In 1928 New Orleans, eighteen-year-old Sonny LaSalle is a top prep student and champion amateur boxer and he venerates his fraternal twin uncles, Buck and Russell, armed robbers who love their profession. Sonny secretly believes that he, too, is a natural outlaw and persuades his uncles to take him on as a partner. But when a bank job goes bad, Sonny is sent to jail, where he unintentionally kills a policeman who is the son of the most feared lawman in Louisiana, widely known as "John Bones."
After nine months in the infamous Angola penitentiary, Sonny makes a harrowing escape and manages to reunite with Buck and Russell. The carefree trio head out for the boomtowns of west Texas, where the money flows as freely as the oil, unaware that vengeance follows close behind, as the cool, calculating John Bones begins a relentless campaign to hunt down Sonny ... no matter what.
About the Author
James Carlos Blake is the author of nine novels. Among his literary honors are the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Southwest Book Award, Quarterly West Novella Prize, and Chautauqua South Book Award. He lives in Arizona.
Read an Excerpt
A steeple bell rang the noon hour as Buck and Russell tugged their hat brims low over their sunglasses and went into the bank. I watched from the car, the engine throbbing into the steering wheel under my hands. We'd nabbed the Packard in Baton Rouge and would abandon it down in Plaquemine, where we'd left Buck's Model A parked beside the police station. Buck said it was the safest place for it. "World's full of damned thieves," he'd said, grinning big. "A man can't be too careful." I said I'd always wondered if that meant a man could never be careful enough or that he couldn't be excessively careful. Buck looked at me like I was speaking Chinese. Russell said he only hoped the car didn't have a red light on the roof and "Police Department" painted on the sides by the time we came back for it.
Verte Rivage, Louisiana. A hot July day. The sky pale blue and streaked with thin clouds. Mockingbirds squalling in the oaks. Spanish moss tilting in a weak breeze carrying the smell of the bayou from the edge of town, the tang of fresh-cut grass. Cajun music fiddling faintly from a radio in a screen-door barbershop. The headline in the newspaper rack heralding William Varney's normi nation for president by the Prohibition Party. More people on the sidewalks than you'd expect at dinnertime, but hardly any street traffic. According to Buck's informant the town had a sheriff and two deputies, one man for each shift, but we'd seen no sign of the day cop. The informant also said the bank was holding five thousand dollars in farmer's market receipts. We figured it for an easy score.
But as Buck and Russell never got tired of telling me, you never know.They hadn't been in the bank two minutes when the sudden howl of a siren made my heart jump and my gut clench like a fist. In the backview mirror I saw a sedan with a flashing red light come around the corner two blocks away. Behind it came another one with its light and siren going and then another. I had the top-break .44 in my hand before I was aware I'd picked it up from the seat. I knew Buck and Russell could hear the sirens-the whole parish must've heard them. Cars kept turning onto the street and joining the row of red lights and adding to the caterwaul. I couldn't believe all the cops. I thought we were had. I put the Packard in gear, everything in me saying Go!
The rule was, if a Job went to hell it was every man for himself. That's what they'd told me. But the way I saw it, as long as they hadn't gone down, the job hadn't gone to hell. Besides, I knew damn well they'd never in the world run out on each other or on me. So I stayed put-clutch to the floor, .44 in hand, eyes on the mirror-and watched the line of cars coming down the street.
That's when it struck me something wasn't right. They were coming too slowly, hardly faster than a jog. For all the flashing and wailing, they were in no hurry to get anywhere. And nobody looked alarmed. More people were out on the sidewalks now, most of them smiling and waving at the cops. The barber stepped out of his shop, spat a brown streak, grimaced at all the hoorah and went back inside.
Now the lead car came abreast of me and I saw four men inside, none in uniform except for the sameness of their white skimmers, all waving back at the folk. The side of the car said "Ascension Parish Sheriff" though we were in the parish of West Baton Rouge. The next car was from St. John the Baptist. Whatever was going on had nothing to do with us, but still, it was unreal. Of all the possibilities you plan for in a heist, a slow parade of friendly smiling cops driving by with their lights going and sirens howling isn't one of them.
Buck and Russell didn't come out of the bank until the lead car went past it, which must've been when they realized the police weren't there for us. Then they were both at the door, still wearing the dark glasses. Buck had one hand in his coat pocket and the other holding his valise. His face fixed on me for a moment, then he walked off down the street as casually as a businessman going back to the office. Russell put his little fingers in his ears and screwed up his mouth to get a laugh from a couple of kids who had their ears covered against the screeching sirens. He smiled at them and tipped his hat to their mother and strolled off after Buck.
I watched as they went down the street and around the corner, then tucked the .44 in my waistband.
But I couldn't pull away from the curb while the parade was still passing. I cursed its slowness under my breath and kept an eye on the bank. There were only a few cars left to go. That's when a bald guy wearing a teller's visor peeked out the door and in the direction Buck and Russell had gone-then ran out into the street, flapping his arms and shouting something nobody could make out for the sirens. A car braked sharply to keep from hitting him, and the one behind it banged into its rear and shattered a taillight, and the two last cars behind them stopped short too. Now I was really blocked in.
The halted cars cut their sirens and their doors slung open and the...A World of Thieves. Copyright © by James Blake. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
....it was too darn short. Could have cut out some of the romance and added a few more heists. All and all, a good quick read.
This book really takes you back in time and to the struggles of life in the 20's, where not everyones character is judged by the wrongs they do to survive the era. Great Read
I just stumbled on to this book in the library, and I'm very impressed. You don't hear the annoying typewriter in the background like you do with a great deal of 'genre' fiction. Blake's writing is poetic and the pace is fast and furious. It's a winning combination.
In 1928 New Orleans, eighteen year old Lionel ¿Sonny¿ LaSalle is a good student, but all he wants out of life is to join his revered uncles Buck and Russell. When his parents die, his twin uncles agree to take their orphaned nephew with them as they rob banks. He drives the getaway car, but is caught by the cops. However, Sonny gets into a brawl with another prisoner. When a cop tries to break it up, Sonny, a talented amateur boxer, kills a cop with one punch. He is sent to Angola prison, but manages to escape and rejoin his notorious relatives. The trio goes on a robbing spree that includes helping chivalrously troubled women. However, the dead cop¿s father, John ¿Bones¿ Bonham, may be near retirement, but has executed many a prisoner. He plans to make the LaSalle trio his swan song even if it takes the rest of his life to catch up and kill the man responsible for murdering the only reason he had for living. A WORLD OF THIEVES is an exciting Depression Era crime thriller that on one level is a police procedural, but on another plane is a relationship drama between the key characters. The LaSalle threesome and Bones are intertwined especially through the latter¿s quest for vengeance. James Carlos Blake provides historical mystery readers with a powerful concoction that brings alive a vivid bygone period piece when crime sprees were more romanticized. Harriet Klausner