Saturday, September 15, 2018

21. Nick Harrison Scores Again by Lawrence Block

This was a strange read.  It started with its purchase.  I picked it up from a guy selling books on a blanket in Mile End in a place where people don't usually sell books or anything.  It was weird because he had like 40 books, all paperbacks from the late 80s.  He also didn't have change and seemed more interested in the graphic novel he was standing and reading than in actually selling the books.  From afar, the blanket looked really promising and I did find one or two gems but mainly I got the books because they were in that rare zone of being readable for me but not collectible so I can take them with me and not worry about damaging them.

I like Lawrence Block but don't love him.  He is a solid, engaging storyteller with a very similar cultural perspective as Westlake (with whom he was close friends).  Both share that slight distance from their material but somehow Block's feels slightly farther than Westlake and I don't totally connect with the characters.

The cover has the subtitle "Another Chip Harrison Mystery".  This is false advertising.  There is no mystery.  It is, I discovered, the follow-up to a first Chip Harrison novel.  The conceit of this one is that Chip Harrison is the author, as he was of the first and you learn this early on.  There is a lot of asides and talking to the audience and bald hommages and references to other authors.  It's all a bit meta.  At the same time, very readable and the story flows.  Chip is hanging around in New York City in the 60s, hanging with Bohemians but eventually running out of money.  Through a convoluted path, he ends up with money from a bus ticket that he uses to guide him in his next steps, which is to get on a bus and head to this random town.  He ends up in a small town in the south, living and working at a small brothel at night, helping an elderly preacher in the day and balling his daughter during lunch hour.

There is a lot of sex in the book.  At times, it almost feels that it is supposed to be a sex novel, either for sales or because Block wanted to try it out.

It's enjoyable and it flows, but it's kind of weird in its overall purpose.  I enjoyed being in the world of a young unfettered wanderer in 60s America, but wasn't sure what I was doing there as a reader.

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