Lucky At Cards

by Lawrence Block

At the least, LUCKY AT CARDS by Lawrence Block would be worthy of
reading as a curiosity piece. It was originally published over 40
years ago under the title THE SEX SHUFFLE and the pseudonym
"Sheldon Lord." While LUCKY AT CARDS contains some erotic scenes
that might have been edgy for the time, the work does not qualify
as pornography, by standards now or then. It is, however, an
engrossing, fascinating work, arguably a superlative novel by an
author who would come to write a bookshelf full of them.

Bill Maynard may be lucky at cards, but he makes his own good
fortune more often than not. Maynard's luck, as it were, ran out
during a late-night game in Chicago when his cleverness and
cheating ways caught up with him. Maynard, laying low and licking
his wounds in a small town somewhere between Illinois and New York,
literally lucks into a friendly card game with a group of men whose
occupations are professional --- a dentist, an accountant and a tax
attorney, among others --- but whose card-playing abilities are
strictly amateur. And, as smart as these men might otherwise be,
they fail to recognize Maynard for what he is, which is a quiet,
swift-moving shark among the minnows.

As it turns out, however, Joyce Rogers, the sensuous, world-wise
wife of the tax attorney, knows Maynard for precisely what he is
when she sees him: a cardsharp who is part of an exciting world
that she traded in some years ago for wealth, security and
maddening boredom. Maynard quickly becomes involved with her, and
all that separates them from her husband's fortune is her husband.
He concocts a scheme to eliminate the cuckolded spouse without
murdering him, and things seem to go according to plan --- at least
at first. When they begin going south, however, Maynard is left
with one path to potential salvation, leaving the reader with two
questions: Will Maynard recognize the path, and, if so, will he
take it?

It is, to say the least, a surprise to encounter this long-lost
work and be reminded once again of how good a craftsman Lawrence
Block has been, and for how long. Maynard's scheme to eliminate
Rogers's husband is remarkably well thought-out, even as one knows
that it must be doomed to failure. Block keeps Maynard's jaded
character and world-weariness honed to a fine edge, with the irony
meter in the red at all times. LUCKY AT CARDS may be a hard-edged
noir masterwork, but it is also as fine a morality tale as one
could wish for, in a world where the best one can hope for is,
perhaps, a draw.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 7, 2011

Lucky At Cards
by Lawrence Block

  • Publication Date: January 30, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Hard Case Crime
  • ISBN-10: 0843957689
  • ISBN-13: 9780843957686