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The California Roll: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

John Vorhaus
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.00
Kindle Price: $7.99
You Save: $6.01 (43%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Meet Radar Hoverlander, a witty, gifted con artist with the mind of David Mamet, the voice of Tom Robbins, and the morals of a sailor on shore leave.
What do the Merlin Game, the Penny Skim, the Doolally Snadoodle, and the Afterparty Snuke have in common? They’re all the work of world-class con artist and master bafflegabber Radar Hoverlander. Radar’s been “on the snuke” since childhood, but he’s still looking for his California Roll, the one big scam that’ll set him up in sushi for life.
Trouble arrives in the stunning, sassy package of Allie Quinn—either the last true innocent or a con artist so slick she makes Radar look like a Quaker. Radar’s hapless sidekick, Vic Mirplo, a lovable loser who couldn’t con a kid out of a candy cane, thinks Radar’s being played. But if love is blind, it’s also deaf, dumb and stupid, and before Radar knows it, he’s sucked into a vortex of double-, triple-, quadruple-crosses that’ll either net him his precious California Roll or put him in a hole in the ground. 
As timeless as a perpetual-motion machine, as timely as a Madoff arraignment, The California Roll brings you deep inside the world of con artistry, where every fact is fiction and the second liar never has a chance.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Vorhaus's amusing thriller about the misadventures of a con man in Los Angeles hums along for a while through gags and gaffes and witty dialogue, but never gels as a whole. Radar Hoverlander, a longtime grifter whose tool box of cons is deep and wide, is looking for the California Roll, the holy grail of cons that will set him for life. He thinks he's found it in the form of the Merlin Game, a complicated pyramid scheme. Then Radar runs into Allie Quinn, a sexy, slick fellow grifter who lures him into a con of her own. Vorhaus, author of The Comic Toolbox: How to Be Funny Even if You're Not and the Killer Poker series (Killer Poker Online, etc.), has put more effort into generating laughs than developing the plot. Like a lot of comic novels, this one suffers from extended expository passages in which the narrator falls in love with his own voice at the expense of the action. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Master of the snuke and its bafflegab and the scourge of every mook, con artist Radar Hoverlander wonders if he’s met his match in Allie Quinn. She’s dazzling and highly intelligent and seems to be setting him up for a con. She also leads a brittle, beautiful Australian cop and a bent FBI agent to him, and everyone but Radar has multiple agendas. Radar simply wants to avoid prison or being killed and to work toward the grand snuke, the California Roll, the last payday he’ll ever need. The California Roll is grand entertainment. Radar, Allie, the law-enforcement odd couple, and hapless grifter Vic Mirplo are all cleverly developed. Double and triple crosses abound in the careening plot, and Vorhaus, who writes primarily about poker, really seems to understand the bedrock mendacity of the grift. It’s in the blood, like peanut allergy, he writes. The writing is tight and wonderfully glib, and Vorhaus slyly, shrewdly hints that he’s snuking the reader. No caper-novel fan should miss this one. --Thomas Gaughan

Product Details

  • File Size: 460 KB
  • Print Length: 274 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0307463176
  • Publisher: Crown (March 16, 2010)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0036S4B3A
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #727,928 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Get Conned April 14, 2010
Radar Hoverlander is between jobs, and by that I mean he's between cons. Radar makes his living as a con artist. He's thinking he needs to get something in motion for the lucrative Christmas season, but he just can't get his heart into it.

Into his life walks Allie Quinn. She is stunningly beautiful, and Radar is quickly under her spell. She also seems to know everything about Radar, a situation that makes him uncomfortable. Allie wants Radar to teach her grandfather one successful con. Radar smells a bit of a trap, but he's completely under Allie's spell. What is she really up to? Can Radar keep the upper hand, or will this master con artist get conned?

In the interest of full disclosure, I got this book because the author is a friend of mine. But I am reviewing it because I enjoyed it. I don't normally go for the books where you are rooting for law breakers, but Radar is so much fun to be around, you can't help but root for him. The book is filled with interesting characters. I can't say I would want to meet any of them in real life, but on the page they were fun.

I also enjoyed the story. The further you go, the more complicated it gets. Yet I never had a problem following who was doing what to whom.

The biggest drawback was the writing. Radar spends a lot of time philosophizing about life as a con artist and the events around him. Some of that was interesting, but at times it felt like it was slowing down the story. And yes, the book does have more language than I am normally comfortable with, but that was only a minor issue.

