Reviews

“One great Vegas story…I was riveted”  – Steven R. Schirripa, Actor from HBO Series THE SOPRANOS

“Under the Neon Sky reads like a novel, tragic and uplifting at the same time, a great read, hard to put down.”  – John Kremer, Author, Speaker & Consultant

“The best book I worked on in 30 years..”  – Laurie Rosin, Bookeditor

Amazon Reviews:

“Do you remember the boxing match all those years ago when Mike Tyson bit off a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear and the whole place went crazy? Well, Jay Rankin was on duty that night as doorman at the MGM hotel in Las Vegas when it happened and was witness to the thousands of fight fans and spectators who poured out through the doors fleeing for their life. And that’s only the first chapter!! This page-turner will keep you reading from one incredible adventure to the next. We learn to care about him as a person and share his highs and lows as he tries against the odds to keep his life, his marriage, and his sanity on track. Win or lose, it’s life in Vegas. A great read!”
– S. Fishman – October 12, 2009

“Only the best of writers have the ability to take you through a magical window and deposit you into another world, into another body and mind and allow you to vicariously live another life through their characters eyes. Jay Rankin commands words like a gifted painter wields a brush, bringing each character and situation to life in vivid colors that stimulates your senses to see, and hear, and feel all of the sights and sounds and emotions of that moment in time. It is the story of an ethical, moral man fighting to retain his soul when caught up in the powerful addiction which is Las Vegas, as all those he cares abut fall prey to the fatally corrosive effects of the city.”
– Daniel C. Flurry, “Doc F” – November 24, 2009


“As an avid reader all my life, and an author as well, I’ve learned that there are three secrets to writing a good book: (1)you must have an opening that grabs readers by the throat and propels them into the book; (2)you need a middle that tells a gripping story; and (3)you need an ending that leaves readers satisfied and wanting more. And that, in a nutshell, is what Jay Rankin has done in this book. Under the Neon Sky reads like a novel, but Jay’s experiences in Vegas are unquestionably real. I could feel his pain, frustration, and the heartache his wife and friends were causing him, as well as his angst over the moral conflicts his job and personal relationships presented. He had to make some very tough decisions at the end, and as the book drew to a close, I understood Jay’s exhaustion and sense of relief when he finally escaped Vegas with his life and soul intact because I was feeling pretty limp myself just from reading his story. This book gives the reader an exciting emotional ride, and it has a zinger of an ending that neatly sets the scene for a sequel. Highly recommended!” – Barbara Brabec – November 27, 2009

“I had the extreme pleasure of reading Under the Neon Sky by Jay Rankin, which I highly recommend. This book doesn’t read like a non-fiction book but reads like a work of fiction with fragments of Las Vegas history sprinkled in along the way. I love Vegas and this book allowed me to see the Vegas that no tourist gets to see–the bright lights, loud noises walking hand and hand with sin and temptation–a world unknown to most.

As Mr. Rankin “craved the energy of the city,” I mirrored that excitement as I turned every page feeling the heat of the Vegas lights on my face while I read each word. It was a well-written piece of work and I look forward to reading another book by Mr. Rankin. My only regret was that eventually like Mr. Rankin’s life in Vegas, this energy filled book had to come to an end…”  – Stacey Pierce – December 31, 2009

A Las Vegas Doorman’s Story

What do you do if you have an advanced degree in Psychology? Well, if your name is Jay Rankin you move to Las Vegas and become a doorman for the MGM Grand. Jay was one of the graveyard shift ‘Guest Ambassadors’, he was there from the day it first opened and stayed 6 very long and often trying years.

I have to admit that this book appealed to me from the moment I read the press release, and excitment built following a phone conversation with Jay. When the book arrived in the mail, I could not resist diving straight in, and I can honestly say I was not disappointed.

I have been to Vegas several times, during most of the 90’s I made a yearly pilgrimage to attend the large Comdex Computer convention. I worked for the owner of a family run business in San Diego, and each year I would tell him that I would be gone for the entire week, and every year I would be back in the office first thing on Thursday. I would leave San Diego Sunday morning and make the trek in my company truck, and by Tuesday afternoon I was pig sick of Vegas.  Wednesday morning I’d check out of my hotel, and drive home.

Las Vegas is the strangest city I have ever visited, and I am well traveled. On the surface is glitz and glamor, but there is a nasty undercurrent that runs through the city if you start to look around. I have often wondered how anyone could actually call Las Vegas home and survive?

Under The Neon Sky is such an apt name for this book. Las Vegas does indeed live under a neon sky, regardless of the time of day, a flashlight is about the last thing in the world you could ever need on The Strip, or Downtown.

Jay Rankin rips away the veneer and takes us behind the scenes. It is not a pretty sight. In fact it is a horrible sight. As Guest Ambassador he watched the wide eyed tourists arrive on Friday, full of confidence, and attitude. He also watched them depart on Sunday, deflated, defeated, sleep deprived, broke, and sometimes still wearing the same clothes they arrived in.

