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Posted September 14, 2007
Dave Gray 'AKA Alabama Fats' takes the confessional platform in this excellent book TELLING IT ALL - MY LIFE AS A CON MAN, a reflection of a life of crime as shared by an 80-year-old African American to writer Steven Levi, and what makes this book even better than the rather sensational aspect of its con man content is a survey of social history from 1927 to 2007, a period of great change in the status of African American position in the culture of the USA. It is a terrifically entertaining and informative brief read, but it is also a reflection of change we all need to remember. Alabama Fats is the child of a poverty stricken family who at age 19 met up with a con artist who introduced him to the profession of taking money from people by means of card games 'Three Card Molly' and money scams such as Bank Agents. Fats 'tells it all' without remorse, sharing techniques and secrets of how 'lames' 'victims' could be identified and bilked out of their cash. And while this information is rather startling and fascinating and shocking, the method of sharing the changes in the way con men worked as the atmosphere in the USA changed from the Depression years through the post-WW II years, through the spend thrift 1950s, into the 1960s and beyond gives a unique historical vantage: the disappearance of trains as a common means of transportation, the introduction of credit cards and checks overriding the carrying of cash, and the altered view of the African American male with the shift from Inner City ghetto life to integration of cities and the speedy exit modes of the automobile culture changed the approach of the con artist as 'progress' altered life in the US. If the book is at times repetitive 'and what conversation with older people isn't?' and despite excessive editorial flaws, this is a fine little book to read and from which to learn. Steven Levi captures a refreshing freedom of style that makes this little volume feel like an oral history, and while Alabama Fats makes no apologies for his life as a con man, he concludes his true story with a warning for folks 'especially the vulnerable elderly' to be aware that the streets are still populated with artists trained to take their money. Grady HarpWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.