Nineteenth-Century Mississippi River Gambling Stories

Blacklegs, Card Sharps, and Confidence Men

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  • In Blacklegs, Card Sharps, and Confidence Men, Thomas Ruys Smith collects nineteenth-century stories, sketches, and book excerpts by a gallery of authors to create a comprehensive collection of writings about the riverboat gambler. The voices of canonized writers such as William Dean Howells, Herman Melville, and, inevitably, Mark Twain hold prominent positions. But they mingle seamlessly with lesser-known pieces such as an excerpt from Edward Willett's sensationalistic dime novel Flush Fred's Full Hand, raucous sketches by anonymous Old Southwestern humorists from The Spirit of the Times, and colorful accounts by now nearly forgotten authors like Daniel R. Hundley and George W. Featherstonhaugh. Smith puts the twenty-eight selections in perspective with an Introduction that for the first time thoroughly explores the history and myth surrounding this endlessly fascinating American cultural icon.