All of the stories were well worth reading. My favorites in the collection:
The selection by William Campbell Gault, "The Cackle Bladder", was very close to the final con in the movie The Sting, except it had a different twist. Of course, Gault wrote his story in 1950, years before The Sting was produced.
This is what Publisher's Weekly had to say about this story:
William Campbell Gault's 1950 "The Cackle Bladder'" will appeal to readers who relished the central setup of the 1973 movie, The Sting , except that Gault's description of the phony betting parlor, the characters and the scam are even more vivid.David Morrell's story, "The Partnership", concerns two partners in a contracting firm who can't get along and scheme to get rid of each other. I liked this one because the ending was truly surprising and entertaining.
My absolute favorite story in the book was by Robert Halsted. As "Hostile Takeover" opens, the con artist narrator and Joy Sue have recently escaped from her home town. She is a country girl with little formal education; they form a partnership of sorts. I liked that the story kept me off balance; I could not figure out where it was going or who was up to what. I loved the way the story unfolds and the ending.
A few of the stories in the book were between 20 and 30 pages. Donald Westlake's story, "Just the Lady We're Looking For", was a very short one at less than 7 pages. It was different and had a nice twist.
The other stories in the collection are:
- "The Frightening Frammis" by Jim Thompson
- "Passing for Love" by Bill Crenshaw
- "One of the Oldest Con Games" by Robert L. Fish
- "How to Trap a Crook'' by Julian Symons
- "The Man Who Flim-flammed Hiwassee County" by William M. Stephens
- "The Big Bunco" by William Bankier
- "Playing it Cool" by Simon Brett
- "Thieves' Bazaar'' by W. L. Heath
- "T'ang of the Suffering Dragon" by James Holding
- "The Western Film Scam" by Francis M. Nevins, Jr.
- "A Left-handed Profession" by Al Nussbaum
- "The Messenger" by Jacklyn Butler
The only problem I had with this anthology was reading a lot of stories on the same theme in a relatively short period of time. I think I might have enjoyed some of them more if they had been in a mixed bag of stories with no theme, so that I was not expecting the con (or the twist on the con).
Publisher: Carroll & Graf, 1993
Length: 287 pages
Genre: Mystery, Short Stories
Source: I purchased this book.