Robert Vaughn in Hustle TV seriesThe excellent AMC/BBC-TV series Hustle returns tonight at 10 EST. Tonight’s episode commences the fourth annual series of six episodes of the British-American co-production about a group of confidence tricksters with interesting moral codes.

Team leader Mickey "Bricks" Stone will not appear in this installment of shows, as the actor who portrayed him so well, Adrian Lester, could not fit the show into his busy schedule, a direct result, one suspects, of his excellent portrayal of this interestingly complex character. Stepping up to become the new team leader will be Danny Blue, a cocky Cockney played by Marc Warren.

The other team members will return as well, and a new character will join: energetic, hotheaded Billy Bonds, played by Ashley Walters (Get Rich or Die Tryin’).

Hustle, created by Tony Jordan, who wrote several of the episodes, is a laudable addition to the long line of popular fictions about confidence tricksters who are on the wrong side of the law but the right side of morality. Erle Stanley Gardner specialized in this type of writing before embarking on his hyperpopular Perry Mason novels (and Mason, too, can be seen as one of these characters, especially in the first decade’s worth of novels about him).

The stories of Gardner’s con-man series characters Lester Leith, Ed Jenkins the Phantom Crook, and Paul Pry are well worth reading, although mostly difficult to come by today. The mystery-fiction publisher Crippen and Landru is reportedly planning to release a volume of Lester Leith stories, but no date has been set yet.

In the meantime, you can obtain used copies of an earlier anthology, The Amazing Adventures of Lester Leith, which I highly recommend. Used copies of the only Paul Pry anthology released so far, The Adventures of Paul Pry, are also available, here. Finally, an excellent collection of Ed Jenkins stories, Dead Men’s Letters, can also be found in used copies, here. I recommend both the Pry and Jenkins books in addition to highly recommending any Lester Leith stories you can find.

And watch Hustle.