Thursday, December 15, 2022

The Big Grab

Marvin Leroy Schmoker (1933-2008) changed his name to Zekial Marko in his adult years. It is under this name that he wrote scripts for shows like The Rockford Files, Kokchak the Night Stalker, and Toma. But, as an author of fiction, Schmoker/Marko authored seven novels under the pseudonym John Trinian. Most of these novels have been reprinted by Stark House Press as twofers, including The Big Grab. This heist novel was originally published in 1960 by Pyramid, and then later was adapted into the French film Any Number Can Win. The book was re-titled to match the film name and published again in 1963. Stark House Press has a new edition of the novel out now with another Trinian title, The Savage Breast (1961).

When the novel begins, protagonist Karl Heisler has just been released from a five-year prison stint, his third imprisonment to date. With 14 years behind bars, Heisler reflects on his life as a criminal and family man. Walking through San Francisco, Heisler thinks to himself that he has to find his old cellmate Frank Toschi. The two have a heist to plan.

In the clinger, Heisler met a wiseguy mobster who once worked at a posh Syndicate casino. On his deathbed, the mobster provides Heisler intricate details on how to rob the place. Who would even dream of stealing from the mob? Heisler dwells on the proposed heist during his last few months in the pen. With the help of his former cellmate Toschi, the two hope to knock over the casino and then split for parts unknown. 

The Big Grab reads like a typical heist novel penned by the likes of Richard Stark, Lionel White, or Dan Marlowe. Trinian's novel is compelling and driven by the details and planning of the heist. An interesting addition is Heisler wife and child – the former ready to divorce him and the latter believing that Heisler is a sales guy. Like most of these crime-fiction novels, the heist never goes according to plan. The Big Grab adds some twists and turns in the finale that added an additional spark to the predictability. 

Heisler is a dynamic main character with an abundance of emotional and family baggage. I enjoyed Trinian's rich subtext of the lifetime criminal finding himself imprisoned with civilian life and the overbearing strains of normalcy. Trinian cleverly reveals the addiction of criminality through an enjoyable, exciting prose. If you enjoy the caper or heist novel, then The Big Grab is sure to please. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.


  1. It is worth noting that while Marvin Leroy Schmoker/Zekial Marko wrote scripts for television shows, he is better known for his work as an author of fiction under the pseudonym John Trinian. His most well-known work is the heist novel The Big Grab, which was originally published in 1960 and later adapted into the French film Any Number Can Win. Stark House Press has released a new edition of the novel, which also includes another Trinian title, The Savage Breast.

    The Big Grab is a compelling read, with a well-developed plot and interesting characters. The novel follows protagonist Karl Heisler, who has just been released from prison and is planning a heist with his old cellmate Frank Toschi. The heist does not go according to plan, adding twists and turns to the story. Trinian's writing is engaging and adds depth to the story through Heisler's struggles with his criminal past and his family life. Overall, fans of the heist genre will enjoy this novel.

  2. Some of Trinian's work appeared in men's adventure magazines, such as "The Gigolo" in MAN'S MAGAZINE, January 1965. Though it's not noted in the mag, that's a version of Trinian's early "sleaze" novel A GAME OF FLESH (, published by Bedside Books in 1959. There's no artist credit for illustration used in MAN'S MAGAZINE, but I assume it's a reuse of cover art from a paperback published by Pyramid, which also published MAN'S and regularly reused Pyramid cover art. Does anyone happen to know the paperback use or the artist?

  3. It is fascinating to me that the 1960 cover of the Pyramid novel seems to have been based on casting of the movie... which came in in '63, so the casting choices were probably known when it was published. That is a slightly younger version of Jean Gabin , and a really good version of Alain Delon. I really wish the stark house editions had dug a little deeper, instead of using the DVD cover image for this one.