It is not just just the tourists that Jay Rankin focuses on, rather, much of his book concerns the toll that Las Vegas takes on those that call it home. The casino, hotel, and entertainment aspects of the city are a 24 hour a day operation that continues every day of the year. While most of us look forward to relaxing with friends and family at Christmas, Thanksgiving, or the Fourth of July, these are not just ‘another day in paradise’ for the employees, but incredibly busy days for these workers. Husbands and wives often find themselves on schedules where they literally have no time together. The strain on relationships is enormous.

Jay Rankin had high hopes when he and his wife moved to the city. Their plan was to build a million dollar house, and sell it. Money in the city seemed plentiful. Both he and his wife Cassy were positive that this was the key to some financial independence. Jay was not unknown in Las Vegas as he had a TV show on one of the local channels, but thought that he could make some extra money by applying for a job with the about to open MGM Grand. Of the 1500 applicants for the position, he was one of a handful that made it to employment.

I think it is fair to say that it was both the best and worst day of his life.

Six years later he piled the small remnants of his life into a car, and bid Las Vegas adieu.

Under The Neon Sky is a shockingly stark look at the city that never sleeps. Maybe the most moving page of the book actually can be found at the back. Most authors put a dedication at the beginning, Jay Rankin leaves it until the end. We have already got to know the characters, and then you are faced with:

“In Memory of T-Bone and Sam”

I think the saddest part of this whole story is that Jay did not lose his wife or life through his overindulgence, rather he stands in witness of what can happen when the rules of regular life change. Las Vegas may well be a garden of eden, but there are so many forbidden fruit, that temptation lays around every corner.

Under The Neon Sky is skillfully penned, 2010 is still in its early moments, but I suspect that Jay might just have a best seller on his hands. I know that he talked to several publishers prior to deciding to take his own route. Publishers were interested, but also cautious, who would buy this book?

Actually this book has some very wide appeal. If you are planning to visit Las Vegas you should read it. If you live there, you should read it. If you are just a seeker of information, you should read it.

Even the cover art of this book has a story. The picture was taken by Jay on his exodus from the city.

- Simon Barrett, Blogger News Network

Vegas’ highs, lows are focus of compelling ‘Neon Sky’

Even as Jay Rankin’s life spins out of control in “Under the Neon Sky,” the reader can’t help but remain somewhat upbeat.

The book, Rankin’s memoir about his days as a doorman at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, details how his marriage, health and friendships all evaporated. But, even with all of this tragedy unfolding, there’s the alluring call of bright lights, prize fights and endless nights that define Sin City.

Vegas, baby, Vegas.

The book starts off with Rankin working June 28, 1997, the night during which Mike Tyson bit the ear of Evander Holyfield during a boxing match at the MGM.

Rankin’s description of the chaotic pre-fight scene was as poetic as it was simple and foreshadowed the excellence that the remainder of the book had to offer: “ Never have I seen a bigger crowd, although most types are familiar: Beverly Hills mixed with gangstas, agents, cronies, wannabes, informers and hookers. We’re going to need more ambulances.”

From there, Rankin flashes back to detail how he beat out some 7,000 applicants to land one of about a dozen doorman jobs at the MGM Grand when it opened in 1993. He moved to Vegas with his wife to revive their marriage, but their opposing schedules (he had to work nights) and the physical and mental grind of doorman’s work did little to heal the union.

And, while the job paid well and had its moments, being a doorman was work in every sense. Rankin and his teammate “T-Bone” had to learn a routine that would entertain the guests in line for a cab, which might draw additional tips. But having to deal with surly losers making their way from the slot machines, as well as continuously lifting 40-pound suitcases into and out of cabs, sent both Rankin and T-Bone to seek relief from various medications.

The initial tone of the book, which relied heavily upon Rankin’s personal experiences as opposed to Vegas anecdotes, seemed like it might weigh the story down. But Rankin’s breezy and brilliant (if occasionally vulgar) voice took the reader along for the fantastic voyage.

Sure, there are Sin City stories — such as comedian/actor Brad Garrett regaling the cab line one random evening, or Rankin’s limo-driving friend who became tight with Stevie Wonder — but the story heavily revolves around Rankin and his tumultuous times in Vegas (and eventual escape).

Upon finishing the book — which proved tough to put down — this personal bent was precisely what set the tome above many other Vegas stories. Everyone knows “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” but the story is far different — and more tragic — for those people who don’t return home Sunday afternoon after a wild weekend.

Rankin lost his wife, his self-respect, his mental health and most of his friends before he moved to California. But he managed to scrape together enough hope before he departed to continue going. Not to mention one superb story.

- Paul Lane, Tonawanda News

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