Archive for con men

Slum Sinners by Andrew Shaw aka Lawrence Block (Midnight Reader #499, 1962); rpt as Pity the Damned (Reed Nightstand, 1973)

Posted in Andrew Shaw, crime noir, Lawrence Block, lesbian pulp fiction, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on March 15, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Two characters from other books appear in this one:  Kyros the Greek pimp from The Twisted Ones, and Joan McKay from Girls on the Prowl (with a footnote).

Slum Sinners opens with ffifteen-year-old Monita Ruiz, a Puerta Rican girl who lives in a slum neighborhood up towards 100 Street and Columbia, is bed with a boy in a ratty room.  She can’t go through with it.

Then we see Ruth Lansing who lives on the upper West Side; she’s married, has a six month old baby, and is miserable. She really has deep secret lesbian wanton desires and has no idea what to do.

Then we meet Al Carter, newly released from a five-year prison stint for armed robbery. he has ten bucks to his name and needs to find some sort of quick con game to earn quick cash.

We tend to prefer Block’s Shaw and Sheldon Lord books that center on one character, or are first-person, rather than these multi–character stories where everyone’s lives mesh together at a cross in the road; still, this one is pretty darn  entertaining and smoothly written as both a softcore and crime novel. Like The Twisted Ones, he gets a little postmodernly reflexive at the beginning when giving a historical account of New York neighborhoods and how they changed racially and economically over time.

Monita decides she needs to lose her virginity and she doesn’t care who does it, so she randomly picks the first good-looking guy she sees on the street, who happens to be Al.  She also has another plan: she will blackmail him for statutory rape so he will give her money and she can get out of the slums and start a new life.  She loses her virginity quite painfully and she tries her blackmail on Al, he laughs and tells her he doesn’t have a dime, and tells her she’s bad at the con. However, he suggests they could work a “badger” game together….

Ruth goes to a lesbian bar and gets picked yup by Joan McKay…

The first mark Al and Monita get is a Manhattan businessman, who happens to be Ruth’s husband, Glenn.  He pays up on the blackmail: $500.

Monita is amazed at the easy money and wants to blackmail more unsuspecting men she picks up in hotel bars.

Glenn, although robbed, has gotten a taste of young girl and wants more. He connects with Kyros, the Greek pimp in The Twisted Ones who specializes in underage prostitutes. He provides Glenn with a number of them, from Canada to Europe to the south, girls 12-14…he so much desires this that he leaves his wife…

Ruth has a short fling with Joan, and some other women, but decides she would rather have men, and begins to let men, any men, pick her up in bars and have their way…

Monita has $3,000 in her bank account and she decides to start life over, changing her name to Mona, leabing Al and going to San Francisco.

Al needs a new girl, but young girls won’t be easy to find. He does find Ruth in a bar, and he talks her into a business deal: he’ll find the men and take them to her, she’ll wait at home, they’ll both make money…

Definitely a fun read. The Twisted Ones, Girls on the Prowl, and Slum Sinners would make an excellent reprint omnibus edition.

Reed Nightstand reprinted it as Pity the Damned.

The Girl with the Long Green Heart by Lawrence Block (Gold Medal, 1965)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , on November 23, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

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: