Sherman R. Frederick

Battle Born Media

Looking for the rare combination of love poems and rural Nevada ties? Well, consider the book “Card Trick” by John L. Smith.

It consists of 17 poems by Smith dedicated to his soon-to-be wife, Sally Denton.

Smith is largely remembered for his popular column in Nevada’s largest newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, where he wrote unblinkingly about Nevada mobsters and the demi-gods of the casino industry.

Then, one of those casino demi-gods bought the Review-Journal. That was the end of Smith’s R-J column, and, I think it can be safely said, a tough break for anyone who appreciated trustworthy journalism.

But this book illustrates how the whims of arse-issistic demi-gods can’t keep a good man down. First, John’s in love. Second, he’s telling that love story in poetry partially set in rural Nevada. For my money, no one expresses the Nevada ethos quite like Smith. Nothing against the backdrop of urban Las Vegas, but John’s writing seems to breathe deeper when set in the Big Empty of Nevada.

Smith’s new book, “Card Trick,” is an ode to his love for Denton. Nevadans with any kind of sweat mark on their hat band will recognize the Denton name.

Sally, who is an accomplished author herself, (“American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 1857”) is the granddaughter of Floyd and Hazel Denton of Caliente. Floyd was the undersheriff of Lincoln County, and Hazel, after 35 years of teaching was elected to the Nevada Legislature in the early 50s. Sally’s father, Ralph Lloyd Denton, became an important lawyer who fought against racism in the formative civil rights days of Nevada.

“Card Trick” will make for a nice addition to the library of any real Nevadan. One word of warning: Don’t let the kids read the poem “Mizpah” unless you want to explain what it means when he writes: “We are up all night knotting the sheets.”

You can find John’s book in paperback on Amazon for $6.99.

(Sherman Frederick is a Nevada Hall of Fame journalist and an owner of Battle Born Media, which publishes newspapers in Ely, Hawthorne, Sparks, Mesquite, Lincoln County, Eureka and Ely. You can reach him at