One Saturday night, in a city surrounded by desert and oversaturated with glitter is Newell Ewing. With his older, socially maladjusted mate Kenny, the two embark on Newells first Saturday night out on the town in Vegas. Newell is twelve years old. Before the sun rises Newell has disappeared, never to be seen again. Newells suburbanite parents, Lincoln and Lorraine, are wracked with mounting grief as their marriage begins to unravel during the unfathomable year that follows his disappearance. Bing Biderbixxe is an illustrator on a professional visit to Sin City on a hot summer day. He meets Cheri Blossom, a stripper known for her eye-popping pyrotechnic stage performance. Offstage, her drug- and porn-running boyfriend, Pony Boy, is cheating on her. With exacting suspense and original technique, Bock's panoply of Vegass dispossessed quietly exert their influence on Newells fate. From the new suburban shimmer of the Ewing home, to the gaudy misery of Vegass strip clubs, to the desperate holes and punk-rock desert parties where an underclass of the marginal and meek are ignored and forgotten, Charles Bock takes us on a trip to the dark heart of America.B EAUTIFUL CHILDREN mines the humanity of its characters as it rushes head on towards a spectacular tragedy and powerful redemption.
I was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, where my novel takes place. I come from a family of pawnbrokers. For more than thirty years my maternal grandfather, parents and now my brothers have run and operated pawn shops downtown, right off Freemont Street. Sometimes, when my siblings and I were little, my parents used to have us stay in the back of the shop after school or during summer vacation, when there wasnt summer camp, or they didnt have anybody to watch over us. Wed occupy our time with sodas from a nearby casinos gift shop, comic books and a television that got wavy reception, and wed do small chores, rolling coins or filing the previous days pawn tickets. The store often had a line of people waiting to pawn their goods, local customers who worked in casinos and also spent all their spare time playing blackjack and slot machines, and also tourists who had blown all their cash, and maybe their plane tickets home, and now were desperate, and hung over, and needed loans on their wedding rings, not so they could buy new tickets home, but so they could go back into the casinos and win back their money. Id sometimes stare out of the back of the store and watch the people in line and take in their faces. Lots of times my parents would be put in the position of having to tell these people that their wedding ring was only worth a fraction of what theyd paid for it, or that, say, the diamonds in that ring were brown and flawed. Then, from the back of the store, Id watch as the customers exploded and called my parents dirty Jews and cursed at them and threatened them at the top of their lungs. Its impossible in situations like that not to feel for everybody involved to be horrified, sure, but more than that, to be saddened by the spectacle, to want so much more than that out of life for everyone involved. That perspective, obviously, has been deeply ingrained inside of me. My novel does not, repeat not, revolve around a pawn shop, Judaism, my parents, or any such things. It is not a roman clef" or a veiled memoir; instead, it is about a boy who goes missing, teen runaways and some adult film stuff, but that same aesthetic and worldview is there. Sympathy. Empathy. I think that it keys all my work, every sentence I write. At the same time, the novel does take place in Vegas, and I have untold stories about what it was like to basically grow up in the heart of the gambling world. I also have some pretty decent thoughts about the difference between the city I grew up in and the monstrosity that LV has become.