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Thieves' Paradise

Thieves' Paradise

3.8 69
by Eric Jerome Dickey

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The sensational New York Times bestselling author of Between Lovers, Liar’s Game, and Cheaters returns with an irresistible novel about grifters and con artists, brothers and sisters, looking for love and making ends meet—on the wrong side of the law.


The sensational New York Times bestselling author of Between Lovers, Liar’s Game, and Cheaters returns with an irresistible novel about grifters and con artists, brothers and sisters, looking for love and making ends meet—on the wrong side of the law.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Heart-pumping…electrifying…In his compelling picture of another world, Dickey believably shows how even in the underbelly of society, loyalty, respect, and love have their place. Gritty...a smartly-paced novel." —Publishers Weekly
Dante Brown feels as if he's teetering at the edge of an inferno. After a prison stretch as a minor, he has pieced his life back together, gaining a respectable job as a computer technician, buying a car, and finding a decent apartment. But when the tech recession hits the fan, Dante is one of its early casualties. Now he's staring at an eviction notice, up to his eyeballs in debt, and the woman he's sweet on thinks that he's a loser. Then, after an old bad-news buddy steps back into the picture, Dante begins to think that just one more walk down Shady Lane might straighten things out. A street-smart L.A. novel.
Set in Los Angeles, Dickey's predictable novel depicts a world of crime, violence and complicated allegiances and rivalries. The protagonist is Dante, a young, bright con artist with a heart of gold trying to navigate in a landscape that both attracts and disgusts him. Dante and his friends vacillate between their desire to lead honest lives and their desperation to make ends meet. Much of the text is cliché-ridden, and there are lengthy sex scenes that read like something from a B-movie script. The book is somewhat redeemed by its eccentric characters, from an ancient, ornery pool hall owner to a stuttering Ecuadoran thug, who add humor to the story.
—Claudia La Rocco

Publishers Weekly
California-based Dickey (Between Lovers) exposes L.A.'s gritty underworld in this smartly paced novel that is part love story, part coming-of-age tale. Dante, a troubled young man who as a teenager nearly killed his abusive father, finds himself drifting into a life of crime when he can no longer make ends meet. Dickey, a talented writer with a good ear for dialogue and a street-smart sense of character, knows how to portray the kind of desperation that makes people get into trouble under the guise of making a quick dollar. When Dante and his buddy, Jackson"who suffers even more drastic financial woes"hook up with a master con artist, they enter a roller-coaster world where the combination of fast money and major scams results in explosive, life-threatening situations. The author ably contrasts spiffy behind-the-scenes crime-world ventures with heart-pumping sensuality when Dante has some tantalizing encounters with Pam, one of the myriad waitresses in L.A. hoping to make it in the acting business. Dante lures Pam into the con game when he learns she needs cash, and the two of them are an electrifying couple both in and out of the bedroom. Unfortunately, the author opts for a quick fix epilogue by plunking Dante into an entirely different world at the end of the book without showing how this streetwise man of 25 makes the transition to academia. Still, in his compelling picture of another world, Dickey believably shows how even in the underbelly of society, loyalty, respect and love have their place. (May) Forecast: Dickey has many imitators, but there's a reason none of them has yet caught up to him in sales. Chances are good that he'll hit bestseller lists again with this nicely priced seventh novel. 15-city author tour. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Bill Andrew Quinn's performance complements the crisp dialog and lively pace of Dickey's latest L.A. story. Having served time in juvenile hall for nearly killing his abusive father, 25-year-old Dante is no stranger to crime. When he is downsized from a dot-com, he again turns to grifting, hooking up with Scamz, a charming and very successful hustler who also serves as a father figure to Dante. Scamz and Dante are joined by Dante's girlfriend, Pam, a waitress and aspiring actress, and his friend Jackson, another dot-com victim who is faced with the additional challenge of paying down a mountain of child support debt. Although the money is easy at first, a violent confrontation over a deal gone bad has Dante questioning his decision to live the crooked life. This part coming-of-age, part crime novel is a refreshingly different offering from Dickey, although his many fans expecting a steamy contemporary romance (e.g., Between Lovers) will not be disappointed. Recommended for all popular collections.-Beth Farrell, Portage Cty. Dist. Lib., OH Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Out-of-work actors, small-time crooks, and desperate men are on the grift in this mediocre new outing from the prolific (and usually better) African-American Dickey. In a prologue we see 15-year-old Dante trying to protect his mother from his abusive father and ending up in a juvenile facility. Now, ten years later and finally living the straight life in Los Angeles, Dante finds himself a victim of post-September 11 aerospace layoffs. While joblessness may be a problem, it hardly compares to the predicament of getting Pam, an older waitress whose table he's been frequenting, to notice him. As a favor to his old mentor Jackson (who, erroneously being sued for child support, needs some quick cash), Dante agrees to work a cold job (an easy con) for grifter kingpin Scamz. He finally gets Pam's attention by offering her a quick thousand (a struggling actor, she's saving up for plastic surgery) for her help in the real estate swindle Scamz has lined up. Spanning three days, the story travels up and down LA, from the barrio to Scamz's mansion, from deals gone bad to the steamy night Dante spends with Pam. Character his strong suit, Dickey unfolds a tableau of hungry people willing to compromise for a chance to get out of the hole life has put them in. But, still, with a long tradition of great hard-boiled LA novels to live up to, this one hits off-center: not quite dangerous or stylish enough for the villainy, not quite complex enough to stand as a character study. At the close, beaten and on the run, Dante has some tough decisions to make about Scamz, who took him under his wing long ago; Jackson, the best friend who double-crosses him; and beautiful Pam, older but certainly not wiser.Hard-core Dickey fans will be entertained by this sexy, fast-paced romp. Others should check out his earlier work.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Momma shrieked.

