The Girl with the Long Green Heart by Lawrence Block (Gold Medal, 1965)
Block was, what, 25-26 years old when he wrote this one, having broken away from his Andrew Shaw persona at Nightstand but still doing books as Sheldon Lord for Beacon and Jill Emerson lesbiana novels for Midwood.
This is young Block truly at his A-game, an excellent con artist caper that looks like a sure thing from the get-go, until–naturally–things go awry, due to a dame, this girl with a long green heart who instigated the grift and has been playing the three men in it, all of whom she’s been sleeping with like some kind of Orrie Hitt whore.
And like Orrie Hitt’s Pushover, the con is a unique one, crossing the same territory as David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross: real estate scams, getting people to guy useless property; not in the Florida everglades, but in the Canadian tundra.
It’s too complicated for me to put down in comprensible words, but it’s a complicated con, started in Vegas when Doug, one of the con men, happens to meet Evie, the girl with the long green heart.
She loves money and wants to marry rich, which she thought would happen with the millionaire she works for and has been sleeping with for several years. He said he’d marry her when his sick wife died; but after the wife died he didn’t marry her and now she wants revenge, by getting two confidence men to pull a land buy game on him, where she will get $17500 from the deal, enough money to move somewhere and mingle with the well-to-do and land a rich hisband.
Right off I hated this broad, and the type of woman she represents, because let me tell ya, these gold diggers are out there: women who come from the wrong side of the track of medicore middle class, and shift their way into a different class in order to marry rich, the man’s bankbook more important than who he is.
And I knew she would pull the twist, that she was up to something; maybe too obvious knowing Block’s work, and 60s crime noir. The fun was in trying to figure out her angle and what she’d pull — the clues are all there, you realize this later: you go back and see them, but some were obvious too, like when she gets the narrator, Johnny, to touch a gun and put his prints on it.
Johnny admits at the beginning his one weakness, or vice, is women, women always get him in trouble and could ruin a con, and this is the case when Evie plays him.
My only issue with this novel is that it’s abaut 10K words too long (it closks in aboyt 70K) and gets repetitive in the middle, you want things to mobe faster, enough waiting for this con to come to closure.
You also wonder why such a elaborate and months-long con for $100,000, split 40/30/20. That was abouyt a million in 1965 money, though, and people today murder for far much less.
Hard Case rerpinted this novel in 2005, with a far better cover than the other two editions, featuring a cool orginal Robert McGuire gal: