Tony Valentine

Created by James Swain

“Watching surveillance videos,” he explains, “is a unique experience. The cameras filtered twice as much light as the human eye, and as a result hairpieces looked like rugs, cheap suits took on zebra stripes, and women wearing red dresses became naked. It was like entering the Twilight Zone.”
Grift Sense

Widower TONY VALENTINE‘s retirement doesn’t seem to be going too well. When we first meet him (in 2001’s Grift Sense), the tough grizzly casino security expert and former Atlantic City cop is being coaxed out of his half-hearted Florida retirement by a Vegas casino that’s been having a few problems. In its sequel, Funny Money, Tony’s tired of being a “grifter hunter,” and is exploring an “alternative career” as a pro wrestler. But by 2003’s Sucker Bet, he seems to have realized that catching cheaters is really his life’s calling, and he’s on the road again to help another casino out of a jam. At least this time it’s a little closer to home: it’s the Micanopy Indian Reservation Casino in South Florida. And so it goes, with this acclaimed series gradually hitting nine books. So far.

There’s a great insider feel to this series. And why not? Author James Swain apparently knows his stuff: his biography once claimed he was a gambling expert, as well as a professional magician. It goes on to inform us that he’s been billed as “one of the best card-handlers in the world.” So you probably shouldn’t count cards when he’s around. Later bios have toned it down a little, however, and now he simply takes pride in having written over twenty mysteries, including the new Jon Lancaster series about an unlicensed private eye specializing in rescuing abducted children, and has worked as a magazine editor and screenwriter. He received a Florida Book Award for fiction, and was awarded France’s prestigious Prix Calibre .38 for Best American Crime Writing.


  • “Swain’s easy expertise with the world of gaming and gamblers makes Grift Sense into a fascinating guidebook, as well as a vivid debut in a series that so far has a flavor all its own.”
    — Otto Penzler
  • “Top class suspense… must reads for me, and one of my favorite series.”
    – Lee Child
  • “In this series, the main character is a big winner.”
    – Janet Maslin, The New York Times
  • “This series has got to be one of the finds of the decade.”
    –Kirkus Reviews
  • “… somebody should tell this EXPERT on gambling that college basketball games are played in two halves, not four quarters, that a “spread” on a college game is the point differential when the game is over. and that no one takes odds on college games. you get a line — point differential of the favorite over the dog — prior to the game.
    in sucker bet, he has somebody putting $200,000 on a college game at 20-1 odds. never happens. if duke were really playing “miami college” the line would either be a bunch of points — 30 or more — or the game would be off the boards. also, duke has never had a black coach. this was a terrible book.”
    — michael cleveland (who apparently doesn’t like anything, including using his shift key)


Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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