No House Limit (Hard Case Crime #45) - Steve Fisher I guess the first question many would ask is why bother read these old pulp fiction novels. Nostalgia, plot, setting, voyeurism, writing style, pictures of busty blonds on the cover; all of these I suppose. For lack of a better reason, I guess it would be the same reason why some people watch football. They provide easy, often thoughtless, entertainment.

That being said, Hard Case Crime, reissued a whole series of novels from the fifties and early sixties, most of which might be defined as noir, or representing the underbelly of American culture.

No House Limit portrays Joe Martin, owner of an independent, i.e., not controlled by the syndicate, casino in Las Vegas. The syndicate has vowed to shut him down and their approach is to hire a well-known gambler, Bello, to gamble him out of existence. An implausible scenario, certainly. What makes the reader want to continue is the atmosphere, the ambiance, the recreation of what we think a fifties casino might be like. Note I suggested it’s what we imagine it might be like. Whether it was or not, is really irrelevant to me. It’s a story and an intriguing one that allows the reader to lose himself in another world.

Written by Steve Fisher who, according to a postscript by his son wrote close to one hundred novels in the fifties. It has a very archaic flavor with stock characters straight out of the movies for which Fisher wrote many scripts.

Bello was patterned after the infamous Nick the Greek, a rather pathetic gambler who was introduced to Michael Fisher by his father. Nick once said he had won and lost close to $500 million in his lifetime and what really made him pathetic in Michael’s eyes were the boxes of letters Nick kept in his garage from people who might enclose $5 or $10 and ask Nick to gamble it for them in hopes he would strike it rich for them to help pay their medical bills or save their home.

I certainly learned a lot about craps.