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March 27 , 2009

The Big Con


'Of all the gifters, the confidence man is the aristocrat, ' wrote David Maurer, a proposition he definitively proved in The Big Con. A professor of linguistics who specialised in underworld argot, Maurer won the trust of hundreds of swindlers. They let him in on not simply their language, but their folkwrys and the astonishingly complex and elaborate schemes whereby unsuspecting marks, hooked by their own greed and dishonesty were 'taken off' - i. e. , cheated - of thousands upon thousands of dollars. The products of amazing ingenuity, crack timing and attention to every last detail, these 'big cons', as thoroughly scripted and rehearsed as any Hollywood production, richly deserve Maurer's description as 'the most effective swindling device which man has ever invented. ' The Big Con is a treasure trove of American lingo (the write, the rag, the pay-off, ropers, shills, the cold poke and the convincer) and indeliable characters (Yellow Kid Weil, Barney the Patch, the Seldom-Seen Kid, Limehouse Chappie and Larry the Lug). First published in 1940, The Big Con makes compelling reading whilst being the most authentic and utterly authoritative study on the con artist and his game.

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