This is the latest installment in our scheme to review each and every Hard Case Crime publication, one every week. You can follow along here.
Well, one week after my least favourite Hard Case Crime (so far) , I get to review one of my favourites (so far) - Lawrence Block's The Girl with the Long Green Heart.
Originally published as a Gold Medal paperback in 1965, The Girl with the Long Green Heart was reprinted a few times - an Abebooks search finds it in 1985, 1994, 1999, 2005. And, having read it, with good cause. This is a brilliant stand-alone novel of a faded con man, a beautiful woman and one very, very complicated scheme.
Johnny Hayden is out of prison and living a good, clean life. He works at a bowling alley, saves every penny and takes correspondence courses in hotel management. There's a broken down roadhouse at the edge of town, and Hayden's got his eye on it. At the current rate he's saving money, he thinks he could purchase it in the next nine years. Maybe. A man needs a dream, else he can't get out of bed in the morning.
Enter: Doug Rance. Doug, like Johnny, is a con man - just not retired. Doug's particular art is the smile. Whereas Johnny is naturally trustworthy, Doug's unnaturally charming. Together, Doug suggests, they'd make an unstoppable team. And Doug's got the target for them already prpped - a wealthy (and greedy) small town millionaire named Gunderman. Johnny does his best to resist Doug's pitch but Doug uses the dream against him. Johnny could sweat out a decade in a bowling alley... or make thirty grand in one fell swoop.