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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

HARDBOILED CORNER: KELLER IS BACK!

HARDBOILED CORNER: KELLER IS BACK!

HIT ME ~ LAWRENCE BLOCK

I’ve been a fan of Lawrence Block’s ever since I picked up a paperback copy of his first Mathew Scudder novel, Sins of the Fathers, way back in 1976.  Since then, I’ve read and enjoyed much of his prodigious output – making my way back through his prior books as well as trying to keep up with his new series characters.

Block has also had a significant impact on my own writing career.  His two collections of his Writer’s Digest columns (Telling Lies For Fun And Profit and Spider Spin Me A Web) have become constant rereadable touchstones, and his writing workshop made a deep impression upon me.

Still, while I enjoy Block’s novels, for me his short stories are where I find the true delight in his writings.  His concise twists and characterizations, his constant playing against type and expectations, are clearly displayed in two particular series – his stories featuring lawyer Martin Ehrengraf and those featuring the hit man known as Keller.

Both of these characters have skewed moral centers.  Their specific disaffections enable then to justify their actions to themselves and subsequently to the reader.  Neither character can be simply labeled as sociopathic.  Neither has a lack of emotional feeling, but rather a different paradigm through which they experience their feelings.  Through the social derangement of these characters, Block forces the reader to look at his own actions and moral decision making process, revealing weaknesses and questions not usually examined in the light of day.

Hit Me is the new collection of Keller tales, which will be available from Mulholland books in January 2013.  Like its predecessors – the three episodic novels Hit Man, Hit List, and Hit Parade, and one full length novel, Hit and RunHit Me moves Keller through a moral quagmire of tales, each a little different and each tied more and more closely to Keller’s fascination and obsession with stamp collecting.  It is this play of heinous, cold-blooded, crime juxtaposed against the dubious everyday pleasures of a collector’s mania that causes endless fascination – the tales are read not just to find out how Keller commits and gets away with his latest sanction, but equally to find out if he will get the current philatelic oddity he is pursuing.

If you haven’t been introduce to Block – and how could any mystery fan worthy of the name not have been introduced to Block’s body of work – or if you are one of his legion of fans, Hit Me will continue your love affair with Block’s words and characters. 


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