Wednesday, August 31, 2011

NOIR NOW: GETTING OFF!

NOIR NOW: GETTING OFF!

LAWRENCE BLOCK

HARD CASE CRIME

Lawrence Block has been much on my mind lately. I recently re-read his collection of Writer’s Digest columns, Telling Lies For Fun And Profit, and then followed up with Afterthoughts, a collection of Block’s forwards and afterwords to reprints of his many novels.

Even thought I have had the opportunity to meet Block on several occasions, the literary Lawrence Block, the man imagined from having read so many of his personal pieces has become almost a favorite fictional character, even more fleshed out and alive than the actual fictional characters he has brilliantly created.

While Block’s series featuring private eye Matt Scudder or hitman Keller are always must reads for me, I also enjoy Block’s stand-alone novels – especially those reprinted by Hard Case Crime.

Now Hard Case Crime has gone one step further – publishing not just a new novel by Block, but one harkening back to the early days of his career when he was making ends meet by writing soft-core ‘adult’ novels under the pseudonym Jill Emerson.

But here’s the deal – this is Block writing as Emerson, but with a wealth of writing history now behind ‘her.’ This places Getting Off on a whole different level than the original Jill Emerson novels. In fact, the writing in Getting Off is as crisp, complex, and hard-hitting as anything Block has written as Block – and that’s saying a lot.

Getting Off is eminently readable, but it is also very dark, perverted, and as noir as noir gets. This isn’t a bad thing, but when you find yourself rooting for female sociopath Kit Tolliver you almost need a reality/morality check after turning the final pages. It is Block/Emerson’s total non-judgment of Tolliver that makes the character so compelling – yes, she is sick, but those she targets are in many ways even more morally corrupt and consciousless.

Getting Off may have been born of a style and pen name from another time, but it is as riveting and relevant a tale as Block has ever produced.

GETTING OFF

SO THIS GIRL WALKS INTO A BAR...

...and when she walks out there’s a man with her. She goes to bed with him, and she likes that part. Then she kills him, and she likes that even better.

On her way out, she cleans out his wallet. She keeps moving, and has a new name for each change of address.

She’s been doing this for a while, and she’s good at it. And then a chance remark gets her thinking of the men who got away, the lucky ones who survived a night with her.

She starts writing down names. And now she’s a girl with a mission. Picking up their trails. Hunting them down. Crossing them off her list...

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