The Chips Off A New Block
On Hard Case Crime's Slayfest Book On The Block
A Keeper in Crime
Don K. Barbecue
Since, dear fears and leers reader, you axe me so slicely, all the lovely Gregory Manchess cover for Getting Off, the first new Hard Case Crime in way too long, needs is a big ole word balloon above the guy in bed's head. It should read as follows, since you arsed:
“Look, lady, all I SAID was, you got a knife butt!”
Butt first, before the review proper, bare with me and allow me to step into the way way almost slain back machine, and take it far, far in time behind ...
There I was, still a young kid of a man, stepping down off the curb in mid-60's Coletown, PA. Thing is, being already a big fan of Lawrence Block, I paid no attention to the Charles Chips truck heading right toward me. Now, Charles Chips were an outfit sold their munchies in cans that could be delivered, the contents consumed by the route regular, and if said customer wanted more of the same all he had to do was put the empty container out on the porch next delivery date, to be replaced by more Charles Chips whether the customer was home or not, no one the Wise's.
What I was reading back then was a battered old paperback belonged to my truck-driving uncle. Being on the road a lot, he'd buy every hard-boiled paperback he saw and leave them just Spillane around the house for anyone to pick up and enjoy. He'd read manly thing that had a big-fisted bruiser on the cover, gun in hand as he literally BANG!ed down a door behind which was a big-busted “broad,” as he called them, in danger. Needless to say, said cover gals were rather prone to wearing nothing much butt their latest set of damsel in distress perils. Bed her yet, if anyone asked Unc why he let his kids or myself borrow his books for a hot read he'd just shrug, go “Why knot?”
Guy kept me supplied with all the fifties and oily sixties sleuthly slam-bangers you can name. Hammer, Chet Drumm, Mike Shayne, Carter Browns, that guy Scott that always made me laugh to Shell and back. Not to mention a pre-Man from U.N.C.L.E. Mike Avallone that I'm sure many a big wheelin' tired trucker enjoyed before having an Ed Nooner.
Now, allow me to make like the Boy Scout I once was and change tense. The book in question was Mona, from Lawrence Block back when the thriller field hadn't yet gone all Pussy Galore a-ga-ga go-go over a certain super spy that I hope won't license to kill me just cuz he thinks my mentioning him here is Blass Fleming. Mona was mighty fine, so was the blonde gal on the yellow cover, which was the problem. My fault – I was the one about to step unknowingly into the path of that Charles Chips snack truck. Now, I won't say the driver couldn't spell, but what he delivered onto me was an unexpected SMACK!
Was I for just a minute or two floating up in hard-boiled heaven with my cover gal? I can't slay. I came to hearing this voice over and over again mumbling, grumbling, groaning. Took me awhile to realize that the voice was mine. Course it was mine, I was in Coletown ... with lotsa adult faces looking down at me, voices from afar and high up saying “Give the kid room to breathe already.” Me, I was flat out in the opposite side of the road I'd stepped onto, hoping somebody got the license number of the military machine that hit me, tanks.
Someone in the distance kept going “I'm fine, I'm okay, no really,” took forever for me to realize it was me, convincing no one. Somehow, eventually, my brain musta gone all Daffy Duck, cuz I swear I asked one guy “Uh, what's all the hub-bub, bub?” right before another concerned citizen said “Man, kid, you must really like that book a friggin' lot.”
Times were different then. He didn't say “friggin',” X-actly. Nobody got arrested, no cops showed, just as no uht-oh squad ever appeared. My scare-free stepping departing the curb hadn't got me medi-killed., obliviously. I shook myself, stood. Felt okay, I wasn't hearing angels or little cartoon birdies singing, although my head felt a bit shredded Tweety.
Seemed like a year of listening to Lawrence Welk, with all those friendly, helpful folks asking how I was, me saying “'Sokay, thanks, no really” over and over. On second thought, make that straight Lawrence Welk for, uh, vun anuh two years. Plus enduring a Coletown polka in the eye.
“Tru” it all, something hadn't made sense, what that guy had said even as the Charles Chips guy gave me a final “Glad yer okay, kid, I taught ya was a goner” thump.
“What did you mean, I must like this book” ... I waved it at him ... “a lot?”
“Well, kid,” he said, “that truck hit ya, ya flew across the street sideways a foot in the air and you landed like we did at D-Day. Only, I thought it was you got sunk, steada some'a my buds. And the whole time you held onto that book like yer holding onto it right the heck now.”
