Friday, March 26, 2010

Forgotten Books: THE VENETIAN BLONDE -- A. S. Fleischman

I was saddened by the death the other day of Sid Fleischman at age 90, so I thought I'd re-read one of his books. I believe The Venetian Blonde was his last Gold Medal book, but don't hold me to it. It's one of the funny little quirks of my memory that I remember how much this book impressed me back in 1964 when I first read it. Maybe it was the title, or possibly the cover, that caught my eye and made me pluck it off the newsstand. Either one would do the trick.

The blonde isn't in Italy. We're talking Venice, California, here. A cardsharp named Skelly still has his skill, but he's lost his nerve. He's in Venice to put the touch on a friend. Instead, he meets the friend's wife, who's about to work a million-dollar con and needs his help. Skelly doesn't want to get involved, but he's desperate for the dough. He owes a gambler $125,000, and the gambler's not happy about it, not at all.

Skelly meets the blonde in a bar, and she immediately falls for Skelly the way women do in these books. Skelly falls, too, but he doesn't see how it can ever work out.

As you have already guessed, the con doesn't go as smoothly as Skelly had hoped. There are plenty of twists and turns, with a couple of good ones only six or seven pages before the end. It's all very smooth and expertly told. Stark House has already done one Fleischman double, and it includes this novel. There's another double coming later this year. If you like Gold Medal crime and adventure novels, both volumes are well worth your time.

14 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

What no bikini?

Bill Crider said...

The narrator comments several times about the one-piece suit, so the cover does a good job of getting it right.

Charlieopera said...

I'm all in ... ordering pronto.

Richard R. said...

To bad the Stark House covers aren't as nice. Still, one to read.

George said...

I know Art Scott has a fondness for this cover. He's mentioned it a couple of time during his paperback cover slide show.

Nikki Thornton said...

Liked your post. Someday I hope to write a book where the royalties will pay for the copies I give away.
:-)
Nikki

bish8 said...

I find it interesting how much a cover influences whether I read a book or not. This is a wonderful cover on the original Gold Medal edition, which would make me pick up, read, and keep. Without it, I have no desire to read the Stark House edition.

Evan Lewis said...

Not that I'm complaining, but are there any books in the Crider library (other than Crider books) without steamy babes on the cover?

Jerry House said...

Evan, in answer to your question, only the Jack MacLane books.

Gerard Saylor said...

This talk of Stark House and Charlie Stella reminded me to preorder Johnny Porno.

Fred Blosser said...

Great cover art on the '60s Gold Medals. Much better than the 70s covers, when the gold medal disappeared and the series characters began to look like sleazy disco hustlers.

Pericles said...

I read this in 2004. Don't remember much about the plot, but I thought Fleischman did a wonderful job of capturing that certain Southern California atmosphere.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a rather random request. But I desperately trying to find the name of the cover illustrator for this edition of the Venetian Blonde, would you Mr Crider, or anyone who has a copy to hand, be able to take a look at the credits and let me know?
Please post on this blog and I will keep checking.
Thank you so much in advance....

Bill Crider said...

Fawcett doesn't credit the artists, and there's no signature on the cover. If Art Scott's fond of it, it could be McGinnis.