The walls echoed her cries for Daddy to get his hands off her, brought her pleas up the stairs to my room. I jumped and my algebra book dropped from my chestnut desk onto the floor.

My father cursed.

By the time I made it to the railing and looked down into the living room, Momma was in front of my father, begging for forgiveness. Her petite frame was balled up on our Aztec-patterned sofa. She was holding her lip to keep the blood from flowing onto the fabric. I watched her rub away the pain on her cinnamon skin, then run her fingers through her wavy coal-black hair.

My old man looked up at me and grimaced. “Go back to your room, boy.”

I was fifteen and a half. Less than half of my old man’s age.

He stomped toward Momma.

She screamed and moved away from him like she was trying to run away from the madness that lived here every day.

My chest heaved as I stumbled past the grandfather clock and rushed down the stairs. My heart was pounding. I tightened my hands and hurried to my momma’s side.

“Momma,” I moaned as I kneeled next to her. “You okay?”

“I’m all right, baby. It’s nothing. Nothing.”

I looked at my liquored-up old man. He bobbed his head and pointed back at the kitchen. “I work hard all day and come home to no dinner?”

He was slurring and sneering down on us.

I said, “Nobody knew you were coming home tonight.”

Momma tried to get up. “I over slept. My pills made me—”

“Carmen,” he shouted. “Get up off that sofa and cook. Now. Planet of the Apes comes on in an hour and I want my food on the table by the time Charlton Heston—”

“Don’t ever touch Momma again.”

“What you say?”

“He didn’t say anything.” Momma touched my arm. “I’m okay, baby. Go back and finish studying for your test.”

Daddy’s back straightened, his bushy mustache crooked as his lips curved down, his eyes widened. “What you say to me, nigger?”

“I’m not a nigger. My name is Dante.”

“So the nigger speaking up for himself.”

“You heard me the first time. And I ain’t a nigger.”

“You challenging me? What, you think because you got a little hair over your dick you’re a grown man now? Ain’t but one man in this house.”

Momma spoke carefully to Daddy. “Don’t get upset.”

I frowned at the shiny badge on the chest of his tan uniform, then at the gun in his leather holster.

He sucked his teeth, nodded and jerked the badge off. He threw the gun holster on the love seat. He stepped away from the glass coffee table, opened his arms and snapped out, “You want to be a man? Come on. I’ll give you the first shot. Nigger, I’ll knock your black ass into the middle of next week.”

Momma gripped my arm tight enough for her nails to break my skin. I glanced at the golden cross she had on her chest, the one she had got from her mother just a few weeks before Grandmamma died. I looked into my momma’s light brown eyes, which looked like mine. “Let me go, Momma.”

“No.” She put her nose on mine and whispered, “Momma’s okay. It’s just a little scratch.”

My knees shook when I stood and faced my old man. When his eyes met mine, his anger held so much power that I forgot how to breathe. Heart went into overdrive. He balled up his right fist, slammed it into the palm of his left hand; it echoed like thunder. “What are you gonna do, nigger?”

