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The California Roll: A Novel (Radar Hoverlander #1)

3.54  ·  Rating Details ·  177 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
Meet Radar Hoverlander, a witty, gifted con artist with the mind of David Mamet, the voice of Tom Robbins, and the morals of a sailor on shore leave.
What do the Merlin Game, the Penny Skim, the Doolally Snadoodle, and the Afterparty Snuke have in common? They’re all the work of world-class con artist and master bafflegabber Radar Hoverlander. Radar’s been “on the snuke”
ebook, 169 pages
Published March 16th 2010 by Crown (first published 2010)
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Dec 12, 2013 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh, what a joy this was to read -- full of linguistic inventiveness and often outrageously funny.

Radar Hoverlander is a highly successful grifter: he makes a good living by running scams, relying on his wits and his innate talents for bafflegab. When he runs into the lovely Allie Quinn at a party that he's crashed, he soon realizes he's met his match -- which doesn't stop him wanting to get her under the Radar, so to speak. It seems all she wants him to do is educate her grandfather, a retired i
Apr 11, 2010 Maddy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010-reads
PROTAGONIST: Radar Hoverlander, con artist
RATING: 3.25

Radar Hoverlander has been a con artist since childhood. Even in grade school, he pulled off some elementary snukes (scams or the people who perform them). Now he’s considered one of the experts in the field. Consequently, he is quite surprised when he suspects that someone is pulling a snuke on him. He meets Allie Quinn at a Halloween party, and she effortlessly leads him around by the nose. Radar isn’t sure if she is really that good at the
Jan 19, 2010 Turi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, snappy novel about a L.A. based con artist who gets too wrapped up in his own "snuke." The language is wonderful - lingo and inside puns that sometimes don't catch up with you until the next line. Some passages feel like they should be accompanied by a brushed high hat. Bewilderingly twisted plot, as befits the subject, but not too hard to follow. I'll be looking for more from Vorhaus.
The Nate Gatsby
Sep 03, 2011 The Nate Gatsby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I really loved this book. It was funny and entertaining while also really well written. You can tell the author really loves the English language with all the little-used words he threw around.
Erik Malvick
that would be a lie, and that is part of the problem with this novel...

Here you have a character based novel about a con man. Now as far as character based novels go, I love them. The focus is really on what is inside the main character's head. The problem is that, the protagonist in this book is a liar. Now, that isn't a bad thing... at first. Afterall, this is a story about a con man, and in the first chapter you are basically told that everything could be a lie, and by the time you are a few
Jun 07, 2010 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-it-forward
Radar Hoverlander is a grifter- a con artist -and like every grifter, he's seeking his California Roll. Which means to say that he is seeking his one big take that will set him up with sushi for life, and allow him to ride off into the sunset to live a charmed life of hot sands and cold beers. Then he meets up with fellow grifter Allie, and he has to begin to wonder whether he just bit off more than he can chew.

This was a fun and “smart” story. Full of clever dialogue, a twisting plotline, and m
Feb 11, 2013 Wendy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For the most part, 'The California Roll' is a fun book as it takes the reader into the heart of the world of grifters. It has a distinct narrator voice (Radar Hoverlander) and his little group of rivals/associates all share the same language. There are also clear points of action in the story. What made it a little less interesting was the slabs of explanation of 'wheres/whats/whyfores' that rob the story of its bright and modern spirit. Some of the resolutions are all-too-easily wrapped up in n ...more
Notes below copied from my notes about the book back in 2010 - the book I read has some traveled, hopefully quite far.

"Hmm... where did I read again that this would be a detective? Nothing to detect, or at least, no one is dead, and no one turns out dead.
What is left to detect is everything around Radar Hoverlander. The master scammer, who is getting paranoid about getting scammed...

Pretty funny, mostly thanks to the language. Lots of nice images painted with the words, but maybe more of them a
Mar 19, 2010 Sandi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sandi by: Won a copy from publisher
Shelves: california-lit, 2010
I won an ARC of this book through Crown Publishing Group's Read It Forward program.

