Kurt Divich always aspired to be a novelist, but it took some misfortune to get him going in the right direction. The local freelance writer and publicist conceived the premise for his debut novel in the ’90s, but he had barely written a chapter over the next several years before he blew his knee out playing soccer in 2005. Laid up following surgery, Divich wrote 140,000 words in 11 months, laying the groundwork for the political thriller Lords of Las Vegas.
The story revolves around two characters in their 20s: Julian Correa, a Cuban-American rising political star, and Daniel Madison, an ambitious, struggling speechwriter. They come from different backgrounds but form a bond based on mutual desires. Readers learn in the first chapter that one of them has taken his own life, and Divich then unfolds the winding, fast-moving journey leading up to that fatal conclusion.
“I’m a big fan of A Tale of Two Cities and A Separate Peace, where there are two characters that are drawn together in unique ways, but their existence is really compromised or affects the other,” he says.
Although Lords of Las Vegas (Stephens Press, $19.95) is a fictional tale, Divich draws from personal experiences and actual events and locations. It’s hard not to view Correa as former Clark County Commissioner Dario Herrera—and Divich has done some speechwriting for political candidates—but he says the novel is a “mosaic of fictional events. Nobody in the book is one real person.”
“I think that the greater view of the book is that it’s about integrity, honesty and loyalty, and how expensive those things are in our daily lives,” Divich says. “Every day we make decisions to either abide by those guiding principles or to neglect them, and there’s a consequence for that. As we try to get ahead, sometimes we have to compromise our ethics; or sometimes we don’t compromise our ethics and we don’t get ahead. And it’s about what toll that takes on individuals throughout their lives.”
When Divich, 40, began the story more than a decade ago, the Las Vegas native felt he hadn’t “lived enough” to develop the characters fully. Now a married father of four daughters under the age of 10, the 1995 UNLV communications graduate uses his inherent knowledge of Las Vegas to create a complex story that delves into the city’s underbelly and power structure.
“Las Vegas provides a great canvas for all these events to happen,” Divich says. “If this story was set in Omaha, Neb., it will be just as emotionally gripping, but it wouldn’t be as colorful.”
And if not for a bit of adversity, it might not exist at all.
“Had I not gotten hurt,” Divich says, “it would still be in some unfinished form on my desk.”