Book review: ‘Bernie Takes Tahoe’ back to its gambling heyday

Gloria Sinibaldi
Gloria Sinibaldi

‘Bernie Takes Tahoe’

By Arturo Raymond

Double Up Press

Lake Tahoe native Arturo Raymond introduces us to Bernie in his zany novel “Bernie Takes Tahoe” published by Double Up Press.

If you are looking for a literary masterpiece or searching for inspiration through well-crafted prose you won’t find it here. But you will find a lot of laughs on this wild ride with Bernie and a cast of interesting characters including a sweet German shepherd named David who becomes vicious when he hears the word “Devil.”

This Tahoe tale is set in 1975, the heyday of Tahoe’s nightlife and gambling scene. If you experienced that era, the historical content will make you smile. Tahoe references will keep you saying, “I remember that” or “I’ve been there.” “Bernie Takes Tahoe” is fun, nostalgic and sometimes a little naughty. Crack open a cold beer, bring out the pretzels and enjoy a crazy adventure with “Numbers” Bernie.

Bernie is a larger than life character inspired by Raymond’s childhood memories while growing at the lake. He is a “roast and a tribute to my late father,” Raymond said.

With a healthy dose of imagination and some generous embellishments Bernie was born. He will immediately catch your eye on the front cover surrounded by his adorning female groupies. Posed in his element, at the gaming table, it’s easy to understand why they call him “Numbers.” Not only is he a hard-core gambling fool, he’s a self-proclaimed womanizer, bourbon slamming, morally unhinged oaf. Bernie experiences his fair share of “having his way with the women.” They can’t seem to get enough of him, until he meets Zelda, that is, the evangelical, mysterious woman who changes everything, including his luck. Bernie makes his way from being busted and disgusted to the pinnacle of “cool”, but not without some detours along the way.

An Elvis Presley protégé, Bernie is known around the casino circuit as a lounge lizard after his nightclub act falls off the billboards at the High Sierra and descends to the depths of the Pinecone Lounge only to crash and burn there, too. His gambling obsession has left him debt filled and in dire straits. What now? We love to hate Bernie yet by the end of the book we love him, period. Why? Maybe it’s because he so darned honest!

He never misses an opportunity to call somebody, “Baby” and although it’s grating on the nerves at first it turns out to be what makes him endearing.

Readers will follow Bernie on his wacky escapades where other characters surface, one of which is Crunch, a cracker-eating crazy. Crunch has only one motive: get in on Bernie’s gambling action. “Gimme them numbers!!!” I personally found Crunch to be a bit creepy but his antics contribute quite colorfully to the storyline.

Bernie Takes Tahoe” is a gambling tale with a twist. King David even gets involved, (no not the dog, the biblical figure.) Will Bernie change his ways and find redemption? Maybe.

With a Jackie Collins style of writing you will either like this one or not. I thought it was funny and light, maybe a bit slow to take off but all in all it delivered.

Gloria Sinibaldi resides part-time in South Lake Tahoe. Her short story “A Means To Survive” appears in “Tahoe Blues.” She is a job coach, trainer and author. Contact her at:

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