The Girl with the Long Green Heart (1965)
"She had a grifter's soul."
by Lawrence Block
From their website, "Hard Case Crime brings you the best in hardboiled crime fiction, ranging from lost noir masterpieces to new novels by today’s most powerful writers, featuring stunning original cover art in the grand pulp style." Some of the books they publish are fairly new, some -- like this one -- are older than I am. You will probably be able to track down their books through their website; I've been finding them in the cheap bins of my local book stores. This particular book (#14 in the series, although since they're all unconnected, standalone novels it really doesn't matter what order you read them in) I found at the newsagent's across the street from Caboolture train station while I had a couple of hours to kill, waiting for a train.
Despite the fact I'm apparently collecting these books, I wouldn't consider "crime" to be my genre of choice. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel!
Johnny Hayden has just done a 7-stretch in San Quentin after his last con went bad, and all he wants to do is stay out of trouble, keep plugging away at his mind-numbing job, and eventually put away enough money to buy the tavern on the edge of town. However, when he thinks about it too hard, he knows that it will take him 20 years to raise the 30 grand he needs to realise his dream -- and so, when rising young con artist Doug Rance approaches him with a new game, a low risk game for which his cut will be $30,000, he finds it impossible to say no.
The mark is Wallace Gunderman, a real estate entrepreneur who has already been burned once, having bought a worthless parcel of land for far more than it was worth. The plan is simple: attempt to buy it off him for far less than it is worth, and thereby convince him that there is something of value on the land after all. Let him see a glimpse of a huge deal going down, and reel him in.
Of course, to make it work they needed a girl on the inside. Evelyn Stone was that girl: Gunderman's secretary and lover and -- since he reneged on his promise to marry her -- his worst enemy.
This novel is set in a far simpler time. The amounts of money that they talk about just don't seem as impressive these days! The line that really made me laugh, though, was this: "It's against some silly law to carry a gun on a plane, but no one normally paws through your baggage or frisks you as you enter the plane." Yep. Times have changed...
So anyway: the bait is dangled, the hook is set. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, that would be telling -- but I must say, I loved the ending!