Books with plots about heist/con artists/scams
September 4, 2010 12:02 PM   Subscribe

Please recommend any heist/con artist books.

I really liked Sidney Sheldon's If Tomorrow Comes. I love the deception, the thrill, the excitement. Are there any other books out there that are similar? Where the characters plot to steal something, or con somebody?

To aid the hive mind, some movies I liked are Ocean's Eleven, Matchstick Men, Thomas Crown Affair, The Usual Suspects, etc.
posted by pleasebekind to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
The Lies of Locke Lamora is like alternate fantasy-universe Ocean's Eleven.
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:06 PM on September 4, 2010 [5 favorites]

If you like fantasy, Scott Lynch wrote two nice books that are just all about con jobs, The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas under Red Skies. I believe more are supposed to be coming out eventually. But they're lots of fun, and I describe the first as Ocean's 11 set in a fantasy version of Venice (the second is set in a different location).
posted by jeather at 12:08 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Void Moon by Michael Connelly
Payback by Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake)
Well. . . anything by Donald Westlake, I suppose
The Getaway by Jim Thompson (classic noir)
Ballad of the Whiskey Robber by Julian Rubinstein (true story!)
posted by Ideal Impulse at 12:10 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I read Caper by Lawrence Sanders at my Grandparents' once. It was pretty good.

I never considered how useful pliers and blowtorches could be for jewel thieves....
posted by codswallop at 12:16 PM on September 4, 2010

Try the originals:
The Penguin Book of Gaslight Crime
Arsene Lupin, Gentleman Thief
posted by Paragon at 12:18 PM on September 4, 2010

I enjoyed Michael Crichton's Great Train Robbery when I read it many years ago.
posted by jm4 at 12:30 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if it's what you want, but Jack Black's You Can't Win is a fascinating memoir about early 20th century con men and hobos.
posted by cropshy at 12:33 PM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Donald Westlake's marvelous Dortmunder series, about a brilliant but very very unlucky heist planner, is the funny version of what you want. They do a lot of intricate plotting, but it never quite goes according to plan.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:39 PM on September 4, 2010

Chuck Hogan's Prince of Thieves is a good heist novel.
posted by backwards guitar at 12:47 PM on September 4, 2010

Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn: The Final Empire is both a good heist novel and an excellent deconstruction of the hero's journey/modern fantasy in general. The other two books in the trilogy are also very good, but the first one is the most heisty of the bunch.
posted by andrewcilento at 1:04 PM on September 4, 2010

If you are open to non-fiction, I found The Stopwatch Gang riveting.
posted by kmennie at 1:24 PM on September 4, 2010

Paper Moon by Joe David Brown.
posted by afx237vi at 1:41 PM on September 4, 2010

I read Only When I Laugh by Len Deighton years ago and really enjoyed it. It's a novel, a trio of con artists, has some humor. It's out of print but used copies are easy to find.
posted by daikon at 5:30 PM on September 4, 2010

This is non-fiction, but is a lot of fun: The big con: the story of the confidence man, by David Maurer.
posted by scruss at 5:48 PM on September 4, 2010

I will strongly second The Ballad of the Whisky Robber. A Romanian immigrates to Hungary following the fall of Communism. He becomes an alternate on the national hockey team, and spends ten years robbing banks. It's a fantastic read.

You Can't Win is also a great read.
posted by kaibutsu at 6:55 PM on September 4, 2010

Scott Lynch is excellent, and I haven't been able to stand fantasy since the first year or two of college (I just read in college that I went off it). I liked those books nonetheless.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters is great--twisty, Victorian, dark, sexy, with pickpockets and elaborate plots.
posted by wintersweet at 7:06 PM on September 4, 2010

The Big Con, nonfiction, written in the 1940s. The Sting lifted most of it's material from this book.

Oh, and another movie you might like, Nine Queens.
posted by fings at 9:57 PM on September 4, 2010

You might enjoy Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat books.
posted by Brody's chum at 10:00 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I read "Catch Me If You Can" by Frank Abagnale not long after I saw the movie, and it's tremendous. The film version movied-up the story a bit (e.g., no father issues in the book, the stewardess recruiting thing was actually a long-term project, not a last minute escape plan in Miami, etc.). It's a great page-turner-- thoroughly enjoyable.
posted by holterbarbour at 4:28 PM on September 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, consider reading some books by Elmore Leonard, who brought us the stories behind the films Jackie Brown, Get Shorty, 3:10 to Yuma, and Out of Sight, among others.
posted by holterbarbour at 4:32 PM on September 5, 2010

While you're deciding which of the suggested books to read and waiting for them to ship, here's a couple of good heist-y magazine articles from Wired:

The Untold Story of the World's Biggest Diamond Heist

Art of the Steal: On the Trail of the World's Most Ingenious Thief

Other good heist movies I haven't seen mentioned: Heat, Inside Man, maybe Killing Zoe.
posted by devnall at 6:42 AM on September 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

I really really really enjoyed Carter Beats the Devil
posted by secretseasons at 6:59 AM on September 7, 2010

"He was Britain's most wanted man. He has just spent seven years in America's toughest penitentiary. You'll like him."
Mr Nice: An Autobiography
posted by chaff at 5:09 PM on September 7, 2010

Ben Mezrich's books about the MIT blackjack team are fun, (but take a lot of liberties with the truth).
posted by the latin mouse at 1:43 AM on September 11, 2010

Apologies for commenting on my own question; just wanted to thank everyone here for their suggestions. Everything's lovely, and you guys rock, as usual. I am neck deep in books and can't wait to get through all of them.
posted by pleasebekind at 2:24 PM on October 27, 2010

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