Grifter’s Game by Lawrence Block

Posted August 7, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Pulp / 0 Comments

Grifter’s Game by Lawrence BlockTitle: Grifter’s Game (Goodreads)
Author: Lawrence Block
Series: Hard Case Crime #1
Published: Hard Case Crime, 1961
Pages: 205
Genres: Pulp
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Leonard K. Blake is a conman hiding out in Atlantic City, but of course that’s not his real name, nor is it David Gavilan or Joe Marlin. He has a knack for telling a story and knows exactly what people want to hear in order to take advantage of them. Then he meets Mona, a blonde bombshell, bored wife to a millionaire. He can make a lot of money from this woman but when he steals a suitcase full of heroin from a train station that belongs to her husband things change. A brick of pure heroin will either make him rich or dead and so could Mona.

Originally released in 1961 under the name Mona and later released as Sweet Slow Death, Lawrence Block’s novel Grifter’s Game (the title he originally wanted to use) is the first book in the now popular Hard Case Crime series. This is a gritty noir at its best, something Block is known for and something readers come to expect from this imprint. A fast paced narrative that will keep the reader on its toes right to the end.

I’m not going to lie to you, while reading this book I have to think back on my past and all the dumb things I’ve done and I thought to myself, I might have been a pretty good grifter if I was born back then. Honestly I knew how to lie and manipulate, not something I’m proud of and not something I ever want to do again. So this book hit a little close to home with me and reminded me of the past I would rather leave behind; something that makes this a difficult book for me to read.

The more I read Lawrence Block, the more I like his style which is good because he has published a lot of books, most in different series so it’s always nice to read a standalone. From the snappy dialogue to the plotting, Block has really crafted his style that could rival some of the greats from the golden age of pulp. He really knows how to write both noir and hard-boiled novels that remain gritty and fresh, after so many books I’m not sure how he manages to do this.

Grifter’s Game is probably not the best novel to start with if you’ve never read Lawrence Block, but is definitely one worth trying. He really captured how I would picture an immoral, unsympathetic lowlife and somehow manages to still get the read to care about what happens. This was the perfect book to launch the Hard Case Crime imprint with.  It has everything you want in a pulp; plot, fast pacing, complex characters, gritty prose, great dialogue and the shocking end.

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