Here’s the afterword I wrote for the Grifter’s Game eBook. It appears in full in Afterthoughts, but you’re welcome to read it here:
This turned out to be the first book published under my own name, although I assumed it would be pseudonymous soft porn when I started it. A couple of chapter in I decided it might be a cut above what I’d been writing, so I wrote it as a crime novel with the hope it might work for Gold Medal. They were the first house to see it, and Knox Burger bought it. I can’t recall that he asked for any changes.
But they changed the title. I’d called it The Girl on the Beach, because that was such a Charles Williams/Gil Brewer/Peter Rabe title, perfect for Gold Medal. Knox didn’t like it. Go figure. Then somebody, he or I or my agent, came up with Grifter’s Game, and that was one everybody liked.
Next thing I knew, it was published as Mona. Years later I learned from Knox that this was publisher Ralph Daigh’s idea. He’d bought a painting of a woman’s face from an illustrator, and wanted a chance to use it on something. If he’d used a portrait of himself, I might be the author of Horse’s Ass.
The book’s had various titles over the years. Someone used the phrase “sweet slow death” in a cover blurb, and Berkley made that the title on their reprint edition. When Hard Case brought out the book a couple of years ago, we finally got to call it Grifter’s Game.
Going over it prior to ebook publication, I found it remarkable how many of the book’s 50,000 words seemed to be devoted to the lighting, smoking and stubbing out of cigarettes. I’m surprised lung cancer didn’t take Joe Marlin out of the picture before the plot had run its course. I noticed, too, that I always used the word “lighted.” As in “I lighted a cigarette.” Do people talk that way? I never did, so why should Joe Marlin? I changed all those lighted to lits. And I couldn’t resist the chance to fix the occasional infelicitous phrase here and there.
But I didn’t do much to it. The book was written in 1960, in a small apartment on West 69th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam. I’d moved to 444 Central Park West by the time it came out in 1961, and I’ve moved around thirty times since then. Maybe more. The fact that it’s still around strikes me as remarkable, but then I’m still around, too, and that’s no less remarkable. Here’s to both of us!