Walter Serner's first story collection, published in German in 1921, brought to narrative form the philosophy of his earlier Dada manifesto/handbook, Last Loosening: A Handbook for the Con Artist & Those Who Wish to Be One-life is a con job and demands the skills of a swindler. With its depiction of a world of appearances in which nothing can be trusted, At the Blue Monkey helped establish the ex-doctor and renounced Dadaist as a literary "Maupaussant of crime" and offers in this first English translation 33 stories of criminals, con artists and prostitutes engaged in varieties of financial insolvency, embezzlement, sexual hijinks, long and short cons, and dalliances with venereal diseases and drugs.
Told in a baroque, sometimes baffling poetry of underworld slang in an urban world of bars and rent-a-rooms, these short tales are presented to the reader like so many three-card Montes in which readers come to realize too late that they may well themselves be the literary mark.
Walter Serner (1889-1942) helped found the Dada movement and embodied its most cynical and anarchic aspects. After breaking with the movement, he began publishing crime stories and the 1925 novel The Tigress. Moving constantly across Europe, he eventually disappeared and was rumored to have vanished into the criminal milieu he wrote about; in fact he had returned to Czechoslovakia, married and become a schoolteacher. In 1942, he and his wife presumably died after being moved from a concentration camp, his books banned and burned by the Nazis.