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Grifter's Game (Hard Case Crime #001)

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  2,335 Ratings  ·  187 Reviews
A conman hiding out in Atlantic City lays his life on the line for a shot at a $250,000 payoff
Mona has a millionaire husband, a million-dollar figure, and hair that’s blonde to the roots. She’s just what Leonard K. Blake is looking for. Of course, that’s not his real name. Nor is it David Gavilan—that’s the one he used in Philly, before he skipped out on a $600 hotel bil
ebook, 208 pages
Published December 28th 2010 by Open Road Media Mystery & Thriller (first published 1961)
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HCC, you saucy, filthy, gorgeous little minx. I’m so glad I found you. After gobbling up book #1, I learned there are...steady...steady...65 MORE OF THESE...which made me...well...

NOIRites, I gotta tell you, I fell hard, fast and "damn the consequences" for this sinister steaminess. And to then find out that there are 60+ more of these seedy, unwholesome, dangerously bits of noirish nastiness, caused such a stoking of my literary lib
Jason Koivu
Jun 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, crime
More than just good salacious fun! Grifter's Game, even 50 years after its original publication, still manages to surprise and morally offend...and I loved it!

Block has you helplessly rooting for scumbag Joe Marlin, as he cons his way into money and into bed. Apparently Block started this book with the intention of turning it into another of the soft porn novels he was making a paycheck on at the time. However, at some point he felt the material had achieved something slightly more literary tha
Jul 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
I am unfamiliar with Lawrence Block opus, but if his other books are as entertaining and well written as Grifter's Game I can see myself going back for more, even starting on some of his long series. Among the things I liked :
- tight writing, with very short sentences delivered like a machine gun burst
- no padding to make up unnecessary bulk, good focus on the main storyline and the main actors
- natural flowing dialogue,
- very good foreshadowing of coming events, starting right with the openin
I hope that the men I know take it as a compliment that I had a little trouble buying-in with this one. Don't get me wrong, Lawrence Block knows how to write his genre better than most, so I'll take some of the blame for my failure to suspend disbelief.

(view spoiler)
Jun 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
#8 Favourite Read in 2012

Holy Moly! Lawrence Block (and Hard Case Crime) just sucker punched me with this brilliant read. Presumably I'm being punished for not having read any of his work before now (and for the stack of a dozen Hard Case Crime books I've got sitting waiting to be read,) but rest assured I'm as hooked as the next man after this brilliant piece of noir fiction with the ending that makes Nightmare Alley feel like a unicorn ride through a flowery meadow to the end of the rainbow wh
Pulpy Tagline: "The living was high and the pickings came easy – till my one wild love became my sweet, slow death"

I've started reading and enjoying Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder series this year and I decided to try this book out, an early noir one-off by the author which also happens to be the first reprint by the popular Hard Case Crime series. A drifting con man (his name might be David Gavilan, or it might be Joe Marlin) hops from town to town, jumping the bill at fancy hotels. His smooth s
Nov 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If this is any indication of what I have ahead of me with Hard Case Crime, I'm a happy man. Not only is this novel so tightly edited, it's a no-nonsense, straight up page-turner.

When I was hit with the first plot twist, my mouth dropped open. Maybe some people might be able to spot it early on (if you read the plot description, I believe it's in there) but it came to me out of seemingly nowhere. As the novel progresses, you begin to really sympathise with Joe and start to like the guy; rooting f
Tim The Enchanter
Posted to The Literary

Sex, Drugs and Cigarettes - 4 Stars

This was my first foray into the world of Hard Case Crime. While these books can be read in whichever order you please, as usual, I felt compelled to start at the beginning. What a great place to start! Lawrence Block has a deceptively simple writing style. He gives you what you need, nothing more nothing less. The result is a fast paced novel with a lot of story stuffed into 200 pages. When I am in the mood for some gritty
Dec 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-suspense
After plowing through about 1500 pages of the last two Dark Tower novels, Grifter's Game was exactly what I needed: A 200 pager cut-to-the-chase no nonsense story-driven novel.

I've read quite a bit of Lawrence Block, I think about five of the Matthew Scudder ones, and I enjoyed every one of them. Very dark crime fiction with a strong lead character. But a been there, done that attitude struck, and he fell off my radar for years.

Then I saw my Goodreads friend Stephen had hit a major scoregasm whe
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 ...more
Andrew Smith
Jul 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: noir-hardboiled
I've many a lot of LB's books (well over 50) but so prolific a writer is he that there's probably just as many I haven't read. My favourites are probably his well(ish) known series: Scudder, Rhobenbarr and Keller. But many of his one off novels are excellent too - my personal favourite being Small Town.

Every now and then I feel the need to dip into another Block book. They are consistently well structured and cleverly plotted; this is the case whether you pick up one of his later offerings or o
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Wow, this was dark.

