by Nicholas Griffin
The year is 1916, Europe is at war and American industrialists are getting rich. Englishman Ben Cramb deserts the trenches of northern France and stows away on an outbound transatlantic ship. When the vessel docks in New York City, a place untouched and largely unaware of the horrors of war, he realizes this is the place to reinvent himself. In the process, he soon falls under the sway of the urbane and mysterious Julius McAteer, who sees in Ben his chance to finely hone the tools of someone who can master the art of the con. They concoct a ruse, pick their mark – a blustering Midwestern cattleman named Henry Jergens – and the game is afoot. But the further Ben follows the money in New York, the closer he moves back to the war in Europe and his shattering experiences there. This page-turner is rich in historical detail and filled with romance and adventure. It’s a fascinating journey inside the art of the con, and a moving novel about what happens when we try to find happiness at others’ expense.
The Steerforth Press, ISBN-10: 1586421328
Nicholas Griffin has made historical fiction his literary playground . . . [and] 1916 Manhattan proves especially fertile ground... Griffin writes with authority on his chosen subjects, and even though he employs enough point-of-view shifts to give an unintended meaning to his book’s title, the effect works, raising the question: Who is conning, and who is being conned?
— Sarah Weinman, Time Out New York
Pick of the Week - Dizzy City
After he's wounded on the front lines of WW1, English deserter Ben Cramb arrives in NYC armed only with the ingenuity of a budding con artist. Avuncular Julius McAteer takes Ben under his wing and sics him on cattleman Henry Jergens, an ostensibly easy mark. But nothing is as it seems. The intricate crime drama plays out like a blindfolded chess match; Ben's postwar paranoia and a romance with a secretive actress only add to the delicious confusion. Griffin deftly shifts among three different narrators, parceling out unexpected revelations with the confident wink of an experienced hustler.
David Greenwald / Entertainment Weekly
The dichotomy between down-and-dirty, grifter-inspired intrigue and the subtle and intense symbolism throughout, all against a richly described and turbulent historical backdrop of 1916 -- make "Dizzy City" a stellar literary pulp gem.
Chicago Sun Times
"Enjoyable and undeniably clever ... Ben Cramb discovers he can be dizzied just as easily by love as others can by money. And that's not a trick or swindle."
Newark Star Ledger
This rich, wonderfully imagined book is a war novel, a historical epic, a love story and a picaresque romp all rolled into one. It begins in the trenches of Northern France in the fantasy-rich mind of Ben Cramb, a London lothario who winds up deserting rather than facing certain death. He stows away in a ship bound for New York, where he lands in a trench every bit as muddy and tough as the one he left behind.
In New York, Ben takes up with a con man and set outs to reinvent himself, only his good luck and quick wit are really not quite a match for the sharper knives of the big Apple. While seducing the actress wife of his Kansas City mark, he begins to lose sight of all the double-crossing going on around him, which we see through the eyes of multiple narrators, all of whom are juggled expertly.
Griffin clearly has done his research, as the New York of this period comes vividly to life, with its gimcrack newbies, the promise of quick money, the thronging side streets and the shattering el trains - and the plusher department stores which sing out a siren call of money. It is to Ben and men like him a playground and a proving ground, where around every corner there's a sucker born.
In this, his fourth novel, Griffin has really honed his writing to its finest cadence yet. The sentences have a bouncing, pell-mell momentum - they climb the walls, dust the streets, and sweep the rising tide of characters back and forth and, finally, on toward the coming war which Ben tried so hard to leave behind. It's a rare thing, this novel about conning, which acknowledges that the predatory instinct of a con-artist proceeds from a closeted understanding of his own ineradicable weakness.
president of the National Book Critics Circle.
September 2, 2007
"Griffin demonstrates a flare for the historical novel. This clever, agile novel is thoroughly enjoyable."
— Library Journal
"Ben Cramb, the strange and fascinating leading character in Nicholas Griffin's new novel Dizzy City, is a severely wounded World War I soldier who deserts the British army rather than return to the trenches of France, becomes a stowaway on a wartime ship bound for the United States, which has not yet entered the war. In New York, he becomes a con man of major proportions, all the while haunted by the war he has run from. Griffin's story is wonderfully written with masterful style. I was riveted by Ben Cramb."
— Dominick Dunne
"A great read... richly researched, complex and utterly compelling."
— Mark Mills, author of The Savage Garden
"Griffin hits his stride in his fourth novel, a stylish and ambitious story of cons conning cons.... [He's] in fine form, and the novel's historical detail and multifaceted plot should keep readers riveted."
Ben Cramb, "a petty criminal, flees the carnage of the Great War and lands among con men in the Big Apple, where war of a different sort is being waged. . . . When various stings come to a climax, they involve the war Ben thought he had escaped. Smart entertainment."
— Kirkus Reviews
"Dizzy City is ingenious, a caper inside a historical novel full of unexpected twists and turns. Delightful!"
— Kevin Baker
"Ranging from the trenches of the Great War to Tin Pan Alley and the Great White Way, Dizzy City is rich and absorbing. Nicholas Griffin is a surehanded talespinner, his prose vivid yet never showy. This is the best sort of historical drama, lovingly detailed yet concerned more, ultimately, with the tricky, conflicted hearts of its actors."
— Stewart O'Nan
"Pat Barker meets Raymond Chandler. Dizzy City is a rich, tactile twister of a book."
— Peter Behrens