this is the 215th in my series of forgotten or seldom read books
note: this review previously appeared in The Perp, my mystery fanzine for DAPA-Em
Funny Money by James Swain, Ballantine Books, 2002 paperback, mystery – Tony Valentine, 2nd in series
“Crossroaders see the world differently than the rest of us.”
I went to the panel James Swain did at the 2003 Las Vegas Bouchercon and was impressed and intrigued. I wasn’t the only one; the book room sold out of his books after the panel. When I got home I picked this one up at the local bookstore and ordered the first in the series, Grift Sense. I usually read series in order but I was too impatient. This was one of the most enjoyable mysteries I’d read in some time.
Tony Valentine, ex Atlantic City cop, lives in Florida and makes his living as a consultant, fingering scams and cons for casinos and the law. He also acts as an expert witness at trials. He’s the best at what he does, which is why he gets a grand a day plus expenses.
In this one, Valentine’s long-time friend and ex-partner Doyle Flanagan calls to say he’s hot on the trail of a big scam. During the phone call Flanagan says a white van is pulling up, then shouts that someone is pointing what looks like a little radio at him and then boom!
So Valentine goes to Atlantic City to find out who killed his friend. He finds more than one con being played on The Bombay, the casino which has been hit for a cool six million dollars. The plot makes several twists and turns before things begin to sort themselves and make sense.
The writing is good and the plot is good but it’s the characters that make this one so much fun to read. That and the lingo and the scams and explanations that Swain, who knows this stuff, give us. I got the first book a couple of weeks later and enjoyed it just as much. This is a series worth looking for and reading. Good stuff.
Like you, I got a big kick out of that panel. I read a couple of Swain’s books not too long afterward but then stopped seeing them and haven’t read any since.
I just got the 3rd and 4th in the series from Paperback BookSwap. Interesting how we all enjoyed, and remember, that panel. I can’t remember much about most of the panels I’ve attended over the years.
Ditto what you and Bill said about Swain’s panel in Las Vegas. I sought him out afterwards and went to another of his appearances. I also bought the books, and have tried to keep up with his work since then. I’ve read 7 Tony Valentine books and 3 Jack Carpenters, though the last was in 2009. I know Swain was an early convert to ebooks, and according to Wikipedia he has two more Valentines and one Carpenter that were only published as ebooks.
See my comment to Bill, above. I didn’t know there were so many more books until I looked him up for this post and to find the next couple in the series. I’d think those ebooks ought to be easy to find, or do that go “out of print” just like physical books?
OK, book 8 is WILD CARD, a prequel set when he was a cop in Atlantic City. Book 9 is JACKPOT and that’s the one I just downloaded. They are $2.99 each.
This sounds like an interesting series and i don’t know why I haven’t run into his books before. I will find some of them.
I think you might enjoy Swain’s books, Tracy. Start with the first in the series, I think.
I put the ones I had on PaperbackSwap a while ago and they were all taken, otherwise I’d have gladly sent them to you.
Thanks for that, Jeff, but I have 2 more to read and by then I may have found more, if I want to continue.
Have never read anything by him.
Like Bill, I read a couple of Swain’s early novels and then stopped seeing his books. I’m surprised I’ve missed so many! I’ll have to track the missing titles down. Nice review!
I’d read one or two of his books before the B’con panel but not many since, mostly because my mystery reading took a back seat to Westerns after I stopped doing MDM. I’ll look for his e-books.