Simon R. Green’s ‘Some of These Cons Go Way Back’

Next up was Harry Fabulous; handsome, charming, deeply fashionable, and all of it as fake as his constant smile. Harry showed no interest at all in the stalls, moving instead from one potential customer to another like a shark in good fishing waters. Harry would steal the shirt off your back, but do it so charmingly you’d end up apologising to him that it wasn’t of better quality. Harry Fabulous: con man, thief, grifter, and your Go To man for absolutely everything that was bad for you.

“Shaman! Dear fellow!” said Harry, showing me all his teeth in his most professional smile. “Good to see you out and about again. Haven’t seen you since . . . ah well, not in public, eh? What have you been up to?”

From The Spy Who Haunted Me, book three of the Secret Histories series.

I have mentioned in other reviews of Simon R.Green’s work that everything he writes is connected over and over again until a Gordian knot looks easy to untangle in comparison. If you haven’t been paying attention to that being true, now is a good time to do so as as Harry goes on in that bit to say that he ‘Had a bit of bad business with an angel in the Nightside, and now I find it necessary to do good works, for the sake of my soul . . . You know how it is.’ Those few words stated in Harry’s off-hand manner are spun out here into a well-crafted story aptly titled ‘Some of These Cons Go Way Back’.

(Digression for a minute. I did not think the artwork illustrating the ‘Eddie Razor’s Big Night Out’ story was all that brilliant, but the artwork here captures the feel of Nightside amazingly well. Cemetery Dance gets kudos for employing talented artists.)

I’m fairly sure that Harry first shows up in The Unnatural Inquirer, the ninth book of the Nightside series, when John Taylor says this of him:

I winced internally even as I turned to face the man who’d hailed me so cheerfully. I should have known who they’d send. Harry Fabulous was a fence and a fixer, and the best Go To man in the Nightside — for all those little and very expensive things that make life worth living. You want to smoke some prime Martian red weed, mainline some Hyde, or score someone else’s childhood (innocence always goes down big in the Nightside ), then Harry Fabulous is your man, always ready to take your last penny with a big smile and a hearty handshake.

Or at least he used to be. Apparently he’d had one of those life-changing experiences in the back room of a members-only club, and now he was moreinterested in doing Good Deeds. Before it was too late.

Ok, he’s sleazy — anyone dealing Martian Red Weed has to be. And not to be trusted. But what happened to Harry in that back room that’s got him scared? What could possibly make the man who can con anyone or anything be in fear of his mortal soul? And more importantly, what does it take to con the con? Well, a really old con with a large dollop of sleazy sex would probably do it.

Oddly enough, Harry is far too easily convinced that committing an act that Cain would have approved of is the answer to saving someone from a hideous existence. That Harry is quite willing to consider this act tells you how little he values anything not related to his own continued existence. Green very obviously takes great relish in thinking up really despicable characters that have no socially redeeming traits.

I won’t give up any more details about this tale as it’d spoil what happens for you. I do know that the eventual hardcover collection of all the Nightside tales is on my wish list! Mind you, Green doesn’t do these very often so go grab it to read this story as it may be years before it shows up anywhere else!

(Cemetery Dance, Number 60, 2009)

An update: this story is collected in Tales from the Nightside, a 2016 collection. No, it’s the hardcover collection of all the Nightside tales is on my wish list!

About Cat Eldridge

I’m the publisher of Green Man Review and Sleeping Hedgehog.

My current novels are listening to Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds, and reading Naomi Kritzer’s Catfishing on Cat-net and Anthony Boucher’s Murder in the Morgue My current graphic novel is Spider-Gwen: Most Wanted..

I’m listening to a whole bunch of new Celtic and Nordic new releases but I’ll dip in my music collection for such artists as Blowzabella, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, and Frifot as the weather goes colder.