Jobs for Deviants

Odd Jobs coverOdd Jobs: The World of Deviant Work: Confidence Men, Fences, Bookmakers, Safecrackers, Fortunetellers, Medical Quacks, Racketeers, Prostitutes, Strippers, Female Impersonators

Submitter: I’m torn about whether to weed-and-replace or simply weed this one!  Like many academic libraries, at the liberal arts college where I work, we tend not to weed as much as public libraries.  An older book could always be useful to some scholars looking back for some historical perspective on how a subject was researched and treated in the past. But with pages falling out, this book was in such poor condition that weeding was necessary.

My favorite part of  this gem is not the 1970s bubble font used in the chapter headings but the long subtitle:  “Odd Jobs: The World of Deviant Work: Confidence Men, Fences, Bookmakers, Safecrackers, Fortunetellers, Medical Quacks, Racketeers, Prostitutes, Strippers, Female Impersonators.”   Maybe the connection between snake oil salesmen, mafia dons, and drag queens was more clear in 1978, but I don’t think these “deviant occupations” belong together in the same volume in 2011.  I am also not sure whether Sociologists today would refer to sex work or female impersonation as “deviant.”

According to WorldCat, a number of libraries in my area also have copies.  The book has circed twice (once in the 1990s and once in 2005) and was found on our document scanner, so someone was clearly perusing it.

My dilemma:  Is this book important enough/of enough historical value to the field to buy a copy in better condition for our library?  Or should I let it fade into the night and replace it with more current research?  I’ve included scans of the table of contents and some charts and graphs.

Holly: I would try to find something more current on the subject, if something exists.  The information in this book is just not accurate to today’s culture.  The integration of technology into safecracking and updates in medical quackery won’t be included in this one.

Are we really having this conversation? This web site creates discussions I NEVER thought I’d have in my lifetime!  Is the job of a Bookie the same as it was in 1978?  My mother must be so proud.

Keep it if it’s all there is.  Weed it and replace if possible.

Odd Jobs table of contents

Types of female impersonation roles

The Bookmaking Empire

Sex as deviant work

Odd Jobs references



  1. Am I the only person who reads that subtitle and imagines it being read by Harvey Korman?

    “I want Confidence Men, Fences, Bookmakers, Safecrackers, Fortunetellers, Medical Quacks, Racketeers, Prostitutes, Strippers, Female Impersonators and Methodists!”

  2. I’d say prositution is still a deviant work, especially with all the STDs out there, and many hookers are on drugs. But drag queens aren’t any more deviant than mimes, clowns, ventrilloquists, dancers, actors, singers, and other entertainers.

    Defiantly up to date information needed to include hackers, spammers, etc.

  3. I’m sorry the best I can muster is this, but that fontface needs to be stood up against a wall and shot. Shot better than it has been already!!

  4. IANAL(ibrarian), so take this with a grain of salt. I’m not a sociologist either, but from the bits of text you show us, I suspect that this book is not purely descriptive, but rather has some overarching thesis, with a specific definition of “deviant work” which links these various jobs together. Academic books are usually very specific, and much harder to replace: some other book about these jobs would probably make different points, come to a different conclusion, and just would not be interchangable with this book.

    If it were up to me, I’d probably run the book by a sociologist and see what they thought. Or you could even write the author ( and ask him if HE thinks the book is still relevant.

  5. There is zero possible way that ‘Nancy B. Achilles’ is anything but a pseudonym on that master’s thesis entitled ‘The Homosexual Bar.’

  6. I say weed it, and ILL a copy when needed.

    I wish outdated books like this, that may still have some value, would be available free through Google Book or the Internet Archive.

  7. Haven’t read other comments, forgive repeating:

    While the technology side and some of the details may be out of date, this book looks interesting as how people looked at deviance back in the late 70s. Incidentally, the sociological meaning (and technically, the true non-vernacular meaning) is simply “deviates from the norm”, although it usually contains an element of being commonly regarded as inappropriate or otherwise offensive. Something like cross-dressing today is still correctly labeled deviant, but then again, so are things which aren’t associated with criminality or sex ( hoarding or OCD behaviours, etc.). I guess a deviant job these days would be something like… I don’t know, an exorcist, or maybe even a particular niche night job.

    If it were in better shape… well, depending on the size of it, scan it before it goes. I wonder if there’s a group like project guttenburg which operates in a legal “grey area”, archiving and storing digital copies of stuff which is unlikely to upset anyone or get someone sued… anyone know?

  8. @Mangraa: Blackmask used to do that, but got destroyed out of existence by the villainous lawyers. I think there is another but can’t be sure, that does what you’re saying.

  9. I work in an academic library, we own a copy of this and I think it could still be useful. Our sociology librarian was very good on weeding (She just retired) and for whatever reason she kept this title on our shelves. Flipping through, I think it is still very relevant for a historical perspective. Though personally I would add other occupations of today to that list. Also, I don’t think sex work aka prostitution is a work of deviancy when taken into account the amount of exploitation in the sex industry here as well as abroad through the past and present. But that’s a whole otehr topic.

    PS: Love the font!

  10. I did graduate work in sociology (my degree is in another field, but I took a lot of sociology classes), and this definitely looks like an academic work to me. I can see some lines of research where it would still be useful, and it sounds interesting, as well. If you serve a population who would be interested in academic sociology, I’d keep it.

  11. @Angel: Hide your kids! Hide your wife!

    I also took a sociology class called “Deviant Behavior,” and this book would have fit in well with our assigned reading. It’s a little disturbing, however, how this one seems to be a how-to book as much as anything else. Perhaps it goes in the career section?

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