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PLOT. The three main characters--Roy, his mother Lilly, and his girlfriend, Moira--are all grifters: con artists. They work various cons separately around Los Angeles and the vicinity. Lilly comes back into her son's life after a long absence and pays for his medical care after he is beaten by a man in a con gone wrong. Roy's girl, Moira, also grifts (although not to Roy's knowledge) and is willing to trade sex for money or debts when necessary. Roy becomes involved with his nurse, Carol, who takes care of him after his beating. He is offered a supervisor's job at work, but he is uncertain about whether to take it since it will interfere with his con games. Roy eventually learns of Moira's grifting past, breaks up with Carol, and decides to take the supervisor's job. There is eventually an identity exchange between two of the characters, and Roy meets an untimely and unexpected end at the conclusion of the novel.
SETTING. Post-World War II Los Angeles and the surrounding areas of California. Although L.A. is meant to show the glamorous side of American culture, most of the city seen in the novel concerns the dark side of life.
CHARACTERS. Roy Dillon is a salesman by day but a con man on the side. Lilly Dillon is his grifter mother, who has just returned to Roy after a seven year absence. Moira Langtry is Roy's girlfriend; unbeknownst to him, she is also a grifter on the side. Cole Langtry is Moira's former mentor and lover. Bobo Justus is Lilly's con man boss. Carol Roberg, a nurse, is Roy's new fling who has spent time in a concentration camp.