Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving in the tunnels follow-up

Things went well in the tunnels on Thanksgiving. I went down late morning with Josh Ellis (minus the kukri knife), his wife Rosalie, Becky Bosshart and her friend Mary Catharine, bearing hot plates and trash bags full of goods (knit caps, disposable razors, batteries, bar soap, books, etc.). Our first stop was a tunnel near the south Strip, where we encountered four or five camps, which, to our relief, were much warmer than outside. (It was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit in Las Vegas that day.) The inhabitants were just stirring and getting ready for another day: panhandling, dumpster diving, credit hustling. There are no holidays in the underground flood channels of Vegas.

Our second stop was a drain just west of the Strip, which housed two camps. We left plates and trash bags for “Stretch” and Vicki, who were hustling aboveground, and chatted with my friend Rick (of “The Buried Life” fame) near the inlet. Despite a broken index finger, he was planning to wash car windows at a gas station that day.

Finally, we parked at a Siegel Suites adjacent to a three-barrel drain north of UNLV. (Is it just me or is this town becoming one big Siegel Suites?) A handful of homeless people sat on the embankment, basking in the early afternoon sun. As rumors of free food and goods spread, more people emerged from the shadows of the tunnels. They appeared tired, cold and hungry—resigned. We gave out our remaining supplies, including blankets and sweatshirts, and the people seemed appreciative. Some of them said they hope to get into HELP of Southern Nevada’s program, but are currently on the waiting list.

Special thanks to Casey, Sam, Tia T.’s mom Cyndi, Enrique and Nic, who donated goods. Also, to Becky for donating and cooking the food and to Josh, Rosalie and Mary Catharine for helping deliver it. The venture was funded, in part, by Alison from Missouri. (Thanks for the check!)

Also, Josh wrote a long and poignant blog about the day. Check it out at

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

HP’s holiday catalog

My publisher, Huntington Press, has released its annual holiday catalog. It includes specials on Beneath the Neon and My Week at the Blue Angel (and many other products and collectibles). Flip through it here and find something for the Vegas-phile in your life:

Scheduled book signings

I have three book signings in the Las Vegas area over the next few months, one before Christmas. The basic details are listed below. The signings will run for at least an hour, possibly longer, depending on the busyness of the store, and copies of both Beneath the Neon and My Week at the Blue Angel will be available. One of the signings is in the central valley, one Henderson and one near Summerlin.

3 p.m. Dec. 11 Barnes & Noble (3860 S. Maryland Parkway, 89119)
3 p.m. Jan. 8 Borders (1445 W. Sunset Road, Henderson, NV 89014)
1 p.m. Feb. 5 Barnes & Noble (8915 W. Charleston Blvd., 89117)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving in the tunnels

I’m taking food and gifts into the tunnels on Thanksgiving, because I’ll probably be out of town for Christmas. If you want to donate some new or gently used gifts and can meet me Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon or evening, preferably in the central valley, please let me know. Looking for quality over quantity, as we’ll probably only visit three or four tunnels. The people who live in the tunnels told me they would like books (self-help, spiritual and thrillers), toiletries (disposable razors, bar soap, shampoo, etc.), laundry detergent, batteries (D, AA and AAA), jugs of water, thick socks, blankets and winter coats.


Sunday, November 21, 2010


Despite threatening weather, there was a pretty good turnout for the Nov. 20 book signing at the Town Square Borders. Lots of familiar faces: Laura, Suzanne, Katherine, James, Downtown Steve, Barry from the tunnels, Slick from the sewage plant, and others. Also, a few former CityLife staffers showed up: Jarret, Meredith, Emmily and Doug. And, typical of a signing, I made a few new friends.

Overall, it was a successful event, I think. Thanks to everyone who dropped by!

If you want a signed copy of Beneath the Neon or My Week at the Blue Angel, you may want to visit that Borders. They should have copies on the shelf through the end of the year.

Also, I have three other local signings scheduled over the next few months. The next one is Saturday, Dec. 11, at 3 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble on Maryland Parkway (near Flamingo Road).

I plan to post the schedule of upcoming signings soon.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Reno News & Review feature

And an evenhanded and informative look at My Week at the Blue Angel by Brad Bynum of the Reno News & Review:

LV Weekly Q and A

I got together with Las Vegas Weekly staff writer Deanna Rilling at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf across from UNLV. Here’s the result:

Friday, November 19, 2010


I’ll sign copies of Beneath the Neon and My Week at the Blue Angel tomorrow (Nov. 20) at 3 p.m. at the Town Square Borders. I’ll be there till at least 4.