Until the killing immortalised in the cover art, you could be forgiven for thinking of this as a dashing caper with a charming, crooked narrator spouting quotable one-liners and turning romantic. Then things become darker after the murder; the killer isn't quite racked with guilt, he says, but spects of the act keep returning to haunt him. Then, as happens in a noir, there's one double-cross more than expected and things get seriously dark. I thought Jim Thompson gave an alre
Mike French
Apr 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First book of his Hard Case Crime series,which are written under his own name. As all of Lawrence Block's books,it is very entertaining! Since it was written in 1960 the prices are all out wack by today's prices.Makes you want to have 2015 money in 1960!
Feb 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lawrence Block’s Grifter’s Game is a vintage title, originally published as Mona in 1961. Block does what any good hard-boiled crime writer should be able to do–take a hackneyed set of characters and plot devices and turn them into a thoroughly entertaining read. Not every portrait of a lady has to be the Mona Lisa, but the artist should at least be able to make the subject look decent enough on canvas. Otherwise, he might want to try his hand at bricklaying instead.

David Gavilan is a con man wh
Jun 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, b
Con man Joe Marlin was used to scoring easy cash off beautiful women. But that was before he met Mona Brassard and found himself facing the most dangerous con of his career, one that will leave him either a killer — or a corpse.
No one but multiple Edgar Award winner Lawrence Block could tell this story of dangerous men and wicked women, of greed and desire and nail-biting suspense. It will grab you by the throat on the first page and won’t let go till the breathless, unforgett
Before his hit man series, before Bernie the burglar, Lawrence Block was writing excellent novels featuring antiheroes. Actually, forget the "hero" bit -- the reason the main character in this 1961 novel is at all sympathetic is because Block so skillfully voices the character's motives and confusion. Yes, the superficial touchstones in this book are dated firmly in the "Mad Men" era (lots of public smoking, very low prices) but the primary touchstones remain timeless (crime, drugs, treachery). ...more
Soul longings
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-noir
This one had all the ingredients to my liking, a con man on move, unchaste wife, old husband, heroin , beaches, casinos.
The story is narrated in first person from point of view of joe marlin who moves from one city to other in search of his next con game , he gets hand on stash of heroin and gets in touch with mona brassard who is a damsel in distress . its racy thriller and sucks u in with first page, the narrative is excellent and keeps u hooked till end. enjoyed every bit of it
Mar 20, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008-reads
PROTAGONIST: Con man Joe Marlin
SETTING: Atlantic City
SERIES: Hard Case Crime #1

When you're a con man, life consists of taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. You've got to be nimble, ready to change identities or leave town when things aren't going as planned. That's been Joe Marlin's life for a long time. As the book opens, he's escaped from a botched scam in Philadelphia and arrived in Atlantic City, ready to move on to the next score. While at the train station,
May 05, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Small-time grifter hits the big one when he steals a suitcase with $1 million in heroin stashed inside. Copyright 1961 by Lawrence Block (original title 'Mona') but republished in 2004 as part of the Hard Case Crime series, which apparently aims to recapture the grit (and look) of the pulp-fiction novel. In that respect, Grifter's Game succeeds. It's well-written and hard-edged, with lean prose and a classic setup (grifter, two-timing wife, rich husband). The ending I've seen characterized as di ...more
William Thomas
Oct 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulp, hardboiled
Lawrence Block makes me insane. His novels written in modern times that replicate police procedurals are just throw-aways, nothing to hang onto, stories that spoil quickly and need to be tossed. Like he and Robert Parker were having a contest to see who could remove more edge from their writing, who could dull the blade more.

But then he writes for Hard Case and cranks out some of the most entertaining and well-written pulp books the label puts out. GG is one of these, hardboiled shell with a pu
Samantha Glasser
Joe Marlin hops from town to town swindling bystanders and skipping out on hotel bills. It sure beats working. After trying to dig a golddigger, he jumps to a new location and steals some fancy baggage along the way with the initials L.K.B. He assumes the identity, if not the clothes, which appear to be tailored for a short man with a paunch. But Joe is shocked to find a box full of heroin among L.K.B.'s effects, and even more shocked to find that his wife is such a willing conquest. Mona is Joe ...more
Dierdra Byrd
Mar 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A man steals a suitcase to find a contain a brick of pure heroin in one of them. From there I don't want to say to much because I don't want to give away any of the twist! The book description as another reviewer has mentioned does give away one of the twist and I wish I had not even read that but it didn't ruin the book for me or anything. When you think you know the next twist you soon find out you were way off! At least for me. Was very excited to find there are so many more books.
A very good
Aug 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was very much in the mood for some hard boiled, 60s noir written in the 1st person, with wiseguys and dames, desperate Victory Girls, drugs, murder and a hell of a lot of scotch, bourbon and cigarettes and Grifter's Game has certainly scratched that itch.
Roger Pettit
Jul 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I suspect that the name of Lawrence Block is not well-known to that many people who enjoy reading thrillers and mystery fiction. Yet he has been producing crime novels and short stories of very high quality and huge variety for over 50 years. His books featuring erudite gentleman burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr (a kind of modern day Raffles) are particular favourites of mine. His stories about alcoholic private eye Matt Scudder are very dark but also, for the most part, first-rate. And I am told by fr ...more
Jan 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Chronological snobbery cuts both ways. Although the term is usually applied to those who dismiss arguments simply because they're old, it could also describe people who eschew new things because they happen to be, well, new. You see this equally in literature as well as logic. There's the one camp endlessly surfing Amazon for new releases, yearning to catch the Next Big Thing right from the get go, while the other sniffs at anything published after, say, the nineteenth
Jun 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: noir, crime
The central figure in Grifter’s Game is seedy conman Joe, who has as many aliases as he does scams. Duping rich women and making off with their money is part of his game. He plans everything thoroughly, and when things do not go on his terms, he can always skip town and blow off a $500 hotel bill, like he does at the beginning of this story. Sometimes the con game doesn’t go exactly as planned though, like when he just happened to steal a suitcase with a large stash of heroin and he happened to ...more
Feb 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: facebook-reviews
Grifter's Game is a story of lust, greed and deceit. This is a story told from the dark recesses of the mind of pure sin. There is nothing noble about the protagonist or the lead characters. The protagonist is a pure grafter who is always on the lookout for a score and is proud about his victories. He is also philosophical about the scores and moves on to the next one with complete ease.

