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A Time to Scatter Stones by Lawrence Block

Published by Subterranean on January 31, 2019

Lawrence Block has concocted some interesting plots in his many decades as a writer of crime fiction, some of them in his popular Matthew Scudder series. A Time to Scatter Stones is a novella-length Scudder story that has more dialog than plot. The dialog is often entertaining, and it is to Block’s credit that he didn’t pad a story in which very little happens.

Scudder met Elaine when Scudder was married and still an NYPD detective. He met her again years later, when he was divorced and sober. They’ve been together for years, but when they first met, Elaine was a working girl. Scudder still goes to AA meetings but Elaine only recently joined a support group for former prostitutes called Tarts.

Elaine has a friend from Tarts named Ellen. Much of the novel consists of Elaine and Ellen discussing the kinky (or not) desires of Johns who engage the services of prostitutes. Scudder happily joins those conversations and even more happily fantasizes about doing a three-way with Elaine and Ellen. Elaine doesn’t mind the fantasy, so all is well and good.

Ah, but the plot? Well, a former client of Ellen’s won’t accept that she’s left the business. He wants to keep her on the payroll and is threatening to rape her if she won’t give him what he wants, including things were never on Ellen’s menu. Scudder tracks him down and teaches him some manners. That diversion takes little of Scudder’s time, allowing him to get back to what he enjoys, which (since he no longer drinks) seems to consist of talking about and having sex.

The story is littered with amusing musings and bad jokes and discussions of various combinations of sex partners who the two retired prostitutes have encountered. If you’re looking for a narrative version of Red Shoe Diaries with a beat-down thrown in, this is the novella for you. If you’re a fan of the Scudder series and wonder what Scudder is doing in his senior years, the novella will answer your question. If you’re looking for a thrilling crime story, you might want to look elsewhere. I enjoyed it as a voyeuristic and not particularly realistic look at the lives of prostitutes, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a crime story.


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