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The Last Match (Hard Case Crime (Mass Market Paperback)) Paperback – October 3, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
It has been 54 years since Dodge's most famous book, To Catch a Thief, hit the shelves and was shortly thereafter made into the classic Hitchcock film. In reading his latest, written just before his death in 1974 and never before published, it's easy to see why his writing translated so well to Hollywood noir, with its tight-lipped narration, a tough easy rider in the lead and vivid descriptions of both glittering locales and gamine ladies. Our hero, con man Curly, is working the Côte d'Azur—as well as a matronly woman of means—when he meets the Hon. Regina Forbes-Jones, aka "Nemesis," who pegs him for a small-time grifter straight off. The on again/off again flirtation between the callused American swindler and the saucy British beauty is the delicious meat of the book. Unfortunately, Dodge chooses to spend most of the narrative chronicling Curly's scams across the world: from Cannes to Tangier, Marrakech, Lima and Belém. When the relationship between Reggie and Curly takes center stage, though, the book shines, and it ends with a gratifying twist. Dodge fans should pick this up for good old times, but newcomers may want to start with his time-tested classics. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Dodge, author of To Catch a Thief (1952), wrote this, his last novel, shortly before his death, in 1974. It remained among his papers until a professor brought it to the publisher's attention. The story follows a good-looking grifter from Cannes to Tangier and beyond, not always a step ahead of the law. He tries, too, to elude the woman he calls Nemesis, a haughty Brit intent on making him live up to his potential. The plot, like the setting, is all over the map--but who cares about the plot in a book like this? The pulp era may have been over, but Dodge was still writing like it was in full swing, peppering the story with snappy patter ("She had a tongue like a riding crop, and she used it"), curvy dames ("she was the nakedest woman I ever saw even when fully clothed"), and close calls ("The guy who was waiting for me in my room merely wanted to blow my head off, that's all"). Not Dodge's best work, but great fun. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Still it is a good travel book through the South of France, the North of Africa and South America and Dodge did all this himself. The post script from his daughter is probably the best part of the book. It nicely closes his writing career. You want to know whatever happened to David Dodge. Well all is revealed here.
In any event, The Last Match is a tale about an American con-man, grifter, bunco artist, flim-flam man and details some years of his life. Unlike many con-man stories, this one does not focus on a single event or a single con. Rather, it focuses on the individual and how he drifts from one con to another and has difficulty adjusting to any kind of honest labor unless it also involves some form of a confidence game.
The story opens up on the French Riviera where this grifter has latched onto an older woman who supports him while he squires her around and a wealthy British noblewoman who looks down upon his activities and calls him a "spiv." The narrator describes how he happens upon the older woman and drifts into cigarette smuggling from Tangiers to Marseille. Upon being caught, the narrator is paroled into the custody of the British noblewoman and a difficult and trying relationship between them begins, which the narrator up and quits one day, gaining passage to Tangiers, where he sets up shop while trying to figure out how to get a new passport. His various con-games and relationships in Tangiers and other North African ports are discussed as is his strange relationship with a woman who is trusting and innocent beyond imagination. All of these incidents are interesting and good fun to read about.
The con-man drifts back to America and, getting bored living the honest life, joins up with the merchant marine. That too proves boring so he jumps ship in South America and continues his con games there.
All in all, I found this book to be quite entertaining. It is written in an easy-to-read style. It details various events and adventures in the main character's life and is a worthwhile read. Dodge faithfully captures the spirit of the Riviera and Morocco in the fifties.
I would say it is an unusual book for Hard Case Crime, but the publisher has put out a number of books that don't appear at first blush to fit within the hardboiled framework. Recommended reading.
THE LAST MATCH takes its title from a con game of the same name, and the novel concerns itself with a layabout con man who seems to have an aversion to honest work. Indeed, the nameless protagonist actually works harder being a crook than he would if he was doing something legitimate. It is doubtful, however, that a public occupation would result in exploits as interesting as those contained in THE LAST MATCH.
When we first encounter our protagonist, he is facing the wrong end of a firearm, being held by a jealous husband; the likable scoundrel is indeed busy, given that at the same time he is employed as the chaste gigolo of a wealthy dowager. It is during this time that he finds himself attracted to a young British noblewoman named Reggie, with resulting fireworks; think TAMING OF THE SHREW, with the issue of who the shrew is being debatable. Our man soon finds himself on the run from Reggie, the authorities and a gangster or two, as he hops from one continent to another, skimming and scamming as he goes.
At times the book has the feel of a series of loosely connected short stories. But just when you think Dodge is becoming predictable, he takes a sudden left turn and everything changes. There is an ending that you really won't see coming and a surprising homage to a scam that is the ancestor to the Bank of Nigeria email drop. Technology may change, but human nature does not.
THE LAST MATCH isn't quite as serious as other Hard Case Crime books, but it's an entertaining addition to the collection by an under-appreciated author who left us too early and with too little.
--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
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