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The Rogues' Game Hardcover – June 16, 2005

13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Characters and cons come thick and fast in Burton's intricate, impressive debut, set in post-WWII Texas. In an opening out of Jim Thompson, the unnamed narrator and his luscious blonde girlfriend, Della, are driving in a brand new '47 Lincoln convertible to a high-stakes poker game, but their true motives are as obscure as the narrator's background. He was with the OSS in the war, and claims to have been to Harvard. But his co-conspirators have names like Chicken Little and Ice-pick Willie, and the game they're playing looks like murder. Later, it seems like robbery, and later still something else. Burton keeps all these balls in the air in a plainspoken style that's both appealing and informative. His talent lies in taking stock situations and characters and putting new life into them. Della, for example, isn't the typical dumb, conniving blonde, but an intelligent woman with a sad past and a sharp eye for business. The wealth of background information on things as diverse as law, Texas oil and poker is never dull or irrelevant. Burton weaves these elements in with the fictional ones so seamlessly that the fiction acquires the feel of fact.
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* The stranger who comes to town in this gripping country noir set in post-WWII Texas is also the story's narrator. He arrives in a small town with a fine car and a finer blond on his arm. He has a passion for poker and a focused eye on the high-stakes game played at the legendary Weilbach Hotel. He also has an occasional rendezvous with Chicken Little, who seems to be a small-time hustler but may have a link to whatever it was our nameless narrator did during the war. The stranger's attention centers on Clifton Robillard, the local banker who owns or runs everything in town--legal or illegal--that turns a profit. The narrator reveals his plan in small doses. Does he simply want to best Robillard at poker? Con him with an oil deal that the business-savvy blond is setting up? Or maybe the stranger has a nobler motive than financial gain. Readers will eventually learn the truth, and the truth will set them free in a conclusion that is exhilarating and extraordinarily satisfying. This is a stunningly mature, layered first novel from an author who knows Texas and people in equally fine measure. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (July 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312336810
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312336813
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,903,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Milton T. Burton (1947-2011) authored four crime novels published by Minotaur/Thomas Dunne. Like Wier, Burton was a lifelong Texan who breathed the Texas lingo. Burton had been variously a cattleman, a political consultant, and a college history teacher. A cantankerous but generous man, he liked writing and he liked talking to his friends, especially George Wier. He died in December 2011.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Gary Griffiths VINE VOICE on February 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Kudo's to first time author Milton T. Burton for pulling it off - a slick and immensely satisfying read told with the flair and sophistication of an author you'd think had been doing this for a career.

"The Rogues' Game" refers to, at least on the level closest to the surface, a weekly poker game held in an aging hotel of a backwater post-World War II Texas hole of a town. In classic noir fashion, we learn neither the name of the town nor our narrator whose story rolls as easily across the pages as our hero rolls into town in a grand convertible with an even grander blonde babe on his arm. From there Burton artfully leads us down what appears to be an oft-traveled path of a pair of grifters on the con, but soon we find that the author and his narrator have a much more important score to settle than a simple heist in a local high-stakes poker game. Braced by a strong supporting cast of memorable thugs with names like "Chicken Little" and "Ice Pick Willie", the author weaves a tight mystery told in dusty Texas roadhouses and smoky (...) fight galleries, settings which he knows well and relates with authority. With oil boom in truly Texan scale and murky allusions to Reinhard Heydrich and other Nazi war criminals, the initially simple block thickens deliciously on the way to an unsuspected jackpot.

Well paced, gritty, and authentic, both Milton T. Burton and his debut novel are the real deal. I'm looking forward to his next hand - you'd be wise to place a bet on this one.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By L. J. Roberts VINE VOICE on August 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a mystery about an elaborate grift set in Post WWII Texas at the start of the oil boom. All the characters are so well done and not stereotypical; Della, the beautiful blonde is also very business smart; Manlow Rhodes, the Presbyterian banker, "Chicken" Little, an old ex-con and breeder of gamecocks; Det. Ollie Marne, the cop on the take "would like to be a better man than his job and the circumstances in this town will allow him to be.", and many others including the protagonist who tells the story in retrospect. The plotting, sense of time and place, dialogue and tension are first-rate. There is a second standalone and a series on the way by Burton and you can bet I'm going to read them.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Steve Fisch on July 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Because of the excellence of this novel, it is hard to believe that this is Burton's first published work. It is a "quick" but superb read. This is an exceptional thriller - the hints are there throughout the book but I never would have guessed the ending. The characters are extremely well developed.

Bravo Burton!!! I hope that we'll be seeing other novels from him!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Tipple VINE VOICE on September 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Like the small west Texas town that is never named, the man with no name is not what he appears to be on the surface. He drives a beautiful car and appears in town with a beautiful woman named Della. It isn't the first time he has been in town as he was here before in 1942. This time he is back to seek some revenge and no one remembers him or suspects that he is anything other than what he appears to be-a flamboyant gambler.

Revenge for what isn't clear nor is his plan. His plan does involve a weekly high stakes card game that has been going on for decades at the Weilbach Hotel. It also isn't really clear which of several players is his target. It also isn't clear on how Della's interest in a recent oil strike is going to help or for that matter hurt his plan. Like his cards, he keeps his plans close to the vest and adjusts for changes. He does have a plan, he is flexible and he just needs a little help from friends like Chicken Little and Icepick Willie.

What follows in this novel by Tyler, Texas resident Milton T. Burton is an intriguing and deeply twisted tale of a great con. The author opens a portal back into a different time and pulls the reader deeply into a Texas of the recent past. Told through first person point of view he spins a rich and complex weave that pulls the reader deep into his world where only slowly does the shape and scope of the plan come tantalizingly clear like the mirage on a West Texas highway during the heat of the summer before disappearing again. Heavily atmospheric both in place and in style of writing, this is the kind of novel that starts slowly, moves slowly and pulls the reader in so deep that when one looks up from the book there is that splendid moment of disorientation between the past that might have been and the present.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2005
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on June 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In 1947 a forty-three years old man drives into a Texas city in a brand new Lincoln convertible with a beautiful blonde Della. He books a room for them for two weeks at the Weilbach Hotel informing the clerk he may stay longer. The next morning as the man expected Deputy Sheriff Ollie Marne visits him to learn what he is doing here. The man bribes Ollie to get him access to the weekend poker game at the hotel's Plainsman Suite where to sit costs five thousand.

Not long after meeting with Marne, the man and Della have breakfast with ex convict Herbert "Chicken" Little and Ice Pick Willie. Ice Pick is irate when the man insists the scam to con banker Clifton Robillard could take six months though Chicken Little seems calm; the man knows he has an enemy in Ice Pick. The game has begun.

This post World War II noir is character driven by the no nonsense amused narrator who provides no name for himself or the city he works his game in. The story line is action-packed but clearly belongs to the poker playing anti-hero who bluffs his way through scenarios without fear of someone calling his hand. A final twist adds to a strong late 1940s Texas suspense thriller that never slows down once the man with no name begins raising the ante.

Harriet Klausner
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