Westlake, Donald God Save the Mark

ISBN 13: 9780765309198

God Save the Mark

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9780765309198: God Save the Mark
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* mark n. An easy victim; a ready subject for the practices of a confidence man, thief, beggar, etc.; a sucker.-Dictionary of American Slang, Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1960

That's the long definition of a mark. But there's a shorter one. It goes:

* mark n. Fred Fitch

What, you ask, is a Fred Fitch? Well, for one thing, Fred Fitch is the man with the most extensive collection of fake receipts, phony bills of sale, and counterfeit sweepstakes tickets in the Western Hemisphere, and possibly in the entire world. For another thing, Fred Fitch may be the only New York City resident in the twentieth century to buy a money machine. When Barnum said, "There's one born every minute, and two to take him," he didn't know about Fred Fitch; when Fred Fitch was born, there were two million to take him.
Every itinerant grifter, hypester, bunk artist, short-conner, amuser, shearer, short-changer, green-goods worker, pennyweighter, ring dropper, and yentzer to hit New York City considers his trip incomplete until he's also hit Fred Fitch. He's sort of the con-man's version of Go: Pass Fred Fitch, collect two hundred dollars, and move on.
What happens to Fred Fitch when his long-lost Uncle Matt dies and leaves Fred three hundred thousand dollars shouldn't happen to the ball in a pinball machine. Fred Fitch with three hundred thousand dollars is like a mouse with a sack of catnip: He's likely to attract the wrong kind of attention.
Add to this the fact that Uncle Matt was murdered, by person or persons unknown, and that someone now seems determined to murder Fred as well, mix in two daffily charming beauties of totally different types, and you have a perfect setup for the busiest fictional hero since the well-known one-armed paperhanger. As Fred Fitch careers across the New York City landscape-and sometimes skyline-in his meetings with cops, con men, beautiful girls, and (maybe) murderers, he takes on some of the loonier aspects of a Dante without a Virgil. Take one part comedy and one part suspense and shake well-mostly with laughter.

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About the Author:

Donald E. Westlake is generally regarded as the greatest writer of comic crime fiction of all time. Many of his books have been made into movies, including The Hot Rock, Bank Shot, Cops and Robbers, and The Hunter, first filmed as the noir classic Point Blank with Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson and then as Payback, starring Mel Gibson. He has won three Edgar Allan Poe Awards and has been named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. He and his wife live in New York.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

