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Chasing the Ace

Chasing the Ace 1

by Nicholas Johnson
Publication Date: 01/07/2014
3/5 Rating 1 Review

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Friendship and fraud is a dangerous mix

Joel Fitch has watched every twist-happy movie there is about con men, and he thinks he knows it all. After nineteen years of being a sucker, Joel's going to take everything he's learned from the screen and finally get his. He's going to be a master con artist.

Richard Mordecai is a real-life swindler. But unlike Joel, he knows the truth about con men. At the end of a long career of lies and betrayal, Richard is tired and jaded. He's ready to retire.

Until he meets Joel.

They form an uneasy partnership and Joel soon finds himself thrust into a world of bottom dealers, fraudsters and ace chasers that's unlike any movie he's ever seen. And when the pair accidentally scam the wrong mark, they have to draw on every last trick and piece of cunning they can to get themselves free and walk away with the money ... and hopefully their dignity.

'A deliciously devious debut. It will fool you, and you will love it.' Lawrence Leung
Crime & Mystery
Publication Date:
Simon & Schuster Australia
Country of origin:
Dimensions (mm):
What I’m reading right now…
I’m currently trying to reread the 'Mortdecai Trilogy', Kyril Bonfiglioli’s crime series about an amoral aristocrat and art dealer who manages to produce sparkling bon mots will having his testicles electrocuted.

However, because I have a ten month old daughter, I’m actually rereading Moomin’s Make A Wish Counting Book for the fourth time today.

My favourite book growing up (why?)…
As a child I was obsessed with Frank Muir’s What-A-Mess books. The titular Afghan hound was just like me. Short and chubby. Dirty blonde and scruffy. Hopelessly optimistic. Forever filthy.

While the rest of my family were neat and tidy, What-A-Mess taught me it was ok to be disorganised.

My all time favourite book is (why?)…
The Little Golden Calf by by Petrov and Ilf was the first classic novel to make me laugh out loud. A satirical journey through communist Russian, Ostap Bender is a picaresque hero, a con artist trying to scam his way through a corrupt system.

The book I would recommend everyone to read (why?)…
I find myself recommend the graphic novel Y – The Last Man by Brian K Vaughn more than any other book. The story, set in a world where all of the men, bar one, have died mysteriously, has adventure, humour, social commentary. The fact that the hero is a social awkward magician with a tendency for smart-arse remarks is purely coincidental. 

The book I wish I wrote…
I wish I wrote pulp crime novels in the fifties. The stories are so fun and so disposable at the same time. I love the idea of being able to dash out a quick murder mysteries for a fast buck. Also, I’d like to use the word ‘Dames’ more often in my writing.

My guilty reading pleasure is…
My guity pleasure is abandoning books. There is something gleeful about tossing aside a book, half read.

The book on my bookshelf that I have never read…
The Bible. I have six copies.

The book that never should have been turned into a film… 
I’d hate to label any book ‘unadaptable’ because I’ll only be proven wrong.

However, if someone made a film of The Game it would create a new generation of sleazy jerks trying to pick up women with suspect psychological tricks. Only this time, it would sleazy jerks who can’t be bothered to actually read the book. And that can’t be a good thing.

My book is...

My favourite place is... my back gate. It opens on to a park, a playground and a football field. I never know what I’m going to see when I open it. I’ve discovered football games, kite flying competitions and full sized carnivals behind that gate. 

The most dangerous thing I have ever done is...
playing golf with fire lighters in the middle of dry grass in bushfire season. I was 12 and stupid.

The first time I...
realised my parents could lie was when I was six and my dad convinced me he could change the traffic lights with his thumb. He loved gardening and said that his ‘green thumb’ had magic powers. Lying bastard.

I regret...
very little. 

I remember
obscure facts of no real important. I forget names, appointments and responsibilities but I can name every piece and the colour of said piece in the game Mouse Trap.

The one piece of advice I should have listened to but didn’t is…
I honestly don’t know. I clearly wasn’t listening.

I love... 

I hate...

I wish...
I was 

I can’t say no to...
apple pie. There is a Vietnamese bakery near my house that makes disgusting iced apple pies fill with hard apple chunks and wrapped in bland crust. I can’t pass by without buying one. 

Yesterday, I...
spent the day playing with my daughter when I should have been writing. Children are the ultimate, guilt free procrastination. 

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1 Review

Nicholas J. Johnson, who works as a performer, writer and consultant, exposing the world of con artists to the public to better protect themselves, has drawn on his knowledge and experience to author Chasing the Ace, his entertaining debut novel.

Told from dual first person narratives, Chasing The Ace introduces Richard, an ageing, world-weary con 'artiste' and Joel, a young, wannabe grifter who meet on the streets of Melbourne. Richard, contemplating retirement, decides to take Joel under his wing and the pair form a profitable alliance. Joel is eager to learn all he can, and is thrilled when the money starts rolling in, but when they accidentally scam an off duty cop, neither man is sure if they will be able to con their way out of trouble.

The novel is fast paced, with enough excitement and a few surprising turns to maintain suspense. I have to admit I didn't predict the final twist, but found it a satisfying ending to the story, which also provides potential for a sequel.

I thought the main protagonists were well developed, with interesting backgrounds and distinct voices. Richard is jaded and cynical, Joel is initially enthusiastic and idealistic though slowly becomes increasingly disillusioned by the realities of the lifestyle, having fed his expectations with a diet of classic con movies like 'The Sting' and 'Rounders'.

I might have been more impressed overall had I not just finished binge watching the entire series of Leverage, an American TV program about a crew who pull off sophisticated and complex cons in each episode. By contrast, the cons run in Chasing the Ace seem inelegant and somewhat distasteful, even if far more realistic.

A quick and entertaining read, I enjoyed Chasing the Ace...honestly.

Contains Spoilers No
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