Monday 29 January 2018
LAWRENCE BLOCK - SINNER MAN (1968/2016)
To escape punishment for a murder he didn’t mean to commit, insurance man Don Barshter has to take on a new identity: Nathaniel Crowley, ferocious up-and-comer in the New York mob. But can he find safety in the skin of another man…a worse man...a sinner man...?
Now appearing for the first time under Block’s real name!
An insurance man kills his wife accidentally and weighs up his options. Call the police and face the consequences - his life as he knows it is over, even if it's ruled accidental and not premeditated.
Or leave his old life and re-invent himself in a new town as a new man. With sketchy documents that won't stand too much initial scrutiny, he's going to have to work the dark side of the street and integrate himself into the criminal elements running his new town.
Option A and we don't have much of a story. Option B and away we go. Don Barshter becomes Nathaniel Crowley and rocks up in Buffalo. Strutting around town, dropping a few dollars here and there, beating a man in a bar fight and he's soon on the radar of the local cops and the guys that run the town.
A meeting with the boss, a job as a bar keep - a front for illicit meetings and parcel drops and Nat's new life has begun. Steady and reliable, Nat's gaining credibility and coming to the attention of the right people. A power struggle in the organisation looms and Nat has to choose sides. The old guard or the new broom?
Again option B - getting his hands bloody and becoming the man he's thus far been pretending to be. With his place in the hierarchy assured and a steady squeeze on his arm, a trip to Vegas brings back memories of his old life, when a face from Connecticut semi-recognises him. An interesting if somewhat predictable twist in our tale. Does Don get his comeuppance, or can Nat continue with the good life?
Even fifty years ago, Block could tell a mean tale. I really enjoyed this one - an interesting tale, no real moral dilemnas for the players, only the reader - Nat's a bad egg but there's enough about him that I was hoping he could survive intact.
4.5 from 5
As an interesting footnote, the background to the republication of this a year or two ago by Hard Case Crime is almost as entertaining as the tale itself. Block penned it over 50 years ago, but never knew who had published it and under which of his nom-de-plumes and what title. A chance comment on a web-post a few years ago, brought it back into the light, as someone recognised the plot from Block's description in an article and here we are.
Read in January, 2018
Published - 1968 (this edition 2016)
Page count - 240
Source - Kindle Unlimited
Format - Kindle