ONE
Friday the nineteenth of May was a full day. In the morning I bought a counterfeit sweepstakes ticket from a one-armed man in a barbershop on West 23rd Street, and in the evening I got a phone call at home from a lawyer saying I’d just inherited three hundred seventeen thousand dollars from my Uncle Matt. I’d never heard of Uncle Matt.
As soon as the lawyer hung up I called my friend Reilly of the Bunco Squad at his house in Queens. “It’s me,“ I said. “Fred Fitch.”
Reilly sighed and said, “What have they done to you this time, Fred?”
“Two things,“ I said. “One this morning and one just now.”
“Better watch yourself, then. My grandma always said troubles come in threes.”
“Oh, my Lord,“ I said. “Clifford!”
“What’s that?”
“I’ll call you back,“ I said. “I think the third one already came.”
I hung up and went downstairs and rang Mr. Grant’s bell. He came to the door with a large white napkin tucked under his chin and holding a small fork upright in his hand, a tiny curled shrimp impaled on it. Which was a case of sweets to the sweet, Mr. Grant being a meek curled-shrimp of a man himself, balding, given to spectacles with steel rims, employed as a history teacher at some high school over in Brooklyn. We met at the mailboxes every month or so and exchanged anonymities, but other than that our social contact was nil.
I said, “Excuse me, Mr. Grant, I know it’s dinnertime, but do you have a new roommate named Clifford?”
He blanched. Fork and shrimp drooped on his hand. He blinked very slowly.
Knowing it was hopeless, I went on anyway, saying, “Pleasant-looking sort, about my age, crewcut, white shirt open at the collar, tie loose, dark slacks.” Over the years I’ve grown rather adept at giving succinct descriptions, unfortunately. I would have gone on and given estimates of Clifford’s height and weight but I doubted they were needed.
They weren’t. Shrimp at half-mast, Mr. Grant said to me, “I thought he was your roommate.”
“He said there was a COD package,“ I said.
Mr. Grant nodded miserably. “Me, too.”
“He didn’t have enough cash in the apartment.”
“He’d already borrowed some from Wilkins on the second floor.”
I nodded. “Had a fistful of crumpled bills in his left hand.”
Mr. Grant swallowed bile. “I gave him fifteen dollars.”
I swallowed bile. “I gave him twenty.”
Mr. Grant looked at his shrimp as though wondering who’d put it on his fork. “I suppose,“ he said slowly, “I suppose we ought to...” His voice trailed off.
“Let’s go talk to Wilkins,“ I said.
“All right,“ he said, and sighed, and came out to the hall, shutting the door carefully after himself. We went on up to the second floor.
This block of West 19th Street consisted almost entirely of three- and four-story buildings with floor-through apartments sporting fireplaces, back gardens, and high ceilings, and how the entire block had so far missed the wrecker’s sledge I had no idea. In our building, Mr. Grant had the first floor, a retired Air Force officer named Wilkins had the second, and I lived up top on the third. We all three were bachelors, quiet and sedentary, and not given to disturbingly loud noises. Of us, I was at thirty-one the youngest and Wilkins was much the oldest.
When Mr. Grant and I reached Wilkins’ door, I rang the bell and we stood around with that embarrassed uneasiness always felt by messengers of bad tidings.
After a moment the door opened and there stood Wilkins, looking like the Correspondence Editor of the Senior Citizens’ Review. He wore red sleeve garters with his blue shirt, a green eyeshade was squared off on his forehead, and in his ink-stained right hand he held an ancient fountain pen. He looked at me, looked at Mr. Grant, looked at Mr. Grant’s napkin, looked at Mr. Grant’s fork, looked at Mr. Grant’s shrimp, looked back at me, and said, “Eh?”
I said, “Excuse me, sir, but did someone named Clifford come to see you this afternoon?”
“Your roommate,“ he said, pointing his pen at me. “Gave him seven dollars.”
Mr. Grant moaned. Wilkins and I both looked at his shrimp, as though it had moaned. Then I said, “Sir, this man Clifford, or whatever his name is, he isn’t my roommate.”
“Eh?”
“He’s a con man, sir.”
“Eh?” He was squinting at me like a man looking across Texas at midday.
“A con man,“ I repeated. “Con means confidence. A confidence man. A sort of crook.”
“Crook?”
“Yes, sir. A con man is someone who tells you a convincing lie, as a result of which you give him money.”
Wilkins put his head back and looked at the ceiling, as though to stare through it into my apartment and see if Clifford weren’t really there after all, in shirtsleeves, quietly going about the business of being my new roommate. But he failed to see him—or failed to see through the ceiling, I’m not sure which—and looked at me again, saying, “But what about the package? Wasn’t it his?”
“Sir, there wasn’t any package,“ I said. “That was the con. That is, the lie he told you was that there was a package, a COD package, and he—”
“Exactly,“ said Wilkins, pointing his pen at me with a little spray of ink, “exactly the word. COD. Cash on delivery.”
“But there wasn’t any package,“ I kept telling him. “It was a lie, to get money from you.”
“No package? Not your roommate?”
“That’s it, sir.”
“Why,“ said Wilkins, abruptly outraged, “the man’s a damn fraud!”
“Yes, sir.”
“Where is he now?” Wilkins demanded, going up on tiptoe to look past my shoulder.
“Miles from here, I should think,“ I said.
“Do I get you right?” he said, glaring at me. “You don’t even know this man?”
“That’s right,“ I said.
“But he came from your apartment.”
“Yes, sir. He’d just talked me into giving him twenty dollars.”
Mr. Grant said, “I gave him fifteen.” He sounded as mournful as the shrimp.
Wilkins said to me, “Did you think he was your roommate? Makes no sense at all.”
“No, sir,“ I said. “He told me he was Mr. Grant’s roommate.”
Wilkins snapped a stern look at Mr. Grant. “Is he?”
“Of course not!” wailed Mr. Grant. “I gave him fifteen dollars myself!”
Wilkins nodded. “I see,“ he said. Then, thoughtfully, ruminatively, he said, “It seems to me we should contact the authorities.”
“We were just about to,“ I said. “I thought I’d call my friend on the Bunco Squad.”
Wilkins squinted again, under his eyeshade. “I beg your pardon?”
“It’s part of the police force. The ones who concern themselves with the confidence men.”
“You have a friend in this organization?”
“We met in the course of business,“ I said, “but over the years we’ve become personal friends.”
“Then by all means,“ said Wilkins decisively. “I’ve never seen going through channels accomplish anything yet. Your friend it is.”
So the three of us

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780441295159: God Save the Mark

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0441295150 ISBN 13:  9780441295159
Publisher: Popular Library, 1987
Softcover

9780765309181: God Save the Mark: A Novel of Crime and Confusion (Westlake, Donald)

Forge ..., 2004
Hardcover

9780451055934: God Save the Mark

Signet, 1973
Softcover

9780786264650: God Save the Mark: A Novel of Crime and Confusion

Thornd..., 2004
Hardcover

9780445406124: God Save the Mark

Popula..., 1987
Softcover

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