Wednesday, 30 October 2019

LAWRENCE BLOCK - FOUR LIVES AT THE CROSSROADS (1962)


Synopsis/blurb.....

FOUR LIVES AT THE CROSSROADS is the latest addition to the Collection of Classic Erotica. But it came very close to being shoehorned instead into the Classic Crime Library.

Back in the late 1950s and early 60s, when I was finding myself as a writer and producing a great quantity of books under pen names, some of the books I wrote were as much crime fiction as they were erotica. Indeed, several of those titles by Andrew Shaw and Sheldon Lord have since been republished under my own name by Hard Case Crime and Subterranean Press—and subsequently astonished me by garnering respectful reviews. BORDERLINE, LUCKY AT CARDS, and A DIET OF TREACLE are examples, and so to a degree is my forthcoming Hard Case title, SINNER MAN. A little light editing made them acceptable crime fiction for a contemporary body of readers.

FOUR LIVES AT THE CROSSROADS almost made the cut. After Charles Ardai at Hard Case considered it and ultimately decided against it, I weighed adding it to my Classic Crime Library. A dark, savage tale of an armed robbery gone wrong, it's not a bad fit for the CCL—but the erotic content is high, and the editing required to make it less an erotic novel and more a crime novel seemed disproportionate. The metaphor that occurred to me, I must admit, was that of putting lipstick on a pig.

I did some light editing anyway, much of which consisted of reversing the helpful contributions of some unnamed editor at Nightstand Books. So here's FOUR LIVES AT THE CROSSROADS, available for the first time since its initial appearance in 1962. I can but hope you'll enjoy it.

Back on more familiar ground here with Mr Block and a tale of a robbery wrapped around the sex lives of most of the participants and those on the periphery of it in Cedars Corner, a village in Indiana. Our main focus centres around two of the participants, unknown to each other at the start of the tale.

An ex-con and no longer practising lawyer, drinking every day after release from prison for killing his wife's lover: a fat voyeur with his hand in all the small town rackets, as well as his pants; a horny teenage couple both virgins, both with different ambitions in life; the town tramp; a widowed school teacher; a local hood also a skilled wheelman and a couple of out of towners flown in for the job - an armoured car heist. Probably closer to eight lives if not more, at the crossroads.

I really liked the inter-weaving of the cast of small town characters, the shifting relationships, the altered dynamics, the planning and plotting, the secrets and the playing, the manipulation,  the progression from girl and boy virgins, to adulthood and adult things and the illusion of having more control over the future, the armoured car job element - the idea, the persuading, the decision to participate, the planning, the doubts, the execution and the double cross and the aftermath.

I'll be honest the bed-hopping and shenanigans also added to the enjoyment of the book, with the cast of characters each enjoying lively encounters..... some liberating, some satisfying, some desperate, some frustrating and some a little bit sad.

I don't know that I ever really totally liked our main couple - Marty McLeod, the ex-con, ex-lawyer and Betty Marie James, the deflowered virgin but they were interesting company and there was a part of me that wanted them to succeed. Time spent in their company was never dull.

Fast-paced, easy listening with a heady blend of crime and erotica.

Another tale with no happy every afters.

4 from 5

Read (listened to) - October, 2019
Published - 1962
Page count - 210 (5 hours, 3 minutes)
Source - Audible download code received from the author's assistant
Format - Audible

11 comments:

  1. I do like a good small-town setting and characters, Col. And trust Block to create characters with a bit of depth, even if they're not completely sympathetic. I also found his discussion of publishing companies and what's a fit for them (or not) interesting. Glad you found a lot to like here.

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  2. This sounds more up my street than the previous sea of sleaze . . . er, books in this genre by Block you've described.

    I did some light editing anyway, much of which consisted of reversing the helpful contributions of some unnamed editor at Nightstand Books.

    Been there, done that.

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    1. Definitely more crime than sleaze, though there's a fair bit of the latter present.

      Do editors and authors ever see eye to eye?

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    2. If I'm the editor, then, yes, of course.

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    3. See? You agree with me. Who in their right mind wouldn't?

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  3. Glad you liked it, Col! Coincidentally, I'm in the process of shifting this title from the Collection of Classic Erotica to the Classic Crime Library; it's really more a crime story than an erotic one.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by. Agreed, though there's some overlap, could you have it in both groups?

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