I won't reveal anything in the review as this book demands that respect - The respect to keep everything unde
Benjamin Thomas
May 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-crime
A con man used to making his living off of gullible women; a beautiful femme fatale who has her own ideas about how to get a leg up on the con man; an underlying thread of the drug trade, money and murder. And...Lawrence Block. It's hard to imagine a better formula for a hard-boiled crime novel.

This novel is a classic of crime fiction and an excellent choice for Charles Ardai’s Hard Case Crime imprint’s very first novel. It’s a fairly quick and easy read with a couple of main characters written
Dec 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lawrence Block has to be one of the most prolific and savvy writers.  Having written under numerous pen names during his early career, he has begin reissuing many of them as e-books or under the Hard Case label. Grifter’s Game is one of the latter, having gone through two previous iterations first as “Mona”, then “Sweet Slow Death”.   It was originally released in 1961.

The plot is hardly original: con man meets beautiful girl; they fall in love; she is married to gangster; they conspire to kill
An interesting read as there wasn't any "good guys" in the story. The story is mainly about bad people preying on other bad people (Grifters). I like Block's style here as it's very lean with short terse little sentences. Sometimes the main character's thoughts come in a staccato of rapidity. It's definitely not a novel for everyone but I found the look into the main character's shrewd and profiteering life sort of refreshing (in an ugly fashion). It's a story that from the outset you know can't ...more
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Pulp Fiction: June 2013 - Grifter's Game 36 55 Jun 29, 2013 12:29AM  
  • Little Girl Lost (John Blank #1)
  • Fade to Blonde (Hard Case Crime #2)
  • Fifty-to-One (Hard Case Crime #50)
  • The Gutter and the Grave (Hard Case Crime #15)
  • Fright (Hard Case Crime #34)
  • Home Is the Sailor (Hard Case Crime #7)
  • The First Quarry (Quarry #8)
  • The Vengeful Virgin (Hard Case Crime #30)
  • Bust (Max & Angela #1)
  • 361 (Hard Case Crime #9)
  • Top of The Heap (Cool and Lamb #13)
  • A Touch of Death (Hard Case Crime #17)
  • Lemons Never Lie (Alan Grofield #4)
  • Baby Moll (Hard Case Crime #46)
  • Fake I.D. (Hard Case Crime #56)
  • Plunder of the Sun (Al Colby #2)
  • Kiss Her Goodbye (Hard Case Crime #8)
  • Losers Live Longer (Hard Case Crime #59)
Lawrence Block has been writing crime, mystery, and suspense fiction for more than half a century. He has published in excess (oh, wretched excess!) of 100 books, and no end of short stories.

Born in Buffalo, N.Y., LB attended Antioch College, but left before completing his studies; school authorities advised him that they felt he’d be happier elsewhere, and he thought this was remarkably perceptiv
More about Lawrence Block...

Other Books in the Series

Hard Case Crime (1 - 10 of 112 books)
  • Fade to Blonde (Hard Case Crime #2)
  • Top of The Heap (Cool and Lamb #13)
  • Little Girl Lost (John Blank #1)
  • Two for the Money  (Hard Case Crime #5)
  • The Confession (Hard Case Crime #6)
  • Home Is the Sailor (Hard Case Crime #7)
  • Kiss Her Goodbye (Hard Case Crime #8)
  • 361 (Hard Case Crime #9)
  • Plunder of the Sun (Al Colby #2)
  • Branded Woman (Hard Case Crime #11)
“She knew how much I needed her. And now she was teasing, playing games. I looked at her and watched her turn into a sex symbol in front of my eyes. She did not look sweet and virginal and lovely anymore. I looked at the very simple summer dress and saw breasts and belly and hips. I looked at her eyes and saw lust as naked as my own.” 11 likes
“She made love with the freshness of an impatient virgin and the ingenuity of a sex-scarred whore.” 5 likes
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