Jan 22, 2013

Book of the Moment - Lucky at Cards

I've been a long time fan of pulp but haven't really dipped into the realm of "real world" crime pulp. Usually in the crime pulps I read there is a buff bronze-skinned super-genius, a mystery man that can cloud the minds of men or some other fantastical element.

The Salem Library has a table where they sell books cheap and I found this for 50 cents. Even though it's a modern reprint, it has classic pulp art from the 60s which immediately caught my eye and made me give it the once over. The brief summary on the back tells of an on the run cardsharp who falls for the wife of his latest mark and their hatching a scheme to get rid of her husband. Gambling, infidelity and possibly murder? That pretty much sold me on it.

Block describes how the main character cheats at cards with the same skill Ian Fleming would talk about any card game Bond ever played. Even if it's not something you'd normally be interested in, he makes it interesting. The lingo is dealt out in such a way to make you feel like you're part of the scene instead of just reading a book.

The rest of the text is exactly what I'd expect in a hard-boiled crime novel: plenty of smoking, drinking, the occasional roll in the sheets and of course, the best laid plans falling apart. There was also the laugh out loud use of the phrase "genital gymnastics."
Here's another sample:
"Joyce walked toward me. Gears locked within me. I didn't move toward or away from her. I stood very still and she came closer. Her breasts jutted out like mortar shells. I could smell her perfume mingling with the hot animal scent of her body. She came closer, and I felt her body heat, and her lips were inches from mine. If I raised her face or lowered mine I could have kissed her. I didn't."
They don't write em like that anymore! Of course I enjoy the usual larger than life heroes and crazy things that tend to happen in other pulps but they all share a unique language which is something that keeps me coming back for more.

Prior to this, I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy this type of story firmly rooted in our mundane day-to-day world but now I know better. I'll definitely be checking out more in this genre. You can read a sample chapter on the Hard Case Crime site.

Rating: 4 out of 5 marked cards


  1. Genital gymnastics is going to be my new go-to euphemism for sex. So great.

    1. I can't believe I'd never heard that before. Not like it's a thing but really it should have worked its way into the language by now.

  2. I think you're the first person I've known to actually read one of these! A lot of people collect them just for the covers. It sounds like this isn't the first one you've read. I haven't seen many pulp books available for sale, although my local Half Price Books store used to sell the laminated covers. I wish they still sold those, because they make nice decorations and bookmarks. Isn't that old lingo fun? I recently read a collection of mystery stories from the 1950s/60s and the language was hilarious!

    1. I have a few of recent The Shadow reprints, a Doc Savage one and another sci-fi one. The reprints are a lot of fun because they reprint just about everything from the source including illustrations and ads.

      There's a short story compilation I have called Hideous Sexy which has stories like Bride of the Ape, Fresh Fiances for the Devil's Daughter, and Blood Bait for Hungry Mermaids.