I'm glad I met Radar. He's an entertaining character caught up in a complex web. I know a sequel is in the works, and I'm looking forward to it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Looks like some readers got conned June 4, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is delightful from start to finish. Those who disliked the twists and turns at the end might be missing how the author is winking at the reader about the genre. The narrator details how all modern cons are variations on ancient ones, then pulls a series of fast ones that fans of other works on trickery and deception should recognize as part of the humor here. The language is witty throughout, but the big story is a joke in a tradition of grand jokes. I wouldn't mind losing beer money to this guy just to watch him work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Scam Of A Novel June 6, 2010
"The California Roll" by John Vorhaus is a scam of a novel that sucks you in all the way to the end. It is laugh-out-loud funny and has more plot twists than a 3 card Monte game.
The only problem with the novel is the characters --they are all cons, liars, cheats and double-crossers. Hardly people the reader can indentify or empathize with. They are, however, likeable characters. At least in the first half of the book.
At that point, through, I began to question whether every action, statement and motivation is truthful or pure "fabricat."
The convoluted plot in the second half did not add to character credibility or development. It simply felt contrived, as if the author was merely trying to fill pages.
Overall, a humorous, fast-paced, quick read... Would have been even better had the author spent a little more time on plot development.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read! April 20, 2010
This novel got me hooked exactly the same way Janet Evanovich's do ... lovable, goofy, witty characters occasionally experiencing humiliation any human can identify with -- all wrapped in a story I couldn't put down. Hilarious. Waiting for the next Radar adventure...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Snukes and mooks, scams and scores! April 1, 2010
I have no idea how this author knows so much about grifting, identification theft, and assorted other underhanded schemes (and I'm not so sure I want to know), but I really enjoyed reading all about them. The book is well-written and observed (very L.A.), and the characters are a winning bunch of morally reprehensible people -- starting with the motor-mouth protagonist, Radar Hoverlander. To be honest, i'm not so sure I followed all the twists and turns of the plot (there were so many!), but it was probably because I was turning the pages so quickly and laughing out loud. Who cared? It's a very funny, fast-paced, intricate and clever novel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Want a new career? September 19, 2014
A great story. More importantly, perhaps, you could learn the basics of a whole new career from this book! Alternately, learn a bit of the "art" so that you are less likely to fall for the idiots who call you at 5pm offering to fix your credit card debt, clean your air ducts, send you a free medical alert gizmo and support the orphans of local firemen. Whether you want to recognize scams or run some of your own, this book will probably be of interest.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fun and funny January 19, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
John Vorhaus has a wonderful writing style that is loose and imaginative. A couple of grifters try and outfox each other with hilarious results.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, This is My Cousin, But... April 8, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
yes, this book was written by my cousin John, but I am telling you honestly, i was really blown away by how gripping the book was. full of details about cons, cops and lawyers. i feel like i could run a con now. you should read this if you like to be surprised, delighted, and informed!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars THE CALIFORNIA ROLL One Tasty Treat!
Radar Hoverlander is one of my new favorite characters...ever!

Radar Hoverlander and the gang are as much fun to hang with as Arthur Dent or Bertie Wooster and their... Read more
Published on January 31, 2012 by Raymond Jay Edwards
4.0 out of 5 stars Smart, fresh and engaging!
Radar Hoverlander is a grifter- a con artist -and like every grifter, he's seeking his California Roll. Read more
Published on April 25, 2011 by nfmgirl
4.0 out of 5 stars Laughs and Cons
The world of grifters and con games is remote to many of us who've rarely visited a casino or prowled seedy bars late at night. Read more
Published on September 8, 2010 by David T. Wilkinson
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed, but still a fun ride
This is the story of Radar Hoverland, a conman who goes in for the long con. It's told from his perspective, which makes him a more sympathetic character despite his unpleasant... Read more
Published on August 20, 2010 by Dave Deubler
3.0 out of 5 stars The California Roll
I got this book as an advanced reader copy. Initially the book is hard to get into. The story doesn't even start to get under way until chapter 2. Read more
Published on July 15, 2010 by J R
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, But...
I want to start this review by stating I got a review copy of this book for free from the publisher.

The story in this book is not a new one. Read more
Published on June 11, 2010 by PurpleHippoMama
3.0 out of 5 stars 's ok...
I don't know. I tend to be harder on novels than any other type of book, simply because the author has an unlimited amount of time and resources. Read more
Published on May 20, 2010 by Al Swanson
4.0 out of 5 stars On a Roll
I wouldn't have picked up this book on my own, but an advance reader copy in the mailbox made it seem irresistable. I'm glad that I gave in. Read more
Published on May 10, 2010 by E. Roberts
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More About the Author

John Vorhaus is now known to one and all as the man who brought Radar Hoverlander - con artist extraordinaire - to life in the "sunshine noir" mystery novel, THE CALIFORNIA ROLL, and its acclaimed sequel, THE ALBUQUERQUE TURKEY. His other novels include UNDER THE GUN and WORLD SERIES OF MURDER, the latter available exclusively through Kindle.

John is also well known as the author of THE COMIC TOOLBOX: HOW TO BE FUNNY EVEN IF YOU'RE NOT. This seminal book on writing comedy for television and film is now in its fifth printing, and continues to be a definitive source of information and inspiration for writers from Santa Monica to Scandinavia. Its companion volume, CREATIVITY RULES, is similarly a crucial book for writers at any stage of development.

Not content to rest on those laurels, Vorhaus is also the author of ten books on poker, including the KILLER POKER series and, with Annie Duke, the revolutionary DECIDE TO PLAY GREAT POKER. "As a poker player," confesses Vorhaus, "I'm a pretty good writer."

An international consultant in television and film script development, Vorhaus has worked for television networks, film schools, production companies and film funding bodies in 26 countries on four continents. He recently worked in Moscow, running the writing staff of the Russian version of Married... with Children, and in Tel Aviv, consulting on the Israeli version of The Golden Girls. He also travels regularly to Nicaragua, where he builds social-action comedy/dramas to provide positive role modeling for the poor, young and disenfranchised of that embattled country.

Vorhaus is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and a member of the Writers Guild of America. He has consulted to Walt Disney Feature Animation and taught at such institutions as Northwestern University, the American Film Institute and the Writers Program of the UCLA Extension. He tweet @TrueFactBarFact and secretly controls the world from


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