You got it, dear reader, he didn't say “heck.” More like a word sounds like what my head still felt a little like, which was muck.
I looked. Yup, my book was still in my hand, none the worse for scare. Me and my gun-blast of a book's cover gal had survived getting tossed, as they said in some Pennsylvania parts, “acrossed” our very own Block.
So, there was only one thing to do after I thanked everybody. Said I was off to meet my folks on Main Street, looked at my watch, in ten minutes. Only, I lied. I really, instead of heading directly to Main, cut down the alleyway and sleazed on over to look for maybe a Block book I didn't have yet over at “Books With Hooks,” the cover cutie in my mitt giving me back all her glove...
“Books With Hooks” is wordy of a whole story its own shelves. Some other time. THIS other time I remember I limped a mite ouch!-illy into BWH and immediately my eyes gloomed fright to my favorite section, the horror mag rack. Overnight a new paperback had apparently got itself creature featured: the Edgar Wallace novelization of a certain giant ape movie. Where oh pun I thought if I'd been holding that book a little earlier instead, I mighta been more than knocked onKongscious.
I won't tell ya the reaction of Ms. Mona when I bought the Kong book any Fay.
Years and many more paperback thrillers later, when I was at college, my paperback cover gal (slash) fender friend disappeared, never to gimme her red hot-blooded, killer diller thriller charms agun. Whoever took that book, I hope for my hard-boiled cover cutie that the thief wasn't the type who's tall, dork in hand scum ...
And with that, my apologies to readers hoping to get to a quick review while I try to make them feel a bit like I did when I was coming to that day, when all I could do was hold onto her and Mona lot. As she, I have no doubt, gave me a new Lisa on life.
And now it's time to, like that not Manchess-tly comely cutie with a knife on the new Block book might GET OFF on saying, “Cut to the chase!”
It's, it figures, fall of 2004. I'm trying to find something to buy in the horror section of a loco, not overly ghouled bookstore, and I don't want to pick up just any ole, ahem, thing. Nertz, no luck. I wander to the mystery aisle and what's the first thing hits my eye and it can't get any cornea?
It's a book sitting face out like someone picked it up and put it down agun just for me. Cool. I'd been looking for old Robert Bloch and found a new Lawrence Block. Thing's got a cool garish cover of a drive-by gang shooting from car window, dying victim out front giving his own heart a clutch.
Title says Grifter's Game. Whoa, I go, I never read that one, and suddenly I'm floored, thinking about almost getting Coletown “kilt” over a Block book that got me knocked half a block away many years ago. See, I'd kept up on Block – guy's a master of mayhem, single stories and novels, with, what, four more series mystery adventures plus the Scudder or Tanner series books. What, someone out there never heard of 'em? Okay, for those gun-informed:
The Matt Scudder series features the world's best drink-slinging detective. Don't laugh. Scudder may have an on-and-off the meat wagon drinking problem, but he's one of the best tough guys in a whiskey business, and a killer shot. I'm a bit outta date how many Scudder books are out there by now, but they're surely all worth about 8 million ways to Dewar's.
Me, I like to think somewhere up in hard-boiled heaven Scudder's being played by Dean Martin over angel-winged cocktail houris. Don't even wanna know what's going down in Helm ...
And if anyone does know, ya bedher do yer best to SILENCER!
Then there's Tanner. Been reading Tanner, it seems, since around the time of me and Mona going airborne. If comparing Scudder to the usual private eye is like comparing Nero Wolfe to The Thin Man, comparing Tanner to anybody's really tough, guy! Is he part Shell Scott the way hilarious happenings just seem to Prather-fall on him? Or, being a spy kinda guy, is he more like Our Man Flint, mid-'60's Coburn on slow burn or just a notch lighter, or --- okay, you fill in the bullets or blanks. All I can slay? Best one's Tanner's Twelve Swingers, which absolutely no one can possibly start reading and be caught dozen!
Cuties to the chase. There I am, panning a new Lawrence Block, Grifter's Game, and from across the store I feel like I'm falling like the guy on the cover, only I think I'm waking up to “Hey, kid, you okay?” and I see my Mona's cover before my brain's eye for the first time in unfaithful years. Imagine my surprise when I pick my back in '04 self up, pick up the book already and read the fine print under the cover title: “Originally published as Mona.”
I bought that retitled Mona and got to the car to read it so fast I may have broken Barry Allen's old speed record, which he can now take to the toilet and give a good Flash.
