I received this book from NetGalley in return for a fair review. That being said, I could not finish the book. I tried, repeatedly. I picked it up half a dozen times, only to read a bit, shake my head in disbelief, and toss it aside again.
Reportedly to be about the art of the con, as practiced by NYC hustlers, I found it to be a rather disjointed, hard to follow story. The author does discuss many of the con games being practiced in NYC (dice, fake merchandise, the "Nigerian Prince" scam, etc). And how con men identify their victims, where they practice their "art", and how they interact with each other. That was informative, if not earthshaking.
The problem was the great stock the author placed in his main subject, Alibi Jones. Jones is a low level street hustler, who manages to enthrall the author with all manner of slick stories. Poor Alibi, turned down for a Federal job because of his criminal record. Now he must make society pay for their wrong. Poor Alibi, cannot get an honest job, because he has warrants out for his arrest, and cannot risk applying or the police might find him. (Newsflash, Alibi, stand up like a man, pay your debt to society and start over at the back of the line like everyone else does!)
The author even finds himself making excuses for dear Alibi. "He is not the kind of man who hated others or carried out acts of violence (at least not physical violence). This is true of most con artists I knew. None was inclined to violence, and I tend to believe Alibi is typical in this regard." Give me a break! He has the nerve to say this when just a few pages before, he tells about Alibi's rules for pimping. NO, running prostitutes is not violence committed on women! Stealing from other people is not a form of violence! (Goodness, this guy really got sucked in deep!)
Honestly, the author reminds me of the archetypical spoiled rich girl who throws her lot in with the boy "from the wrong side of the tracks", either because she a) finds it exciting, b) wants to shock people, or c) thinks she can "save" him. The author takes Jone's stories at face value, often admitting that he sometimes does not understand what Jone's is saying in his stream of consciousness ramblings (but hey, it fills the pages of a book so, I'll let him talk).
Perhaps the biggest con of all was performed by Jone's onto the author. In exchange for spinning some yarns, Jone's got his ego stroked, and received validation from the author on how clever he was. After almost thirty years spent working in corrections, I've ran into thousands of Alibi Jones. Given half a chance, they would all tell you what masterful criminals they were, and how it wasn't their fault, society did them wrong. Given an opportunity, they love to talk. The problem was that most of it was BS. The author needed to develop his own BS filter, then maybe the book would have been better.
I really cannot recommend this book.