Drop by and say hello.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tucson Weekly gift guide

The Tucson Weekly included My Week at the Blue Angel in its eclectic and fun-to-read book gift guide. Good to know there’s still some alternative writing and thinking going on in the alt-weekly world (courtesy of my former co-worker Jarret Keene); this roundup sings and I want to read every book mentioned in it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Nov. 20 book signing at Town Square

Huntington Press


Beneath the Neon Author to Reveal New Book and Sign Copies at Borders in Town Square

Las Vegas—Matthew O’Brien, author of the book Beneath the Neon, will sign copies of his new title My Week at the Blue Angel: And Other Stories from the Storm Drains, Strip Clubs, and Trailer Parks of Las Vegas on Saturday November 20 at 3:00 p.m. at the Borders store in Town Square.

My Week at the Blue Angel ($14.95) is a collection of creative nonfiction stories that chronicle O'Brien’s forays into the underbelly of Las Vegas, and his discovery that beauty can be found in the unlikeliest of places. The stories revolve around the real-life characters of Sin City that are incongruous to the valley’s picture-perfect neon image: A convicted murderer on parole, a missing prostitute, a strip club owner looking to found his own church, and the downtrodden masses living in the storm drains beneath the Strip.

Matthew O’Brien’s first book, Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas ($19.95, Huntington Press), has been reviewed or covered by more than 100 media outlets, including Publisher’s Weekly, Le Monde, Wired Magazine, The Sunday Times, "The Evening News with Katie Couric," and MTV’s "The Buried Life."

FOR MORE INFORMATION, please contact:

Heidi Olson-Barwell


Friday, November 12, 2010

KNPR interview

I was recently interviewed by Dave Becker of the local NPR affiliate. He asked me about Hunter S. Thompson, the central sewage plant, the Blue Angel and many other subjects and settings.

To learn more about the interview and to hear it, click on the link below:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Panel discussion post-mortem

I thought the panel discussion and book signing went pretty well. One of the highlights, in my opinion, was the two other panelists, Juan Martinez and Victoria Patterson. (Juan was added a day or two before the discussion.) They were extremely well-spoken and interesting, and I look forward to reading more of their work. Another highlight was the late-arriving and eventually fairly large audience. It included sign designer Betty Willis, Rich Penksa of HELP of Southern Nevada, Marty Flynn of the central sewage plant, Valentino Santiago (my neighbor at the Diplomat apartments), my mom and dad (in from the Atlanta area), a few guys from the tunnels, a handful of former tunnel-dwellers, and quite a few other friends and family members. Indeed, it was an interesting cross section of my life.

Thanks to everyone who attended the discussion, and I’m sorry if you weren’t able to buy a book. However, I’m told that both Beneath the Neon and My Week at the Blue Angel are available at the Town Square Borders and the Barnes & Noble on Maryland Parkway (near Flamingo). Also, I have a few other local signings scheduled before Christmas.

I’ll keep you updated, of course.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

E-book available

The e-book for My Week at the Blue Angel is now available (in pdf format). If you prefer the Kindle, etc., version, I’m told that will be available in a week or so. Two advantages of the e-book over the hard copy: It’s cheaper ($5.98 versus $11.21 or so, depending on the retailer) and most of the interior photos, which are black and white in the paperback, are in color.

For more info, visit:

Friday, November 5, 2010

Seven excerpt

Vegas Seven published an excerpt from My Week at the Blue Angel. It’s an abbreviated version of the last story in the collection, “Another Day on Paradise.”

CityLife review

Tod Goldberg’s review of My Week at the Blue Angel in Las Vegas CityLife:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A reminder

My panel discussion is at 1:45 p.m. this Saturday at the Historic Fifth Street School (401 S. Fourth Street, Las Vegas, 89101). I’ll sign copies of My Week at the Blue Angel and Beneath the Neon from roughly 2:45 to 3:15. (Yes, the books will be available there.)

For more information about the book festival, visit

Monday, November 1, 2010

R-J’s book fest preview

The Las Vegas Review-Journal published a preview of the Vegas Valley Book Festival. Read it here (for free through Nov. 7):