Con (as in "confidence game") movies and novels

To guide off what I’d said in the other thread, consider THE FOURTH PROTOCOL: it opens with a heist, but it’s a con-artist-working-with-an-assistant-con-artist heist rather than a black-clad cat burglar scaling a building or whatever. And from there,

what got heisted turns out to include classified documents a guy was hoping to pass to the foreign government he’d been conned into spying for. And once that’s brought to the attention of counterespionage types, our hero (a) realizes that any ‘classified information’ the dupe passes will be believed, which promptly lets him con that foreign government into giving up classified info of their own – and then our hero (b) orchestrates stuff to con said foreign government into thinking that, no, the guy you thought you’d conned was cheerfully working for us all along, passing you false documents that you should totally junk now.

So, yeah, it’s a spy novel, but it’s basically cons all the way down.

Sneakers is about an organization paid by companies to pull heists on said companies in order to test their security. Much of the movie involves the organization being conned into pulling a heist, figuring out who conned them, and how to pull a heist on the cons.

Escape Plan is largely about a prison architect/professional prison escapee but there are at least two con games involved.

Yeah, they did. They were so good together that after Stephanie’s boyfriend William Holden died and Wagner’s wife Natalie Wood died I began to wonder if they might become a couple themselves.

Wagner’s 86 years old now and still looks great.


No, Greg is a total con artist, not an honest salesman. He and Marcellus admit such in Act 1.

Anyone who teaches music using the “Think System” is not to be trusted with anything! :dubious:

I caught that on ABC’s 4:30 Movie as a kid in the 70s. For some reason I didn’t remember Gilligan being in it (Jim Hutton played the lead). Even Jamie Farr, Klinger from MASH*, had a small role near the end.

My favorite in this genre is Spy Game, with Robert Redford and Brad Pitt.

ETA: Was there much con work in The Sandbaggers, does anyone remember? It’s certainly in a related genre, but maybe just a touch more adventure/investigative than con.

For con novels, you can’t go past Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less by Jeffrey Archer. I don’t much like his later stuff, but that is a good read.

You might also try Only When I Larf by Len Deighton.

Any of the Saint books by Leslie Charteris

Not a lot, if any. It was usually straightforward spycraft. I suppose a female agent finding a way to sleep with another spy is a con in the strict sense, but it really doesn’t fit.

From the golden age of Hollywood, there’s The Lady Eve, where Barbara Stanwyck is part of a con to part Henry Fonda from his money, only to fall in love with him.

Well, I really enjoyed ‘Leverage’ and still watch it on Netflix. I think the case just worked very well together. I watched a couple of episodes of Hustle but it isn’t available anywhere that I know. I would like to see more of it.

The only other movie I have seen was ‘The Sting’ which dealt with a ‘long con’ and I have watched that many time. From what I read above, many of the others deal with the individuals and not with the con, itself.


Heartbreakers is a comedy about a couple of con artists.

American Hustle involves con artists, although the ultimate con in the movie isn’t a typical crime.

A non-fiction recommendation: The Big Con by David Maurer. This is the classic account of the 1920s/30s con game, by a professor of linguistics who was studying criminal argots and became fascinated by the methods and sociology of the con-artists.

If that sounds dry, don’t be fooled - it’s a lively and well-written account of the con game, including narrative accounts of the three major long-cons (The Wire, The Pay-Off and The Rag, since you ask) and insights into the psychology of both marks and con-men. The account of The Wire was clearly the source material for The Sting, and the individual chapter titles of the movie (e.g. The Shut-Out) are directly taken from the book.

The writers for the Mission: Impossible TV series were also big fans of the work, though I don’t know that they used any of the cons in the book in the series (maybe The Wire). I think, mostly, they used it to get into the right mindset.

And yes, I’d recommend the book as well.

Conan Doyle’s “The Red-Headed League” certainly seems to fit here.

Hmm, a dilemma:

I have just read a good con novel, based on a modern variation on one of the classic cons mentioned above. However, it’s presented as being a straight crime novel, and the reader discovers that it’s all a big con at pretty much the same time as the protagonists/marks do. The dilemma is that if I name it in this thread, you’ll read it in full knowledge that you’re dealing with a con rather than a murder mystery which will make for a different, albeit not necessarily worse, experience. And if I don’t, then you won’t know about it.

Thanks to the magic of spoiler tags, of course, that’s not really my dilemma. It’s yours:

Christopher Brookmyre’s Dead Girl Walking

Spielberg’s *Catch Me If You Can *is a very watchable biography of the real-life conman, Frank Abagnale.

In the fantasy novel sphere there’s the Gentleman thieves series starting with ‘Lies of Locke Lamora’

The book is very good too. I haven’t seen the movie but I suspect the book has a good deal more detail and makes for a more interesting experience. Herman Melville’s (yes, that Melville) last novel. Pretty good.

For novels, I think ‘Wings of the Dove’ might count?