Thursday, March 21, 2019

Invitation to Violence by Lionel White

The 1958 heist novel, Invitation to Violence, is different from other Lionel White crime stories I’ve read.

Usually a caper is carefully planned by one man who, step by step, figures out how to pull it off, then recruits a crew, and assigns them each a task. But bad luck and the personalities of the team cause the whole thing to go wrong. This is what happens in White's famous story, Clean Break. That book was later reissued as The Killing and made into a movie by Stanley Kubrick.

In Invitation to Violence, White places the heist at the beginning of the book. Three men execute a carefully devised plan. They drive to an upscale suburban Long Island neighborhood and break into a jewelry store. Before they can get away, two police cars roll up and a gun battle ensues. Two of the cops and two of the crooks get killed, but the third thief gets away. 

While the thieves are working, Gerald Hanna, an ordinary guy with an ordinary job is playing poker. A usually cautious guy, Hanna takes a big chance and winds up winning a sizable pot.

Driving home to Long Island, he is thinking about his luck and the buzz he got out of taking that chance on his final hand. His car door is suddenly yanked open and the third thief jumps in with a satchel full of jewels and a gun.

From this early point in the story, Gerald Hanna’s life gets turned upside down. After winning at poker and believing luck is still with him, he decides to take a series of chances that put the local police and the boss behind the heist on his trail. But this nine-to-five office worker has no experience dealing with detectives or gangsters.

Invitation to Violence is another smart, suspenseful crime story from one of my favorite writers.

Lionel White (1905-1985) was newspaper reporter who started writing crime novels in the early 1950s, sometimes writing three or four in one year. He published about 35 books.

To read a review of White’s The Killing, click here, and to read a review of his book, The Snatchers, click here.

(And, if you enjoy crime novels with lots of action, please check out my book, Lyme Depot. Thanks.)

(For more posts on books, head over to Todd Mason’s blog.)


  1. Elgin, it's been a while since I read any of Lionel White's caper novels. I remember enjoying the two novels I did, one of which was HOSTAGE FOR A HOOD. I have never seen another paperback and I'll probably have to look for a Kindle edition.

    1. He wrote a lot, Prashant, and I keep coming across ones I’ve never read.

  2. Congratulations Elgin for getting your first book in print. I read the free preview and found it very interesting, esp. since I have a weakness for stories with brothers. Here's hoping it does real well.

  3. Thanks for the reminder of White's work. I did check my stash to see if I had this one, but unfortunately not. I still have some of my books to catalogue so there's still hope. I'll have to see if his work is available in digital format. It might be less costly than a vintage paperback.

    1. Col – There is Kindle version available for a very good price.