The California Roll: A Novel is a very clever novel. It's basically a cross between "The Sting" and "Paper Moon" set in modern-day Los Angeles. There were moments in the first few chapters when I laughed out loud. Sadly, the cleverness wore thin for me about 50 pages in and it never really picked up the momentum. Vorhaus' writing style reminded me a lot of Tom Wolfe's in The Bonfire of the Vanities, which I loved
Greg Spry
Oct 01, 2014 Greg Spry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Radar Hoverlander...the main protagonist's name alone tells you this book is going to be entertaining, and it doesn't disappoint. The first line of chapter one provides an instant hook rife with playful conflict. John Vorhaus loves his wordplay, which is clever and witty. The general concept and life of a con man carries an inherent "forbidden fruit" sort of appeal, and the author works this angle expertly from beginning to end. The plot features multiple twists and turns that kept me guessing. ...more
Jul 25, 2011 Jody rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although he is likable, he is such a con that you never know who's conning who. And indeed he cons, gets conned, cons back, double crosses, triple crosses. You really never know what's going on. Or who to trust. The girl friend is conning him. Wait, no she isn't. Oh, she's working for the feds. Wait, no she isn't. She's working with another con. Wait, no she isn't. Same with his buddy, Vic. He's in, he's out, he's working with him, he's working against him. Yikes.
I also think there's too much
May 14, 2010 Colleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
This book was a fast moving, slick romp though the mysterious underworld of grifters and con men. The prose was colorful and convoluted, much like the patter of a street hustler running a game of three card monte- give the subject matter, completely appropriate! I found the book a little hard to get into at first, but gradually got the hang of Radar's speech and thoughts, and found myself just letting go to enjoy the ride. As the novel built to a complicated climax involving double cross on top ...more
Feb 28, 2011 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor
This is a short novel that has some meat too it. The story is of a con man that gets made by another con artist. And than him and his friend, another con artist, are put through a real flim flam involving another con artist and several law enforcement individuals. I was very surprised by this one as I had no prior knowledge of the author. He writes in a very clear easy to follow style lacing his story throughout with plenty of action and humor. At a total length of just under three hundred pages ...more
Nancy Black
May 02, 2010 Nancy Black rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What I learned from this book is that I've been conned a

If you enjoy twists & turns in your reading you've come to the right book. Radar Hoverland is the creme of the crop. Laugh a minute, fun filled romp on the side of ungainly employment. His sidekicks are both for and against him but roll with the punches.

Radar charms, and always manages to make good his escape although at times it's dicey.

Allie, Vic & bad cops(fibbies) and more. They are chained to a tree on a mountain. Fe
Mar 23, 2010 Angela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone.
Recommended to Angela by: Nobody...Entered a giveaway!
Shelves: novel
The California Roll was a romping good read! Hang out with Radar the super witty con artist & the other cast of characters that will be sure to keep you entertained! But wait, there's more! There's so much conning going on, this book is like a roller coaster ride! A twist here, a turn there, another twist here! You won't want to put it down! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this & would definitely love read more from Vorhaus! This is a read that will keep you entertained & laughing til t ...more
Mark Baker
Mar 20, 2014 Mark Baker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, 2010
Radar Hoverlander makes his living as a con man. But when he meets a beautiful woman who wants him to help her grandfather run a scam, he may be in well over his head. This was a fun caper out of my normal cozy realm. Plenty of twists and some characters I could like even if they weren't normally the bad guys.

