I found myself another time-waster.
And you ladies and gentlemen out there might help me.
Let me explain – and to do so we’ll have to take a tour of my library.
Now, you all know I am a lover of historical fiction and historical non fiction – non-fiction-wise I love the history of Asia, of the British Empire, of Rome and the Mediterranean, too.
I have a very soft spot for Elizabeth Tudor and her age.
In this category I bundle also old travelers’ tales and the odd collections of National Geographic articles.
I’ve got tons of books on the subject, and I plan to get more – what’s life, after all, but the accumulation of books?
Some of these interests percolate in my writing – just as my scientific background and my love for the sea do. Dinosaurs and lost continents, the moons of Saturn and Old Mars…
Back in university it was pretty common for some supercilious colleague or assistant professor to arch a haughty eyebrow about how could I possibly waste my time with science fiction and at the same time proclaim myself a scientist.
But as I was saying, usually for me fiction and non fiction, and writing, go hand in hand, in some sort of naughty intellectual threesome.
When it comes to crime stories and espionage, I go for the classics – the Four Queens of Mystery, Chandles, Hammet, Himes, some Spillane. Craig Rice, that was wonderful and not many remember. And of course Ellery Queen, Rex Stout, Earl Stanley Gardner…
Graham Greene, Eric Ambler, Len Deighton… not much Ian Fleming, as I prefer his brother, Peter – that falls in the history of Asia section of my library.
But let’s stick to crime for a moment.
I was talkimng a few nights back with my friend Fabrizio Borgio – a fine mystery writer and an even finer writer of the supernatural – and I observed how I am far more interested in swindlers than killers.
Con games, trickery and what today is called “social engineering”.
And I reminisced, with my friend Fabrizio, about a lady that’s no longer with us – the classy and elegant, very smart mother of an old friend of mine.
All crime is despicable, she used to say, but you have to admire the con-man for his intelligence, and the pickpocket for his skill and sheer courage.
And I must say I like that.
Granted, being hit on a bus by a pickpocket is bad – but what the heck, the skill and courage are there all right.
And now I have realized I have very few books on the subject of the sort of crime I like – swindles, con-games and frauds. And I don’t mean the huge, bank-sponsored, small-investor-killing frauds of finance, or the heinous computer-based phishing tricks and Etiopian scams, but the good old, Sting-style rackets.
I have a few novels, but precious little non fiction.
Not that I did not look for it – but the subject does not seem to have received much coverage in book form.
I have books on the Elizabethan and Victorian underworld, that touch upon the subject.
I have books on art crimes – and I followed an online course on the subject.
I have quite a bit of stuff on archaeological looting and grave-robbing.
And a pair of nice things about tradecraft in espionage.
But the shelf is really light anyway.
So I think I’ll start looking for a good bibliography on the shady world of swindlers and hoaxers.
So, what about lending a hand?
Do you have some good title to suggest, some solid non-fiction about con-games and frauds?
I’d like something on pickpockets and cat burglars, too – one never knows.
Please, help me with your suggestions in the comments.
I’ll post a list of my fave con-based movies as a way for saying thank-you.