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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Tuesday, August 12

Lawrence Block & Hit Me

I seem to keep repeating myself, repeating blogs, that is. I know I once wrote about Lawrence Block and his Matt Scudder series, also his Hit Man Keller series. What more can I say other than these two characters are among the very best in the detective/thriller genre. I’m in the middle of the latest Keller, Hit Me. It may be the latest, but it isn’t very late since I first read it more than a year ago. Like all great writing, a second or third reading can do no harm. I’m struck once again by the quiet way he tells the Keller stories, by how quiet and sensible Keller is, this good, sensitive, sensible collector of stamps is. He also has spent most of his life as a contract killer. But somehow Block has created a character that we can side with. Maybe not agree that what he does is all right, but we still like him. It may help that the people he kills are not nice people, usually someone connected with the mob.

Now, about the quiet style with a touch of dry humor. “What do they [monks] do, anyway?” asks Dot, Keller’s contractor of his jobs. “Pray,” Keller guessed. “Bake bread. Make cordials.” [Dot] “Cordials?” [Keller] “Benedictine? Chartreuse?” [Dot] “Monks make those? I thought that was Seagram’s.” [Keller] Monks started it. Maybe they sold the business. I think basically they pray, and maybe work in the garden.” [Dot] “The garden-variety monks work in the garden,” she suggested. “The laundry-variety monks keep themselves occupied with money and kidneys. See, the abbot was in cahoots with all the politicians.” [Keller] “Felonious monks,” Keller said. “Dot? You don’t think that was funny?” [Dot] “I chuckled a little,” she said, “the first time I heard it.” [Keller] “I just made it up.” [Dot] “You and every newscaster in the country.”

Keller’s views on gun control. “Keller wasn’t that crazy about guns. They were noisy, unless you used a suppressor. They left nitrate particles on your hand, unless you wore gloves. Sometimes they jammed, and sometimes they misfired. And, unless you got fairly close to your target, there was always the chance that you would miss. If you were close enough to rule out a miss, well, you were probably close enough to get the job done without a gun.”

An overheard conversation between two of his fellow philatelists: “Some days,” he said “all I want is to move everything in my life from the in-box to the out-box.”

A conversation between Keller and his wife Julia: [Julia] “Do you even know what baptism is?” [Keller] “Isn’t it to make you a Catholic?” [Julia] “No, darling, guilt is what makes you a Catholic. What baptism does is rid you of original sin. Do you suppose our daughter is greatly weighed down by the burden of original sin?” [Keller] “I don’t even know how you could go about finding an original sin these days.”

Block has said that he's retiring after nearly 150 novels, that Hit Me will be his last novel, not just in this series but last of all. What a shame. I'll miss the people of Block's world, especially Matt Scudder and John Keller. But I can always go back and reread them, right? There are five novels in the Keller series. If you’ve never read any, you could do much worse than to begin with the first, Hit Man. You won’t be disappointed.

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