Sunday, March 26, 2017

Two Guys and a Very Sexy Woman Play the Long Con Against a Cocky Real Estate Investor

First published in 1965, this is another pulp classic from Lawrence Block, now resurrected by the folks at Hard Case Crime. The main protagonist, Johnny Hayden, is fresh out of the slammer and determined to never go back. He's toiling away at a job in a bowling alley, making peanuts but attempting to save what he can in the hope of one day owning his own restaurant. All he needs is thirty grand or so, and at the rate he's going, it should only take him about thirty years to save that much.

But then along comes an old pal named Doug Rance who has a plan to work a sure-fire long con on a real estate investor named Wallace Gunderman. Gunderman is one of those self-confident guys who's so full of himself it's amazing that he can stand up straight. Some time back, Gunderman got suckered into buying some virtually worthless Canadian land, and he's been steaming about it ever since.

Rance proposes a plan to play off Gunderson's anger and his inflated sense of his own intelligence by offering to buy the land that Gunderson was suckered into purchasing. Gunderson will naturally wonder why anyone would want the land and will suspect that maybe the land is more valuable than he thought. Perhaps he should buy even more!

Rance wants his old pal Johnny to be the "roper" who will lure Gunderman into the deal. He insists that it's a can't-miss proposition and the best part is that it will net Johnny the thirty grand he needs to buy his restaurant. Rance has also enlisted in the scheme Gunderman's lover and personal secretary, the very sexy Evelyn Stone, and once Johnny meets her, there's no turning back.

It's really fun to watch this scheme play out; the con itself is pretty ingenious and the characters are very well done. Gunderman is a complete jerk, and you find yourself inevitably rooting for the con artists to pick him dry. A great way to waste away an evening.

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