novelist, that’s all I needed to move forward on an idea of a house haunted by the ghost of a dead Vegas mobster (more interesting than an orchestra leader) based loosely on legendary Vegas racketeer Moe Dalitz, who reinvented himself as a scion of the community after a nefarious past as a bootlegger in the Midwest during Prohibition. That was the impetus for the story.”

Although his family moved out and it was destroyed in a fire many years later, the novel slowly transformed into a tribute for his old family home.

The flowing story arc and accurate representations of Las Vegas are just some of the impressive pieces of this story. It takes quite a few unexpected yet serious turns, all while stepping outside of the normal formula for a novel.

“It forced me to stretch my skills and up my game. Much more challenging to market, but more satisfying to write,” Rouff said.

Part adventure. Part passion. Part spooky. All victory.