Tag Archives: The Sting

A Horse is a Horse, but I Remember #Secretariat

I will never forget the look on my Uncle Frank’s face as he tossed the small piece of paper in the air and walked away in disgust.

In fact, as I stood there looking at the faces of the others in the pool, I didn’t understand why they were looking at me so strangely.

There were even a couple who looked angry.

The date was June 9, 1973, and I was four months shy of my thirteenth birthday.

There was a cookout at my father’s house and I, along with a few of my brothers and sisters were there.

It’s rare to be able to recall your exact whereabouts on a specific day forty-two years ago, unless that day was historically significant. John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the day the space shuttle Challenger exploded on take-off and the day the Boston Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years are some examples (that last one probably more so for me than most of you).

So what was so special about June 9, 1973 that allows me to remember a Saturday afternoon cookout at my father’s house?

It was the day of the 105th running of the Belmont Stakes.


It would be an understatement to say my father had an affinity for gambling. For those of you who have read my novels, the character of Ralph Donabedian is loosely based on my dad.

So with a big horse race happening, it goes without saying that there were some wagers being placed at the gathering.


There was also a pool—the gambling kind, not the swimming kind.

The entry fee for the pool was $10 per couple.

When it came time for the entrants to draw their horse from the torn pieces of paper in the “hat”, my father noted that they were one couple short. There were six horses and only five couples, so my Uncle Eddy pulled my cousin Debbie and me from the sidelines and told us he would pay our entry fee so we could round out the pack.

I think I was the third one to pull a name from the hat.

I had no idea what was going on, I was just following instructions.

I reached in and removed a slip of paper and tried to pronounce the weird name written on it…the best I could do was “Secretary”.

That’s when Uncle Frank tossed his slip of paper in the air and walked away in (mock) disgust.

I asked my father what was going on. He laughed and said “You just won the pool!”

Secretariat made it look easy.


Even after he won by thirty-one lengths, Debbie and I weren’t 100% sure what all the fuss was about, but we accepted the payout with huge smiles.

Only five horses ran in the race.

One of the six was scratched just before post-time, so we had to refund that couple’s money, and naturally we had to refund Uncle Eddy for staking us…

So we ended up splitting a forty-dollar pot.

A day of fun in the sun was great, but leaving with a twenty-dollar bill in my pocket made it a very memorable cookout indeed.


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Now Biff, Don’t Con Me (the story behind my next Ike story)

A few weeks ago I turned my TV on in the middle of an ION Television marathon of the program Leverage.

Even though the show originally ran from 2008 – 2012 this was my first time watching.

Since there wasn’t really much else on, I decided to watch an episode and see if it was any good. The first episode had me interested enough to watch the second, and before I knew it I had watched five more.


The show was basically a rehashing of Mission Impossible (one of my all-time favorites), with the biggest change being that the Leverage crew was not employed by a covert government organization…they were a group of con-men, grifters and thieves with a penchant for playing Robin Hood.

I really enjoy the way the team uses confidence (con) games to restore justice after a rich and powerful bad guy has screwed a “little guy”.

Flashback…When I was 13 the mother of one of my friends took us to see The Sting (Paul Newman, Robert Redford – 1973). Most of the movie was way over my head, until it ended, and I saw that final puzzle piece drop into place, completing the picture of the ultimate con. I left the theater thinking it was about the best movie ever.

Today, nearly 40 years later, I still think it’s one of the best movies ever (Jaws notwithstanding).

Where am I going with this?

Good question…

Yesterday (April 2) was the 40th anniversary of the night The Sting won seven academy awards, including Best Picture – a fact I shared on my Blindogg Books facebook page’s daily “On this day” in history post.


Last night I watched an episode of Leverage before I went to bed and the combination of the two must have triggered a subconscious response, because when I woke up this morning I had an idea for a new Ike short story (not the first time I’ve gotten inspiration from a dream).

For those who don’t know, in addition to releasing my seventh novel this summer, I also plan to release a collection of short stories about Ike before Christmas. I’ve already written seven stories for the collection, this will be number eight. My goal is to have at least 20.

Ike is developing quite a following so I’m bowing to pressure and giving his fans something to hold them over until book number eight.

So what was my story idea?

Not gonna tell ya…

If you want to know the story you’ll have to buy the anthology when it comes out, but I will tell you that there will be two con-men who think Flagler Beach would make a good place to set up shop…until they run into a complication named Ike.

Ike shirt front

The “research” for the story has me hoping that my computer’s search history is not being monitored by law enforcement.

Interesting side note…con men have been around for a really long time – we’re talking centuries, probably longer – but many of the classic cons haven’t changed much at all. It’s pretty fascinating stuff, and goes to show that, while we may think the human race has advanced over the years – for all intents and purposes human behavior hasn’t.

That’s about all I have for you today…



As always – thank you for reading


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