A caper about a trio of petty grifters in Turin who try to pull off the Big C (Con): second novel but first English translation.
Our narrator Vittorio is bright and pleasant young man, a university graduate who studied literature and therefore has neither the skills to find a respectable job nor the humility to degrade himself with manual labor. So grifting comes naturally to him, as it does to his friend Milo, whose Uncle Grissino is a well-known bunco artist. Milo and Vittorio are just small-time hoods whose basic m.o. consists of hanging out in bars selling counterfeit Ecstasy capsules to teenagers, though the two dream of greater things: the Big C. It eludes them, however, until Milo appeals to Uncle Grissino to take them into his confidence and show them how it’s done. Grissino agrees, and soon the three have set up a phony marketing campaign for a nonexistent dietary supplement. The secret, Grissino points out, is knowing when to walk away: Having gone to some trouble working up magazine ads and co-opting a legitimate but untraceable bank account, the gang arouses little suspicion in the short two weeks that they actually operate the scam. From there, it’s on to bigger things: A phony courier service that offers cut-rate prices for never-to-be-delivered services by selling discounted vouchers in advance. Here the serious money starts to roll in, fed by corporate greed and a managerial obsession with the bottom line. Vittorio and Milo are riding high, but there’s a dark cloud hanging over their success: Vittorio has been carrying on with Milo’s girlfriend, Cristina, for several months. Is there no honor among thieves? A quaint notion. In the end, the only lesson to be learned is: Don’t con a con.
Funny, fast-paced, and surprisingly good-natured: a nice romp through the thickets of good and evil. (N.B. Books to Film: The Italian film company RAI Cinema is currently in production with an adaptation of The Ballad of Low Lifes.)