1968 Edgar Award for Best Novel
Synopses & Reviews
* 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.
"Forge...launches a reprint series of Edgar winners with Donald E. Westlake's masterful tale of a hapless chump who's every con man's favorite patsy....Mystery guru Otto Penzler provides a new introduction..." Publishers Weekly
Donald E. Westlake's great comic suspense novel won the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award in 1967. Con men descend upon its gullible hero when he comes into a $317,000 inheritance but Fred Fitch, as lovable as he is naïve, stumbles to victory. Westlake's earlier novel, The Fugitive Pigeon, virtually originated the modern comic-suspense genre so brilliantly refined in this later work.
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.