In over 50 years of publishing, Lawrence Block has written more great words than almost any writer you can think of. Terms like "master" and "legend" get thrown around to often -- but if you wanted to throw a couple of them Block's way, I wouldn't argue with you. Yes, he really is that good.
For almost 20 years now, whenever anyone has asked who my favorite writers are, I've always answered "Ross Thomas and Lawrence Block." And two decades on, my answer is still the same. They are both essential authors that anyone interested in popular fiction simply has to read.
For Getting Off, the book chosen by Hard Case Crime to relaunch their publishing line, Block has resurrected an old pseudonym to grace a new book. "Jill Emerson" is the pen name that he used for several books back in the Sixties. Most of them were sex romps of one type or another -- which is appropriate, given that Getting Off is a sex romp of one type or another. But it's not a type we're used to seeing.
The subtitle of the book is "A Novel of Sex & Violence" so readers should consider themselves warned, because it's filled with both. Kit Tolliver, the protagonist of the novel is a woman who loves having sex with men. The problem is, what to do with them afterward? And there she's found a rather tidy, if blood-thirsty solution. (This is where the violence part comes in.) Much like the preying mantis, she first loves the men, then she leaves them -- at room temperature.
When it occurs to her one day that earlier in her life she had relations with several men whom she didn't kill, it starts to bother her. She's not the kind of woman who likes to leave things undone. Thus, she sets out on a detective mission of sorts, tracking down her former lovers, and setting things "right."
Getting Off is a shocking book, for those of us who still have that capacity. (I'm not too sure about myself.) It is certainly not for every taste, but it is brilliantly written. It's a sexy, violent (there goes that subtitle again), disturbing, darkly humorous, and immensely entertaining novel that prompts some interesting questions about the dichotomy between love (lust?) and hate, fidelity, and how one's personality (and pathology) are shaped by the things that happen to us.
For a man in supposed retirement, Block just keeps on doing what he's always done: write great books. Let's hope this "retirement" lasts a very long time.