For ex-cop Tony Valentine, life in balmy Florida provides little R&R. In fact, he's in demand now more than ever. Armed with a special grift sense, Valentine can spot card cheats and even bigger game whose sole purpose on earth is to relieve a casino of its cash. But when his son, who was going to card-counting school, goes missing, Valentine jets to Las Vegas. Once in town, he is pressed into service-and lands inside a treacherous game with higher stakes than he has ever encountered before.
Swain's fourth Tony Valentine novel (after 2003's Sucker Bet) starts out on a wacky, breezy note, but the horror of a threatened terrorist attack that develops in a subplot jars in a tale centered on the seedy world of gambling and more mundane crimes like (non-mass-) murder and robbery. Tony Valentine, a retired Atlantic City cop who helps gambling casinos catch swindlers, travels to Las Vegas to show three casino owners how blackjack players use a new high-tech device to cheat. He's also checking up on his feckless son Gerry, in town to learn about illegal card-counting so he can join Tony's business. But Tony's three clients have also hired Frank Fontaine-a world-class card sharp and Tony's longtime enemy, who has FBI connections-to run a scam that will close a casino owned by Tony's friend Nick Nicocropolis. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Gerry, two new foreign friends have links to al Qaeda. An expert on casino swindles, the author packs his books with mind-boggling cons and scams-how to do them and stop them-along with entertaining dialogue and vivid characters, notably the strong, sympathetic Tony. No doubt many readers will be attracted to the timely terrorist element, but those expecting another fast-paced gambling romp may be disappointed to see Tony sidetracked. Agent, Chris Calhoun at Sterling Lord Literistic. 10-city author tour. (June 1) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 2003
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Excerpt from Loaded Dice by James Swain
The most desirable women in Las Vegas didn't live there.
They lived in southern California and worked as dental hygienists, aerobic instructors, and nurses. They lived regular, nine-to-five lives. Then, on the weekend, they flew to Las Vegas -- usually on Southwest, because it had the most flights -- got off the plane, and became different people. Their names changed, and so did their hairstyles and their clothes. It was as if a magic wand had been waved over them, although the change was anything but magical.
They became strippers in the gentlemen's clubs that hung on the periphery of the Las Vegas Strip. They paid the club owners two hundred bucks a night and made the money back in twenty minutes from drunken men wanting a friction dance. On a good night, they took home a grand.
It wasn't that these women were more beautiful than the women who lived in Las Vegas. Vegas was filled with knockouts. What made them different was that they weren't used to being treated like garbage, which was how most women in Vegas got treated. No, these women still had dreams. They lived in la-la land, and it came through on their faces every time they smiled.
Her name was Kris, and she danced at the Pink Pony.
Lieutenant Pete Longo of the Metro Las Vegas Police Department had met Kris while responding to a call about a fight. Normally, he would have let a uniform deal with it, only the prospect of seeing naked women dancing against a backdrop of sporting events projected on a colossal screen had propelled him into action. That, and not having to see his wife for another hour.
The fight was between a drunk and a bouncer, and it was over Kris. The drunk was a big, corn-fed kid from the Midwest who'd trapped Kris in a VIP booth. She was naked save a G-string and looked scared out of her wits. Petite, blond hair, great figure, and her own breasts. Not the prettiest woman he'd ever seen, but damn close.
Longo had acknowledged her with a thin smile. Then he'd tried to arrest the drunk. The drunk had responded by spitting on him.
Longo was pretty fat. His mother called him chubby, but that was his mother. Beneath the flab was some real muscle. In the gym, he could bench-press his weight. Most guys his size couldn't do that. And he knew how to fight.
He knocked the drunk out with two punches. It had impressed the hell out of the bouncer, an African American kid whose Italian suit had gotten torn in the scuffle. And it had impressed the gaggle of patrons and strippers standing nearby. But who it impressed the most was Kris.