I trembled, backed away and said, “Nothing.”

“Nothing, what?”

“Nothing, sir.”

I kicked my bare feet into the rust carpet, then slumped my shoulders, wiped my sweaty hands on my jean shorts and turned around to go back to my room.

Then that motherfucker chuckled.

A simple laugh that stoked up the rage inside of me.

I charged at him as fast and as hard as I could.

Momma screamed.

Daddy’s eyes widened with surprise.

Pain. Anger. Fear.

Three screams from three people.

From the backseat of the police car, I stared through the wire cage at the colorful rotating lights that were brightening Scottsdale’s earth-tone stucco houses. I was hostage under a calm sky. The spinning glow from twelve squad cars looked like rainbows chasing rainbows. Colors raced over all the sweet gum trees and windmill palms, moved like a strobe light over the vanhoutte spirea in the front of the three-car garage. The reek of cordite was on my flesh. Couldn’t really smell it over the stench of my stress sweating. I concentrated on the colors to make the pain from the tight handcuffs go away. Watched the rainbows come and go.

The door opened. A dry May breeze mixed with the sweltering car air. A police officer stuck his sweaty head inside. His face was hard, his voice angry and anxious. “Your mother wants to say something to you before we lock your ass up. We shouldn’t let her say a damn word to you after what you did. Do you mind?”

I stared straight ahead. “No.”

He raised his voice. “No what?”

“No,”I repeated in a way that let him know I thought that all of them were assholes for making me out to be the bad guy. “I don’t mind.”

He gripped the back of my neck. “You’re pretty belligerent.”

I was a knob-kneed reed of a boy. Hadn’t lifted anything heavier than an algebra book and could barely run a mile in P.E. without passing out. That was before I started pumping weights, before squats, before doing two hundred push-ups in the morning to start my day, doing sprints, before the hooks and jabs and side kicks and roundhouse kicks and spinning back kicks became my trademark.

I said, “Fuck you.”

With his other hand he grabbed the front of my throat and squeezed, made me gag and look into his blue eyes. He growled, “Say, ‘No, sir. I don’t mind, sir,’ you insolent bastard.”

He let me go when another officer passed by. I gagged and caught my breath while perspiration tingled down my forehead into my eyes. I tilted my head and looked at him.

He smirked. “Now what you have to say?”

I spat in his face.

His cheeks turned crimson. He stared at me while my saliva rolled down his scarred face into his ill-trimmed wheat-colored mustache.

“That’s your ass, boy.”

Veins popped up in his neck while he stood there, clenching his teeth and wiping my juices from his eye, handkerchief in hand. He kept watching me, wanted me to break down and show my fear. It was there, but I refused to let it be seen. Another officer passed by and scarface told him what I’d done. It looked like they were about to double-team me, but the second officer said to report the assault and they both stormed away.

A second later the door opened again and my mother eased her bruised face inside.

She said, “Don’t hate me.”

“Love you, Momma.”I smiled. “Get away from here.”

She fondled her wedding ring. Tears formed in her eyes. She dropped the police blanket from her shoulders, took her cross off and put it around my neck.

She used her soft fingers to wipe the sweat from my eyes.

“Somebody’ll come get you out. Maybe Uncle Ray. You might be able to go back to Philly and stay with him for a while.”

“Uncle Ray don’t like us. We’re Catholic. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t like nobody but Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

“Stop saying that.”

“It’s true.”

“I’ll call him anyway. I’ll tell him you made honor roll so he’ll know you’re still doing good in school. Let him know you might get a scholarship. You could help him around his grocery store in the evenings.”

I shook my head. “Don’t worry about me. Get away before he hurts you. All he’s gonna do is beat you up, then go out to Fort McDowell and spend the night with that Indian woman. He ain’t been home in two days, then walks in complaining about some stupid dinner. Tomorrow he’ll be mad about his shirts. The next day his shoes.”

My old man was standing in a crowd of badges, guns and whispers. The ambulance crew had bandaged his head and he was back on his feet. I’d beat him with everything I could get my hands on.

He made a single-finger gesture for Momma to come.

My beautiful momma looked tired of the life she was living, and that made me sad. She wiped her eyes and kissed the side of my face. “You understand, don’t you? You’re a big boy now. Almost a man. You can take care of yourself. You understand.”

I kissed the side of her face as my answer.

“Don’t be angry.” She twisted her lips. “Don’t be like him.”

