cover image The Rogues' Game

The Rogues' Game

Milton T. Burton, . . St. Martin's Minotaur/Dunne, $23.95 (296pp) ISBN 978-0-312-33681-3

Characters and cons come thick and fast in Burton's intricate, impressive debut, set in post-WWII Texas. In an opening out of Jim Thompson, the unnamed narrator and his luscious blonde girlfriend, Della, are driving in a brand new '47 Lincoln convertible to a high-stakes poker game, but their true motives are as obscure as the narrator's background. He was with the OSS in the war, and claims to have been to Harvard. But his co-conspirators have names like Chicken Little and Ice-pick Willie, and the game they're playing looks like murder. Later, it seems like robbery, and later still something else. Burton keeps all these balls in the air in a plainspoken style that's both appealing and informative. His talent lies in taking stock situations and characters and putting new life into them. Della, for example, isn't the typical dumb, conniving blonde, but an intelligent woman with a sad past and a sharp eye for business. The wealth of background information on things as diverse as law, Texas oil and poker is never dull or irrelevant. Burton weaves these elements in with the fictional ones so seamlessly that the fiction acquires the feel of fact. Agent, Milton Goldfarb. (July)