If you live in Las Vegas but weren’t lucky enough to have been born here, you’ve got an arrival story to tell.
I’ve heard so many since my own appearance in the valley. That was way back in 1999, when the world was freaked out about what might happen when the calendar clicked over to the year 2000. So much has happened since then, and so many more people now call themselves Vegas locals.
My own Las Vegas story began with a California wildfire. My house in the hills above Los Angeles, along with 250 others, vanished in a whirlwind of fire and smoke, leaving my husband and me free of nearly all our worldly possessions. The fire wiped out a business we had just started, too, so we had a truly clean slate and nothing to put in storage. It occurred to us that we might never have a better chance to travel a bit, so we acquired a motorhome and set forth to explore the wonders of North America. We thought we might take six months to consider what to do next with our lives. The six months turned into six years.
Because our odyssey occurred during the same years the internet emerged from obscurity and blossomed into all our lives, it was a fascinating time to be touring the country. I ended up writing a book about it. Roads from the Ashes: An Odyssey in Real Life on the Virtual Frontier now enjoys renewed interest as a first-hand account of the Web’s early days in small-town and urban America.
When that book was released, I started thinking about what to write next and settled on fiction. I had an idea for a story that had been rattling around in my head since my days as a classics major in college. The idea occurred when I first visited the Getty Villa in Malibu, California. The museum is a replica of an ancient Roman villa, but it also has a parking garage, elevators, electric lights, and a host of other modern improvements that an ancient Roman would find mysterious and even bizarre. “What would a real Roman think?” I kept asking myself, and in time the question became, “What would Julius Caesar think?”
Once I decided to write the story of Julius Caesar’s visit to our world, it wasn’t long before Las Vegas came into the picture. If the Getty Villa might seem weird to Caesar, it was nothing compared to what he might think about the Las Vegas Strip and Caesars Palace.
To weave this new angle into the story, I created a character who was a Las Vegas native. I started writing. It wasn’t long before I realized that if I were going to imbue this character with any genuine authenticity, I would have to go to Las Vegas myself and find out where she lived, where she went to school, and where she worked. Although I’d visited a few times, my knowledge of the city was all based on stereotypes and reputation. I knew nothing about neighborhoods or the lives of real Las Vegans.
“Let’s go to Las Vegas,” I said to my husband, because we were still living on a roll and had the luxury of flexibility. “Two or three weeks ought to be enough for me to learn everything I need to know.” Because, I secretly believed, of course I wouldn’t like it, and of course I’d want to leave as soon as possible.
Once in Las Vegas, we found a spot in an RV park on Boulder Highway. My husband and I both bought bus passes and began exploring. Long story short, we’re still here, now more than two decades later. By taking a closer look at a city we had assumed we would dislike, we instead discovered the warm, welcoming, and diverse community that became our new home.
And what about Julius Caesar? I finished writing the novel and signed with an excellent agent. The manuscript didn’t sell, so I put it on a shelf and went on to write three other novels, including two mysteries set in Las Vegas. Then I dusted off that original manuscript and decided to start all over. Having spent more than a decade in Las Vegas by then, I now felt capable of painting a far more accurate picture.
This time, my efforts paid off! A Coin for the Ferryman’s release date is March 1, 2022. I’ll be joining five other authors at the Springs Preserve on Saturday, March 5 to celebrate the book’s launch. Although the party is for books and authors, I will also be celebrating the marvelous serendipity that allowed a California wildfire to set me on a circuitous path toward Las Vegas, my unexpectedly wonderful new hometown. To borrow Julius Caesar’s turn of phrase, “I came. I saw. I fell in love and stayed.”
Megan Edwards is the author of the new novel A Coin for the Ferryman. Her other books include the travel memoir Roads from the Ashes: An Odyssey in Real Life on the Virtual Frontier, the humor book Caution: Funny Signs Ahead, the award-winning Copper Black mystery novels Getting off on Frank Sinatra and Full Service Blonde, and the award-winning novel Strings: A Love Story. Edwards holds a B.A. in classics from Scripps College and an M.A. from Claremont Graduate University. She has lived and traveled extensively in Europe and spent nearly seven years “on the road” all over North America. Now at home in Las Vegas, Nevada, she is working on her next book.