WEDNESDAY

To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, it’s hard to be a saint in Atlantic City. But that’s just what the 6-year-old protagonist of D.C. writer Frederick Reuss’ new novel believes himself to be. In Henry of Atlantic City, the title character—who boasts a creepy photographic memory and often thinks he’s living in ancient Byzantium—takes it upon himself to save the souls of the wayward troupe of thieves, hookers, and gamblers who duck in and out of his life. The follow-up to Reuss’ New York Times-noted Horace Afoot, Henry paints the sin capital of the Eastern Seaboard as a neon-flecked wasteland where so many dreams are shattered and so many prayers are routinely denied. Seeing that I dropped 200 clams at a lousy blackjack table at Caesar’s Palace last winter, I tend to agree with Reuss’ bleak vision. (In fact, I plan on returning to Atlantic City this fall—but only to enjoy the intricacies of the author’s cleverly detailed descriptions.) Henry is a quick, bouncy read but for one glaring speed bump: Reuss continually refers to “Balley’s Wild West.” This bothers me because I once won $75 at Bally’s Wild Wild West Casino. A small matter, sure, but you never want to piss off Lady Luck. Reuss reads from and discusses Henry at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15, at Olsson’s Books & Records, 1200 F St. NW. Free. (202) 347-3686. (Sean Daly)