“Iwon’t.”I smiled for her.“ Go back inside before you get in trouble. Stop taking so much of that medication.”

She rubbed her eyes, then dragged her fingers down across her lips. “It calms my nerves.”

“Why you wanna sleep so much?”

“Sometimes”—she patted my legs with her thin fingers—“sometimes I have nice dreams.”

She was distant, reciting and not living the words.

I said, “Dreams ain’t real, Momma.”

“Sometimes—” She stopped and kissed my forehead. Her voice became as melodic as the poetry she always read. “Sometimes they’re better than what’s real.”

I fought the dryness in my throat that always came before my tears. I was scared. Fifteen and a half and living in fear.

She wandered away, wringing her hands and looking back at me with every other step. We blew each other dysfunctional kisses.

I’d be in juvenile hall, then a boys’ home until was old enough to register for the draft and vote.

Living with criminals would be like going to a different kind of school. Nigerians, Mexicans, Whites—no matter what nationality, they were all caught up in the same game. And didn’t hesitate to lend to the schooling on everything from three-card monte to rocks in a box to pigeon drops, even broke down how to pass bad checks. A few were bold enough to run telephone scams from the inside.

That was different from the education I was after.

I had dreams of getting into Howard, to a frat life and a world filled with sorority girls. Always wanted to stomp in a Greek show. Make enough money to get a small place, get Momma to move in with me. I was working on our escape.

But that night, guess I had had all I could stand and couldn’t stand no more. I wanted to be like a superhero and rescue my momma. That was my mission in life. What motivated me.

Hard to save anybody when you’re locked up, when you’re too busy trying to fight to save yourself. When you’ve made yourself a prisoner.

I did want to save her. That gave my life a lot of purpose.

But there would be no Howard. No sorority girl at my side. And the closest thing to a frat I would see would be a bunch of young hardheads lining up for roll call, all wearing prison blues, most with tattoos. Our Greek show was marching in sync to go get our meals.

Momma would find her own way to freedom.

My momma would take too many pills and become an angel.

My daddy would be found dead behind the wheel of his Thunderbird at Fort McDowell. Ambushed and shot outside of a married Indian woman’s place.

On that night of changes, I sat in the back of that squad car, staring at the colorful lights dancing in the night to make my pain go away. Watched the rainbows chasing the rainbows.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"A beach bag is incomplete without one of Dickey's novels." -Essence

"Electrifying...In his compelling picture of another world, Dickey believably shows how even in the underbelly of society, loyalty, respect, and love have their place." - Publishers Weekly

"Another gem from one of America's most popular authors." - Seattle Scanner

"His specialty is weaving tales of romantic relationships...and his endings aren't always storybook. They're real." - Detroit Free Press

Meet the Author

Eric Jerome Dickey is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty previous novels as well as a six-issue miniseries of graphic novels featuring Storm (X-Men) and the Black Panther. Originally from Memphis, Dickey now lives on the road and rests in whatever hotel will have him.

Brief Biography

Los Angeles, California
Date of Birth:
July 7, 1961
Place of Birth:
Memphis, Tennessee
B.S., University of Memphis, 1983

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Thieves' Paradise 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 69 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book! I could not stop reading it... i love the plot and the characters. Eric jerome dickey is my favorite author and this book made me love his work more!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book from beginning to end. He has a way of making you love even the bad guys.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What!!!! Could not put this book down! I read this book years ago when I was in middle or high school, I literally stayed up all night to finish this book and slept in class. It felt like you had a front row seat into these people lives. It's like the characters came to life. This is a most definite read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You have become my favoret author, because of you i stated to read again. Some of your books really hit my heart as i have been in a few situations. As long as you keep writing..i will keep reading. Thank you
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the story from beginning to end. The fictional characters came to life in a big way. The plot was great. The dialogue and action kept me on edge. Definitely a page turner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this was great read. It's different from his other storylines and was filled with tons of action and steamy scenes. This is the 11th novel I've read by EJD and he just keeps getting better. I couldn't stop reading and I like how characters from other novels are in this book. Keep up the good work EJD and I can't wait to read the next one!!
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Karebear51 More than 1 year ago
It was exciting and one of his best
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up and rea the first few pages and was hooked. The storyline and characther development were great, a rare find in alot of the newer urban genre books that are being published today. I became an instant fan of EJD. I have since read most of his books and have to say he is one of the top black writers on the market.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This a wonderful read. I would recommend it to anyone. EJD writes books that you can go away with.