Turned out Game was but the first of a new line of paperback thrillers new and reprint, Hard Case Crime, virtually all of them the sort with cover art like we used to say guys like to lick. Like Block's The Girl with the Long Green Heart, whose cover gal's one long, tall minx in minks even Scudder might enjoy. I mean, she looks like she's just beggin' for a shot of McGinnis.
Back in the day, guys like my old truck-driving Unc surely woulda chicked out the cover gal to Block's Lucky at Cards from HCC, lick thighs. Bedsides, the Chuck Pyle artwork definitely draws one quite the pair at which to stare. Man, surviving around her could be pretty acey dicey.
Naughty to mention the alleycat artfully decorating the HCC cover to Block's A Diet of Treacle, another piece of illustration that layback when coulda inspired many an old-timer to Pyle on.
Time's passed. Here we are, 2011.Before taking a slightly over a year break, Hard Case published 65 thrillers, from writers ranging from first novelists to oldtimers Day Keene, Donald Westlake AND Richard Stark, & even Michael Crichton, can ya come a-Lange with me and Congo for it?
They also gave modern masters, like Stephen King, quite the “Haven.” No word, either, that he gave it Bach,man! Plus new Max Allan Collins thrillers new AND what Mike Hammer's creator left Spillane around, stuff that even when they aren't Hard Case are well worth Goliath Bone-in' up on. In fact, reviews of MAC's latest HCCs, Quarry's Ex and The Consummata, are due from Temple of Schlock any day now, along with Angel Dare's lay fest, Choke Hold, once this piece gets done Faust.
My advice: hit the HCC site and enjoy making selections. Why? Simply: if literary mystery and thriller founding fathers and beyond were still around today, well, they'd have changed some. But I believe Hard Case Crimers would by Poe himself be found Allan ghouled fun, I wouldn't Ligeia. Why, Sherlock himself would buy each and every one and take it Holmes. Nero himself would Wolfe each one down, and if his helper Archie wants to bet me agun it, I'll have me a Goodwin.
So, here's to Getting Off on the first new Hard Case. Thing is, G O's cover guy and gal, lust seen as caught in the hacked, could by now have escaped via the WINDOW to the REAR!
Getting Off is the best psicko killer thriller I've read since the other Bloc(h) guy's gore-iginal Psycho, and I was scare for the hard-cover! I know people may question me on that, gimme Hannibal Lecter lectures on other fine maniac not so mellow dramas, yet how CAN anybody look at G O's cover and not think, “Hey, it won't be that good, BUTT ... ?”
Trust me, Getting Off's wicked as spiked arsenic.
Yet often times the book's as neat and sweet as its cover gal's mollasses.
Book's also full of touches of loving human humor, and lick thighs sexy as skinning down for sin. Same time, G O's serial killer heroine could give Norman Bates lessons on techn-eeeek!
Getting Off to for thrills and bloodspills, book opens with our man-killing heroine reading She. And why not? By the time some readers finish this novel they just fright feel a wee bit Haggard! And I mean that in a ghouled lay.
I don't include, of course, any guys who buy the book just to see a nice arse ooh la undressed, oh no, although this is one rich and rampant book, wide open with rapacious carnage, yes! Which is exactly our heroine Kat's maim, I SAID main problem. At heart Kat's full of inner sweetness, yet she can get methodically hot with thrilling desire when what she means to do is kill. And that's not even her maim problem. It's mostly, see, a man thing. As in, their treating her like a thing.
It often takes serial mistreatment to seed the path of a serious reek-pitual killer. In Kat's case, make that ms.-treatment. Kat's father doesn't know from being bed her off. Worse, he gets away with it with the mom's consent. Sheldon Lord, lord, the woman might as well just say “Go ahead, have sex with our child, I incest.” Do these two predators get theirs? I'm giving it away here, so stop reading till next paragraph if you don't quite want to learn their fate yet, while I say:
“Yeah, they do, and then scum!” In ways to give shivers down the spine, even to hardened veterans from Children & Eeeee-Yew!th.
So, early on Kat's taken care of that grisly business, split town, changed names and looks a few times, things should be all behind her. Then she hits Pennsylvania, and finds a guy named Sid who ... well, you'll see. Let's say she more or less gets her Philadelphil of him. They separate, you see, and soon a snuff she wants to find him once more. Yer slay adead of me if you guessed she jest might not even care if he's still in Philly, long as she can put him Lansdowne.
Or what if since ole Sid's got married, will Kat show him such a slice of wife? Even though it's a bit more likely to be gonads make her go mad.
