Bruce Spotleson:

Miller’s fascinating memoir

Former governor’s story of the city’s evolution parallels that of his own family

Bruce Spotleson

Bruce Spotleson

The first time I met former Gov. Bob Miller, it was in front of the Governor’s Mansion in Carson City. I stood with a long line of kids waiting to meet him, my son among them.

It was Oct. 31, but I don’t believe the children were there to celebrate Nevada’s statehood. They more likely came to get candy from the state’s top executive and its most famous house.

Miller was ever a gracious host. He invited members of the media over for holiday parties, where he’d talk about Carson City being a town without pretense, a place where the governor answers a knock at his front door whether he wants to or not.

As with many success stories, Miller was a lot of things before he became the state’s top executive. And as is the case with many men, his father played a key role in his life. (His late father also is the namesake of Miller’s son, our current secretary of state.)

Even after the elder Ross Miller’s passing, opponents tried to use his past against Miller when he first pursued office.

The history is captured in “Son of a Gambling Man,” an autobiography published by Thomas Dunne Books.

It is the tale of a fellow who did well for himself by being himself. It’s also a real Nevada story about the son of a Chicago bookmaker who moved to Las Vegas in 1955 to legally ply his trade.

Books written about Nevada during that era are fascinating on many levels, but in part because they chronicle the gaming industry’s transition from mob ownership to Fortune 500 status. Miller’s book rewards readers with anecdotes about organized crime, the characters who promoted it and the people who prosecuted it.

There are other tales, as well, about the notorious Tailhook scandal, people such as Mikhail Gorbachev and Michael Douglas, and topics including campaigns and basketball.

Miller was the state’s 26th governor, moving up from lieutenant governor after Richard Bryan left office to become a U.S. senator. Miller was elected twice and held office from 1989 to 1999. He has spent much of the time since then on his book.

“It took more than seven years to get to this final product,” he said. So far, he has been happy with the reviews.

“It seems they read it in the light I intended, which was to parallel the metamorphosis in my family with the same time frame metamorphosis of Las Vegas,” Miller said.

“Son of a Gambling Man” comes out Tuesday. At 7 p.m., Miller will host a book signing at the Barnes and Noble on West Patrick Lane, near South Rainbow Boulevard. From 10 a.m. to noon March 25, he’ll be at Hudson Books in McCarran International Airport.

Of course, Miller will sign each book without pretense. I don’t think he knows any other way.

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