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The California Roll: A Novel Paperback – February 1, 2011


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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307463184
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307463180
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,880,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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 johnvorhaus.com

Customer Reviews

This book is laugh-out-loud funny and would make a good comedic film.
Janice Sims
As a character study it starts to get a bit too much action towards the end, and it feels like it takes a way just a bit towards the end.
Erik J. Malvick
I have to admit that some of the reason I don't like this book is simply about taste.
Brian J. Greene

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mark Baker - Carstairs Considers HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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 By renninne on June 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dr Mitchell Earleywine VINE VOICE on 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eclectic Reader on April 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Anne Francis on April 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
When you read John Vorhaus's The California Roll you can definitey intuit that he has been inventing new words since the third grade. He must have scripted for comedy and a wide variety of other genres, as his talent can certainly entertain. Yet whats novel here is the audience he is writing to can not only appreciate theses skills but much much more in novel form: vocabulary word schennigans(chapter title), on the snuke(chapter title)-scams or people who perform them, word play-dishonest honesty(chapter title), his open kimonos(chapter title)-to exchange data(beaucoup con games) with a prospective partner(reader), up-to-date current events like the penny skim(chapter title) in China, and last but not least, when he writes/that a top grifter can both work...the bite and the bark(chapter title), the bite being the person behind the scenes to set everything up(writer), and the bark is the face of the con(reader).
The narrator and confidence man, Radar Hoverlander(real name?) has been on the snuke since childhood and is at the top of his game. He about to cross paths with a woman thats not exactly a freshly minted doll type. Of course he knows its no good falling in love, especialy with one whose in the game, but?
The tale starts on Halloween. Radar had crasheda party in Hollywood Hills by putting on no costume whatsoever and walking in the first open door he saw. Remember, he is a con and getting in is no problem. Soon Radar is getting in farther than he realizes it and the feebis(FBI), Austrailian High Tech Crime Center, and others are not only trying hard to take him down but also pulling their own cons off on him as well.
Read more ›
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