Mean slime, think of all the potential. What's Kat gonna do, slay, with that Zembo Shriner creep she meets, or will he get to her fez?
Yup, it's a Cross-Country trip worthy of Herbert Kastle, crossed with that other Bloc(h) again. In fact, our Kat would be quite capable of meeting Tony Perkins in a movie, dating him and taking him out, literally. Gee, and she looks like such a pretty poison ...
Ya see, Kat's got herself an immodest operandi. She's out to terminate each and every man who ever had carnal relations with her, and she's taken shames. And if Kat ever meets Hard Case heroine Angel Dare, their Ms. adventures just have to be called The Sexterminators.
Kat's nothing if naughty inventive. She much purrfurs giving her lovers the needle, but hey, there's other ways of being shot. And sometimes, not often, gore besides. Never mind, let her count the slays, cuz when she sez yer her ex-lover, she means it.
Now, you might think this could get predicta-bull. Okay, all those lovers Kat lethalizes she must get bedher as she goes aschlong. Yeah, but she soon learns the road giveth AND taketh lives at random sometimes. Not everything works in and out. Like, what happens to her when she finds one lover a helpless victim of one of our recent wars? Truth, I couldn't see it comin', and Iraq'ed my brains out.
Plus, all this slime on the road, the mad mistress of serial killers has gotta run into a serial killer who wants to take her out in the worst lay. Up to you, fear reader, to pick up Getting Off and see if the guy lives to see next Bundy.
Glad ya asked. By now one might ponder where's all the humanity and humor I talked about? Kat's scary origin story makes us side with her, like it or not, who can sympathize with child abusers? No way around shite, most of the people Kat finds or runs across are pure cock-a-roach crap. Yet then there's Rita, or as I like to call her, “Rita no one sweeter.”
Push buttons on the web enough and you'll find how Block came to write G O as “Jill Emerson,” and that story's worth a book all by its moan some. Takes somewhat more than just Block and his Kat to make G O such a great Rita.
Hard Case ya haven't read publicity on this, book's heavily and heavenly into lesbian scenes. Some are set-ups Kat goes through to get revenge. Some wanna turn the tables on her. Many same sex scenes, though, are off scream, like as Kat and her older lady Rita make cross-country love calls that burn up the “Wire you doing this?”es.
Everything about Rita makes me love her. Makes Kat love her more. Affection mixed with malice toward scum. Lust with laughter. Hecate, even the phone stimulation scenes are, no men involved or not, in fact quite jockuleer.
Anyone doesn't like such material can book the other way, surely. Free country. Also free for folks to live as they like. Fussing and futzing about adults being adults is like staring down a him-or-her-icane. I look at it this way, love's love. I'm a scarely straight cat, but hey, if Kat and Rita or any gay lovers wanna get married, let 'em suffer with the rest of us.
Which brings my Unc to mind. He's still alive, you know, and you guessed it, the man loves Hard Crime. What's that? “What's his view on gay marriage?” Okayyyyyy ... love it or hate it, here it is:
“Gay guys, gay gals wanna get married, let me suffer with the rest of us!”
Me, I haven't the faintest idea what Unk ... he always sez I should spell it with a 'k' ... means by that, X-actly.
Off course, it ain't that folks living as they like happens much in G O. Not if they're Kat's old lovers, who seem inclined to swiftly when found acquire grassy & green mold covers. Still, least like Block's Tanner, they do get their own special plots. Just one reason I'm giving Getting Off grave reviews bonely!
And ya want lonely, whatever diddle happen to ole Sid? And if I know, should I tell ya? What if, say, Kat couldn't find Sid? What if she only found his twin brother Cyril in stud?
Wait, hold on, lemme get the phone.
I'm answering a voice I'm unfamiliar with. “Yeah, right, like I said, the brother's named CY..”
“Did he ever get married?”
“Far as I can SEE.”
“What's she do?
“This CY, how do ya think Kat would most like to SEE him?”
“What will the guy who did Bugs Bunny do if he reads this?”
Hey, whuzzat brown truck doing? Hey, watchit, buddy, I just had that road friggin' chipped!
Funny, it almost looks – are those guns sticking outta there?
Hey, those guys aren't firing Blanc's! What's the lettering on their truck? Lesse. C - H - A - R. ... ? Whoa, gotta fly, looks like the chips are down and I'm about to be, uh, salted! (Here's hoping we all live long enough to read a Getting Off sequel with gouts'a she-kill!)