Read my full review at Carstairs Considers.
Jim Huang
Jun 24, 2012 Jim Huang rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm a sucker for a good con -- and who isn't? THE CALIFORNIA ROLL by John Vorhaus is a doozy. Radar Hoverlander has been scamming folks all his life. From the moment he meets Allie Quinn, through, it's not clear whether he's on the snuke or if he's the mook. "Snuke?" "Mook?" No worries! They're both fabricats. Part of the fun is in Vorhaus' colorful bafflegab, which evokes Damon Runyon's colorful characters. The rest is in working through this elaborate con alongside Radar. It's a great ride.
Diana Duncan
Aug 08, 2012 Diana Duncan rated it liked it
I was a bit disappointed in this one as I read it after the next book in the series, which is much better. I found The Albuquerque Turkey to be much more amusing, mainly because of the development of the Mirplo character. The financial con in this novel was also not as interesting as those in the second book. If you are going to read one of this series, read The Albuquerque Turkey
Jan 29, 2013 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found the subject matter fascinating, with equal parts wonder and amusement. It was rather easy to visualize each character and assign them a celebrity who could play them in a movie. The twists were good, but maybe two too many in the end. It went from plausible to unbelievable in only a few minutes. Will read the next one in the series.
Greg Van Vorhis
This was pretty good. Vanity and indestructibility meets paranoia...with a little bit of luck, both good and bad.

Who is the good guy? Who is the bad guy? Who can tell?

It has been awhile since I read this, so that is all I am comfortable saying here.

I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
Apr 27, 2010 Mel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fast-moving, highly entertaining story about a con artist and the trouble he gets into when he meets that special girl. There are plenty of plot twists and insights into cons, and the book is a pleasure to read. I hope this is just the first in a series. If you like the Tony Valentine books by James Swain, I think you'll like this one.
KJ Coop
Jul 10, 2012 KJ Coop rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a light read that can be finished in a few days. I enjoyed the dry humor. Had me laughing out loud many times. The vocabulary was more advanced than the fluff I've been reading recently and I appreciate the challenge of that. I didn't finish the book feeling like I'd been a educated, but I had been sufficiently entertained!!
Apr 10, 2010 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fun caper set in a side of LA I can't say I know, although in a neighborhood I know quite well. Vorhaus's wordplay reminds me of Bruce Kimmel, so friends who love Bruce's work should check this out. (You too, Bruce.)
Jul 14, 2014 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have rated this as a weak 4. Interesting characters, not much detail in the grift, not sure what the car accident and concussion had to do with the story, but a fortunate ending saved the heroes. Not surprising, I kept thinking this might be a movie.
Dec 31, 2012 Jenine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Charming for the gift of gab/vocab alone. I liked the first two thirds better than the end but ends are hard. I pulled this off the shelf because I saw the next one in the series: The Albuquerque Turkey. Kinda have to get that one.
Nov 19, 2012 Richard rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like L.A.; con-games; interesting use of language.
Recommended to Richard by: I got an uncorrected proof and it was on the slush pile.
The biggest character in this book is the quirky Los Angeles weather, hills and highways.

It's an amazing compilation of odd words and words used oddly.

I would read more by John Vorhaus, but am not interested in more Radar and friends.
This is not something I would have been likely to read on my own, but I really enjoyed it. An interesting look into the world of scam artists, with enough action, romance & puzzle aspect to keep you hooked.
I suppose 3.5 is fair really. It seems that I enjoyed this book more than many reviews I see on GoodReads; learning about all kinds of cons was fascinating. I liked Radar, the protagonist and thought he was incredibly witty.
April Khaito
"I don't have much experience with tequila, but I know you've had too much when you go to brush something off your shoulder and it's the floor." That sentence alone is worth the price of the book. John Vorhaus has a way of sucking you in with his twisting story and witty anecdotes.
I haven't read a mystery/crime.whatever novel in I can't even remember how long, so I doubt I can properly review this. It held my attention, at least, and I liked the writing style, if not the actual plot.
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John Vorhaus is known to one and all as the man who brought Radar Hoverlander – con artist extraordinaire – to life in the “sunshine noir” mystery novel, The California Roll, and its acclaimed sequel, The Albuquerque Turkey.

John is also well known as the author of The Comic Toolbox: How to be Funny Even if You're Not, and its acclaimed sequel, The Little Book of SITCOM, which continue to be defini
More about John Vorhaus...

Other Books in the Series

Radar Hoverlander (3 books)
  • The Albuquerque Turkey
  • The Texas Twist

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“You might think she just liked the cut of my jib, but I’ve seen my jib and I’m here to tell you it’s not cut that cute.” 2 likes
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