Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Terry Williams and Trevor B. Milton's "The Con Men"

Terry Williams is a professor of sociology at the New School for Social Research. He specializes in teenage life and culture, drug abuse, crews and gangs, and violence and urban social policy. He is the author of The Cocaine Kids: The Inside Story of a Teenage Drug Ring; The Uptown Kids: Hope and Struggle in the Projects; and Crackhouse: Notes from the End of the Line, and is the founder and director of the Harlem Writers Crew Project, a multimedia approach to urban education for center city and rural youths.

Trevor B. Milton is assistant professor in social sciences at Queensborough Community College, CUNY, and author of Overcoming the Magnetism of Street Life: Crime-Engaged Youth and the Programs That Transform Them. His areas of research include prison reform and alternative-to-incarceration programs and the intersectionality of class and racial identity.

Milton applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, The Con Men: Hustling in New York City, and reported the following:
I would say that The Con Men passes Ford Madox Ford’s “page 99 test” (with flying colors, in my opinion!). The Con Men focuses on both Con(fidence) Artists (grifters who have mastered the art of deception) and hustlers (street entrepreneurs who have learned the science of persuasion). Page 99 falls into the middle of the chapter on “Petty Street Hustles,” where hustlers play an intrinsic role in the informal economy of New York City. Terry Williams and I wanted to emphasize that con artists and hustlers are a part of the city (for better or for worse), rather than being a contaminant in it. Hustlers in particular add to the convenience of city living, even if residents are opposed to the legality of their trade. As is said on page 99:
They are fully aware of the petty needs of the average New Yorker, and they appear along commuter pathways and well-worn tourist and weekend walking routes to accommodate vice, habit, and curiosity alike. Maybe you’ve never tried a shawarma, but walk enough sidewalks, and the option will appear; maybe you’ve decided to quit smoking, but a local man selling loosies in front of a bodega has decided otherwise; if it starts raining during your daily commute, someone will reliably be there to sell you a five-dollar umbrella as you exit your train stop.
For those who have ever lived in New York City—or even walked its streets as a tourist—there is something in this book for everyone. New Yorkers try to avoid the traps of con artists; with auto-suspicion of a smiling face asking for “just a minute of your time.” New Yorkers make hustlers a part of their daily commute: whether buying bottled water at a traffic light, a pirated DVD while seated in a restaurant, or an out-of-print magazine while strolling down a sidewalk.

Even though they may be a blessing or a detriment to one’s wallet, con artists and hustlers are fixtures in the New York community (for better or for worse!), and are the life-blood of New York’s character. Also said on the same page:
It is the duty of petty hustlers to make a home on the city streets, whether that’s a card table on a sidewalk or a predetermined route up and down certain city blocks…. Cigarette vendors occupy certain landings on the subway steps. Drug dealers hold down entire bodegas. For their customers, their whereabouts needed to be predictable.
Learn more about The Con Men at the Columbia University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: The Con Men.

--Marshal Zeringue