This is the first William Knoles Clyde Allison book I’ve head, although I am convinced that the John Dexter Prig was Knoles, because the funny style is similar.
Funny yes — this is one witty, well-written combo sleaze and crime novel, sharing a similar theme with Don Holliday’s Only the Bed (that I now think was penned by Lawrence Block, not Hal Dresner) — a smart-mouthed operator has little time to drum up a big chunk of change to pay off the local syndicate bookie or wind up six feet under.
Mark Yeager sees himself as “an operator” rather than a con man:
I operate. I manuever. I pull deals. I get myself, never mind how, in the middle of two guys who are trying to do business together and I fixed things so they can do business — through me. (p. 11)
This is involves talking people into giving him money so he can place bets. But Mark Yeager has lost big on two sure horses that didn’t come in so sure, and how he owes the local mob bookie $25,000. He already owes the guy $20,000 from one bad bed, and another $5,000 for another bet. The law of the land is: “Ten days, cash or coffin.”
He has to move fast, real fast.
The story opens with him in bed with young and plump Sharalee with an IQ of 75, who gives him $1,000 for a stock tip that he tells her he will turn into $10,000 in 24 hours. He has $5,000 also, so now he just needs another $19,000 to stay alive.
He’s conned one girl out of a grand, so he decides to open his little black book and call on past lovers, girlfriends, and flings to see if he can’t drum up the rest.
And so he goes through his list of various past lovers — from the lady who runs a new age religion scam to a has-been former child star (somewhat like Shirley Temple) he manages to book into a risque Vegas act for a $3K finder’s fee. He has sex with a number of women in a single day, all the while avoiding a “C.E. Granger” who is hunting him down.
C.E. turns out to be Circe, a Hawiaan con artist he once` had a love fling and con scheme going, selling plots of worthless atolls in Polynesia. She has a deal for him — she’ll pay his gambling debt if he agrees to court and marry a drab librarian gal who has come into two million dollars but doesn’t know it yet. What else can he do?
This novel — fast and funny — has several curious plot twits; it starts off as a guy on the run to get money, then turns into a con job that becomes a different kind of con job, and then a love story with a happy ending.
All in all a fine book to read, and a good example of the humorous sex books of William Knoles/Cylde Allison.