Thursday, 27 June 2013

LAWRENCE BLOCK - GRIFTER'S GAME

Synopsis/blurb....

Con man Joe Marlin was used to scoring easy cash off beautiful women. But that was before he met Mona Brassard and found himself facing the most dangerous con of his career, one that will leave him either a killer — or a corpse.

No one but multiple Edgar Award winner Lawrence Block could tell this story of dangerous men and wicked women, of greed and desire and nail-biting suspense. It will grab you by the throat on the first page and won’t let go till the breathless, unforgettable climax.

This was June’s book choice for my Pulp Fiction group over on Goodreads.  A short novel weighing in at just over 100-odd pages, originally published back in 1961 under the title of Mona, Grifter’s Game was short, sharp and shocking with a few twists.

I managed to read it in just over a day, having managed to get back on my reading track with the help of Terry Shames’ excellent debut.  It would be fair to say that in a straight match-up between this and some of Mr Block’s early Scudder books that I have been reading lately, I have enjoyed the Scudder’s more.

Grifter’s Game gives us Joe, conning and scoring his way from hotel to hotel, city to city with barely a backward glance when the jig is up. On his exit from one city via train (memory fails me, where) he lifts a couple of suitcases at the station and on arrival in Atlantic City discovers he’s the unwitting owner of a large stash of heroin. Quickly realising the danger to himself, he secures the load in his hotel safe rather than keeping it in his room.

After a swim on the beach Joe crosses paths with femme fatale, Mona. A couple of trysts later and after the discovery by Mona of her husband’s stolen suitcases in Marlin’s room; Marlin the conman, for so long the controlling player in the game of the con, starts getting played by Mona.

Sex, drink, drugs, trains and planes, New York, Miami and Vegas.......murder, mishap and mayhem.

Enjoyable and interesting, I read along without feeling any emotional investment in the outcome. Neither Joe, Mona or the husband and their fates and the ultimate outcome inspired in me any sense of anxiety or fear for any of them. I was more of an interested bystander, though that said the ending rocked.

More than a 3, probably a 4 from 5 for me.


I have depicted the Hard Case crime reprint cover, but my copy was actually acquired as a 5 book omnibus from Amazon last month. Try holding that baby up, when you’re laying down reading it in bed! Other titles in the edition are Coward’s Kiss, Deadly Honeymoon, The Girl With The Long Green Heart and You Could Call It Murder. 

10 comments:

  1. Sounds good Col. I'm a Block fan as you know. I love the word 'grifter' - such American and it conjures a raft of images.

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    1. Sarah, thanks. Your right - your not going to find Grifter in any other fiction anywhere. I think I could quite easily read Block after Block after Block.

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  2. Col - I'm glad you enjoyed this. I've always like Block's work very much; I especially like the way his Matthew Scudder character evolves over time.

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    1. Thanks Margot - I'm hopping back on the Scudder bandwagon in July!

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  3. I was just going to say the same as Sarah! Grifter's Game is a great name - I remember the excellent film The Grifters from a few years ago, Angelica Huston and John Cusack, from a book by Jim Thompson I think. I read several of the Block's Burglar books, and enjoyed them.

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  4. Col, I have the Hard Case edition of The Girl With The Long Green Heart just because I love the cover art by Robert McGinnis. I am glad to hear you enjoyed this one... I will look for more of his older standalone books.

    I avoid buying omnibuses because I hate to have to hold such a heavy book. However, sometimes there is no other option.

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  5. Moira, I have the Thompson book, but can't recall ever seeing the film - one of these days maybe. I'm probably going to read the Burglar series, once I'm done with his Scudder books, and his Keller series. I've so far only managed the one - I think I saw a comment likening it a bit to a US - Jeeves type character. Too early for me to say though.

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  6. Tracy the Hard Case Crime covers are all great. They are very reminiscent of the pulp era which I suppose is the intention.

    Omnibus editions and probably hardbacks aren't my preferred choice, but sometimes options are limited and price is king.

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    1. oh wow, I just checked my book catalog and I actually have Grifter's Game and a couple of other Lawrence Block books in Hard Case editions. I bought them from a next door neighbor (yard sale) and could not remember how many I had. I will have to pull them out soon to read. OK, maybe not this year, but early next year.

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    2. Wow, indeed. You are a lot more organised than me. I had my books all nicely arranged, but got evicted my from study/office so my two girls could have separate bedrooms just over a year ago. Patience wasn't the order of the day, and they moved my books when I was out into the loft - IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER! I haven't yet got around to sorting them out yet, as it's a mammoth task. I have one smallish bookcase downstairs which is home to maybe 100 books. I keep thinking, well if I catalogue and list maybe 50 at a time, in a year or so, I would be able to quickly find what I want...dream on! I have even had to borrow books I know I have from the library, because I can't find them!
      I'll join you next year, reading them,

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