Dark Days, Bright Nights
Are you aware that hundreds of people live in the underground flood channels of Las Vegas? Few were until Matthew O’Brien grabbed a flashlight, tape recorder and expandable baton for protection and explored the storm-drain system in depth. This research resulted in his landmark book Beneath the Neon. Now the drains have been covered by CNN, Fox News, NPR, Dr. Phil, the New York Times, the BBC, Al Jazeera and many other media outlets. They have even found their way on to popular TV shows, including CSI and Criminal Minds, and into mainstream movies.
But the fact that several of these drug- and gambling-addicted tunnel dwellers have clawed their way out of the drains and turned around their lives has received far less attention. Dark Days, Bright Nights shares their harrowing stories and provides a unique perspective on one of America’s most fascinating cities. It also paints a larger picture of homelessness and recovery in America. The stories are the happy (though not Hollywood) ending to the infamous tunnel tale.
The narrative is complemented by bios and stark, black-and-white images of the survivors, putting a scarred, knowing face to the unblinkingly honest accounts.
“Matthew O’Brien’s Beneath the Neon introduced the country—and so many media outlets—to the tunnels beneath Vegas and the people who lived there. How easy it would have been to play the voyeur, to just walk away. But O’Brien does what is needed. Dark Days, Bright Nights is an important book because it refuses to let us look away. It allows us to sit down at the metaphorical table and listen. This is the story of lives gone wrong, of people who have fallen, who are flawed and trying. They are touching and human and alive on the page. This is the story of the other side of Vegas; it is the story of what happened to America. The question for each of us: Will we play the voyeur or sit at the table?” Charles Bock, New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Children and Alice & Oliver
“A profound, moving and inspiring book about the world beneath Las Vegas and how human beings can survive and overcome the toughest challenges in life. Everyone should read this wonderful work!” Johann Hari, author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs
“With the heart of an artist and the ear of a journalist, Matthew O’Brien first shined a light on the homeless people who exist in the storm tunnels of Las Vegas. In Dark Days, Bright Nights, O’Brien brings their heart-wrenching stories to the surface and offers us an unforgettable portrait of a slice of humanity most would never encounter.” John L. Smith, author of The Westside Slugger: Joe Neal’s Lifelong Fight for Social Justice
“Dark Days, Bright Nights is not summer reading: It’s all-seasons reading, and a reader may well pull it off the shelf and read it more than once. Using the unfiltered words of the homeless in Las Vegas, Matt O’Brien has compacted, in some 240 pages, volumes of truth, the kind that sociologists can’t possibly reveal in studies and statistics. Matt’s interviewees are not cold statistics; they are warm humans with tales of embarrassment over failure and of pride over success. I will never look at a homeless person again and see someone with a sign pandering for money. Instead, I will see a caring heart trapped inside a human whose troubled life has been a struggle against the forces of the world and against him or herself, addiction being the greatest of those.” H. Lee Barnes, award-winning author of ten books, most recently Life Is a Country Western Song
“In Dark Days, Bright Nights, O’Brien interviews thirty-six similarly cast-off homeless, editing their stories into deftly plotted narratives of lost souls driven underground by misfortune, addiction and abuse. Some make it out, their revelatory struggles testaments to courage, hope and redemption. For those still there, O’Brien offers a call to action. Buying this book is a start―every copy contributes to the Shine a Light project that rescues people from this social and economic neglect that echoes so darkly beneath our American prosperity.” Douglas Unger, author of Voices from Silence and Leaving the Land
“Matthew O’Brien has expertly pieced together a compelling narrative that tells the tale of human life in the storm tunnels beneath the glitter of Las Vegas. From the dwellers’ early lives to adulthood, from why they went underground to how they survived or didn’t, these stories of celebration will tug at your heartstrings.” Cathy Scott, journalist and author of The Crime Book and The Killing of Tupac Shakur
Buy the book
Dark Days, Bright Nights: Surviving the Las Vegas Storm Drains is available at