The industrious Carl Slaughter has interviewed me about my Darger & Surplus books and stories, and published the results in the current SF Signal. Which leads me to reflect on the nature of fictional confidence artists. Why are they so much more charming than the real thing?
I know whereof I speak here, because two con men once tried to take me with a cunning variation on the classic Pigeon Drop. It involved a hapless-looking man with a strong African accent stopping me on the street to ask for directions, a second man stopping to help, the promise of a large cash reward for my help accompanied by a quick flash of the first man's wad of greenbacks, and the determination that I should show the African how to use an ATM machine. If I had thought for a minute that I would take money away from the poor schlub, I might not have put the pieces together to realize it was a scam in time to walk away untaken.
I did not find those guys charming at all. Particularly since they were relying on my being not only gullible but at least a little racist as well.
But in our imaginations, we are free to fantasize being unfettered by morality and able to trick and outwit ordinary members of the herd. We imagine ourselves as the carefree predators and mere humans as our prey.
Which is, ironically enough, the most common trick in the con man's book: He offers you the chance to swindle somebody else. The roper presented himself as being a gullible fool, pathetically eager to throw his money away. And the inside man gently urged me to join him in fleecing him.
As I said, in real life not very charming.
Ah, but in our dreams...
You can find the interview here.