Sunday 12 April 2020



Presenting EVAN TANNER—the first series character created by Lawrence Block, bestselling author of A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES...

Ever since a shred of shrapnel did a number on his brain’s sleep center, Even Tanner has been awake 24/7. This gives him more time than your average underachiever. Time to learn the world’s languages (he’s fluent in Basque, but has trouble with Chinese). Time to embrace the world’s lost causes and irredentist movements (The Flat Earth Society, the League for the Restoration of Cilician Armenia, the Society of the Left Hand). Time to write term papers theses for students with more money than knowledge. And, most important, time to do his dreaming while he’s wide awake.

When his girlfriend, T'pani "Tuppence" Ngawa, disappears on a jazz tour of Thailand, Tanner flies to Bangkok, slips his CIA escort, and rushes to the rescue—only to wind up caged by bandits, who plan to behead him at daybreak. He enlists a young and sexually inexperienced Thai, Dhang, with the promise that he'll get him laid. Their escape route ultimately leads to North Vietnam—and, eventually, into the DMZ. Oh, you don't really expect a summary of a Tanner adventure to make sense, do you? It's a wild ride, partly by bullock cart, and no one but Tanner could bring it off...

Evan Tanner's fourth adventure and a different theatre of operations this time - south east Asia, as opposed to eastern Europe. I welcomed the change of setting after three books spent mostly behind the Iron Curtain.

In a nutshell, we open with Tanner, a prisoner of Communist guerillas, in a jungle cage and due execution the following day. We then backtrack to the reasons for his current predicament, before his escape and further adventures including some jungle trekking, a near fatal fever, some intelligence gathering, going native, an alliance with an impoverished Asian, longing for the resurrection of French Indo-China dominance, a couple of jail breaks, the death of a rapist, a boat trip, a near-miss skirmish with NVA troops, attracting friendly fire from American forces in Vietnam, joy-riding in a North Vietnamese tank and eventually reaching the safety of allied forces in the possession of the king of Thailand's jewels.

Plenty of humour present, particularly in the on-going frustrations of Tanner's virgin accomplice, Dhang - frustrations amplified by several near-misses, each of which seem to land the odd couple in greater peril. I liked their sense of loyality to each other and Dhang eventually achieving his goal.

Some of the escapades stretch credibility, but I was enjoying the outing. It's rare that a Lawrence Block book disappoints me. This one didn't.

4 from 5

The three previous Tanner books have all been enjoyed.
The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep
The Canceled Czech
Tanner's Twelve Swingers

I'm looking forward to the next - Tanner's Tiger

Read - (listened to) February, 2020
Published - 1967
Page count - 240 (5 hrs 40 mins)
Source - Audible download code from one of the author's assistants
Format - Audible


  1. It's funny, Col, espionage fiction isn't usually my cuppa. But some authors do it well, and of course, Block is such a talent. The setting for this one really interests me, too; I haven't read enough crime fiction that takes place in Southeast Asia - just a few authors and there are more out there. Glad you found so much to like about this one (and I agree about Block's skill with wit).

    1. I definitely think you would enjoy these. I don't think you could especially regard them as serious espionage books, a lot more light hearted and almost accidental.

  2. I have got to read some more of these books. I have the 2nd in the series and this one.