The Tzer Island book blog features book reviews written by TChris, the blog's founder.  I hope the blog will help readers discover good books and avoid bad books.  I am a reader, not a book publicist.  This blog does not exist to promote particular books, authors, or publishers.  I therefore do not participate in "virtual book tours" or conduct author interviews.  You will find no contests or giveaways here.

The blog's nonexclusive focus is on literary/mainstream fiction, thriller/crime/spy novels, and science fiction.  While the reviews cover books old and new, in and out of print, the blog does try to direct attention to books that have been recently published.  Reviews of new (or newly reprinted) books generally appear every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  Reviews of older books appear on occasional weekends.  Readers are invited and encouraged to comment.  See About Tzer Island for more information about this blog, its categorization of reviews, and its rating system.

Entries in Lawrence Block (2)


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.



Hit Man by Lawrence Block

Published by William Morrow on January 21, 1998

Hit Man is the first in a series of books starring J.P. Keller, a laid-back assassin who, save for his profession, is just like the rest of us:  he walks his dog, goes out on dates, wonders about the lives of strangers he passes on the street, and takes up stamp collecting to alleviate his boredom.  Hit Man isn't a conventional thriller; it's an unconventional portrayal of a remorseless killer as an ordinary guy.

Block started writing about Keller in short stories that mostly appeared in Playboy.  Hit Man collects many of those stories and adds more material, but it still reads like a series of related stories rather than the novel it purports to be. There is no central plot. Keller gets a call from Dot in White Plains, who works for the old man; Dot relays an assignment to Keller, or Keller gets it directly from the old man; and Keller travels to wherever and makes the hit. Along the way Keller philosophizes and muses about his life and the lives of others, whether clients, victims, or total strangers. Some hits are more difficult than others; some present Keller with ethical dilemmas, creating interesting situations for a man who operates outside the boundaries of ethical behavior.  Toward the end the old man becomes a bit dotty, forcing  Keller to decide whether he wants to continue working in his chosen profession.

The interplay between Dot and Keller is often hilarious. Keller is an affable killer; the stories are surprisingly lighthearted and amusing, given the subject matter.  Readers looking for a thriller or a mystery might be disappointed with Hit Man.  This isn't a mystery and it isn't exciting; it's a series of scenes from a man's life.  The man happens to be a killer.  On that basis, the book works.