No House Limit (Hard Case Crime #45)

No House Limit (Hard Case Crime #45)

by Steve Fisher

Casino owner Joe Martin faces down a Syndicate-backed gambler in a marathon craps game, with millions of dollarsand possibly even his lifeat stake.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 3.54
  • Pages: 224
  • Publish Date: July 10th 2008 by Hard Case Crime
  • Isbn10: 0843959630
  • Isbn13: 9780843959635

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The Syndicate wanted to shut Joe Martin and his casino, Rainbow's End, down and brought in the best gambler in the world to put him out of business. Can Joe Martin keep his casino? I don't find the idea of a guy playing craps with Syndicate money trying to break a casino very exciting.

What makes the reader want to continue is the atmosphere, the ambiance, the recreation of what we think a fifties casino might be like. Written by Steve Fisher who, according to a postscript by his son wrote close to one hundred novels in the fifties. Nick once said he had won and lost close to $500 million in his lifetime and what really made him pathetic in Michaels eyes were the boxes of letters Nick kept in his garage from people who might enclose $5 or $10 and ask Nick to gamble it for them in hopes he would strike it rich for them to help pay their medical bills or save their home.

There was one thing about No House Limit that bugged me and bugged me and bugged me such that it really interfered with my ability to enjoy the novel: the portrayal of the gambler Bello and his craps expertise. Bello, we are told, is a legendary craps player with a betting system so mathematically complicated that onlookers are helpless to understand what he is doing.

There are few cool characters and beautiful dames (we are in Vegas after all) and parallel to the main story there's another subplot in which Joe's right-hand man is shielding his boss from the various distractions that might break his concentration. In fact, once the siege is over, both of them will propose to their new found loves.

Probably nearer 3.5 stars, but the authenticity of Fishers descriptions of 50s Vegas make me round this up to a 4after two nights reading this book, I genuinely feel like Ive been on holiday to Nevada and back.

This would be a preposterous premise in todays high-tech, corporate-owned version of Vegas, but everybody has heard the urban legends of big-time gamblers called whales who could bankrupt a casino over the course of a good weekend in the 1950s. This story is at its best when it focuses on Skip, the head of casino security, as he tries to outmaneuver the shenanigans of the mobsters.

Fisher writes a book that puts you into the middle of the heat, a heat only avoided by darkened and air conditioned casinos. Fisher takes the time to teach you the rules of the game, craps that is, while telling a story in which bluffs and deceit define the action off of the table.

Living in Las Vegas, Fisher was enamored with the glitz and gambling of the city, and used a lot of research and insiders intel to craft this novel, No House Limit. Now, The Syndicate is trying again: theyre backing the worlds greatest gambler, Bello, to win all of Joes money away. While Joe spends most of his time down at the tables, keeping an eye on Bello (and hoping hell lose), hes also dealing with a love interest: schoolteacher Sunny Guido. I have to say, Fisher did a fantastic job building tension throughout the novel: theres a strong sense of Joes fatigue in the claustrophobic casino interior as Bellos gamble drags on. Bellos big plan is have the house take its limit off of maximum bet amounts, then gamble like nobodys business, which is not the plan Id have if I wanted to break the bank. Fishers experience with Bogart screenplays and crime thrillers is a strong advantage: it shows, in the terse dialogue, the pounding tension, and the web of sub-plots which build up to a crescendo. Despite its flaws, of which there are several, No House Limit was worth the time, thrilling and convincingly written, and now Im on the lookout for more Steve Fisher novels.

In 1934 he moved to New York where, despite near destitution, he continued to pursue a career as a writer, and met, for the first time, his friend Frank Gruber. They, of course, hit it off immediately, and left Bodins office on Fifth Avenue just below 23rd Street, on their way to Greenwich Village where, in Washington Square Park, they talked for three hours about their hopes, ambitions and their writing. In 1941, the same year Fisher published I Wake Up Screaming, Gruber, under the name Charles K. A.I. Bezzerides remembers Jack Warner walking into the writers building and finding Gruber, Fisher and himself not at their desks, but on the floor shooting craps. Though he defended his friend, Gruber would remain a life-long admirer of Chandlers writing. Foreshadowing Grubers run-in with Chandler, Fisher, hearing someone unfairly criticise one of Grubers stories in the Black Mask office, launched such an attack on the unfortunate writer that the editor had to throw the Gruber-critic out of the office and declare him persona non grata at Black Mask.