Saturday, April 30, 2016

Grifter's Game (Lawrence Block, 1961)

At first I thought this one will be memorable for the main hero's simply incredible naiveness bordering sheer stupidity. It takes 146 pages and an old Hitchcock movie for our poor sucker Joe to realize that  things are not exactly what they appear to be:

Later, lying in bed and trying to sleep, I realized something. I tried to imagine a movie in which the hero steals two pieces of luggage, one of which is loaded with a fortune in raw heroin. Then the same hero happens to pick up or get picked up by a girl who subsequently turns out to be the wife of the guy who owns the luggage and the heroin.
Coincidental?
More than that. Almost incredible. 


But I'm glad to say that instead it will stay in my memory for its excellent ending that I didn't see coming at all. Needless to say, Joe gets screwed over by the girl, but his payback is really something. Without giving away too much let's just say that there's a reason why Mr Block brought that (initially a bit nonsensical) heroin stuff into the story. Original conclusion indeed. Nasty, grim, disturbing and fatalistic. The way I like them.

All in all, nice take on the ever inspiring theme of "old rich husband, young unsatisfied/greedy wife".

3.5/5

Facts:

Hero
Joe Marlin, a con man. Although it needs to be said that he comes across more like a gigolo who specializes on skipping luxury hotels without paying the bills.

Location:
Philadelphia, New York, Atlantic City, Miami, Tahoe, Las Vegas

Body count: 1

Object of desire: 
The usual: girl for the boy and money for the girl.

Dames
She told me her name was Mona and I told her my name was Lennie. She was a lot of fun, besides being a sex symbol.

Title: 
A bit misleading one. Like I said, Joe is more like a gigolo, he's certainly nothing like Paul Newman/Robert Redford kind of a grifter and his "game" is simply killing some old dude from point blank distance. But I guess "Grifter's Game" sounds much better than "Gigolo's Assassination".

Edition:  
Hard Case Crime #1. Yes, the first HCC edition!

Cover
Nice illustration by Chuck Pyle. Pretty accurate too as it depicts the killing of Mona's husband in a drive-by shooting. I liked the touch with her eyes overseeing the whole scene from the background.

Cool lines
“You’re sweet,” she said. “Very sweet.”
“Isn’t your husband sweet?”
“Forget him.”
“How can I? He’s married to the most beautiful girl in the world.”
Another smile.
“Well?”
“He’s not sweet. He’s old and he’s fat and he’s ugly. Also stupid. Also revolting.”
It was quite a list.
“So why did you marry him?”
“He’s also rich,” she said. “Very rich. Very very very rich.”

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