No money? No worries.

Even in a bad economy, you’re a survivor. You got connections, friends, and you got your game on. You won’t starve. A little ingenuity and a few tips, and you can hustle up what you need. It’s all good.

But watch your back, even if you have nothing to do with what’s going down. You never know when things might get bad, as you’ll see in the new book “Natural Born Hustler” (c.2010, Ballantine One World, $13.00 / $15.00 Canada, 112 pages) by Nikki Turner.

Desember Day hated when she and Fame fought, but it happened now and then. He was her man, but he sometimes forgot that Desember could hustle snow to a penguin. When he was ignorant enough to tell her where she could and couldn’t sell her merchandise, well, nobody told Desember what to do.

The only good thing about fighting was making up, and they were just about to do that. As they fumbled with one another in the car on a lonely North Carolina side road, a motorcycle passed and shots sizzled through the night air. Fame was hit all over, but the wound in his belly was the worst. Desember rode with him in the ambulance, praying and thinking about what got them there…

Ever since grade school, Desember and Fame were like magnets, though they fought then, too. His family didn’t like Desember. Her family was a mess, and she wondered who her biological father was. But love can overcome, and when they officially became a couple, Desember moved out of her Mama’s house–she was going to anyhow, because she couldn’t tolerate her stepfather’s abuse–and she moved in with Fame.

Things were good for awhile. Fame made sure they always had money and food on the table. Desember had his back on big jobs. She learned to cook. He taught her to shoot. Then came the night on the side of the road.

In the hospital, Desember was sure Fame would be okay. He was alert. Doctors were optimistic. Then, from his sickbed, he scrawled a horrifying note: “u n danger! U gotta get out of here. Not safe.”

At just 112 pages, “Natural Born Hustler” is less of a novel and more like a novelette. Compared to some books, it’s almost a pamphlet. But oh, what author Nikki Turner packs in this skinny little paperback…

If you’re a fan of Turner’s work (or if you just read the first four pages in this one), you’ll know instantly that this story is violent, sassy, and grittier than a sandbox. But it also has a surprising touch of something else: Desember Day is a fatherless young woman coming of age on the streets, and her attitude belies a certain tenderness. That makes you want to take care of her and protect her. And you’ll want to see more of her.

“Natural Born Hustler” is a sort of bridge to other Nikki Turner books, but can be enjoyed all by itself. If you’re in the mood for something quick, good, and gutsy, you’ll find it here–no worries.