Lemons Never Lie by Richard Stark aka Donald E. Westlake (World Publishing, 1971; Hard Case Crime, 2006)
Richard Stark books were the more violent, hard-boiled side of Donald Westlake’s fiction. Stark mainly wrote about Parker and his crime crew, with off-shoots like this one centered around Alan Grofield, one of Parker’s crew. Grofield does heists and robberies to fund his true love: a Midwest small theater he runs. (Theater figures in several of Westlake’s Midwood titles, too.)
The novel opens with Grofield in Vegas; he gets off the plane and pulls the lever of a slot machine, getting three lemons and a meager winning. While people around him see this as a lucky move, Grofield knows the omen is bad. He almost turns around, but decides to stay to do the crime job he’s been chosen for…a job that goes haywire with no profit. He should have known better.
He goes back home, broke, back to the theater…but soon other guys from the botched job show up, and it’s a race from New Orleans to New York to get the guy who double-crossed them.
It’s a fun, fast-paced read. The book has been reprinted a number of times over the decades, from Foul Play Press to Countryman Press, and finally a Hard Case Crime edition.