Thursday, 26 March 2020
LAWRENCE BLOCK - THE CANCELED CZECH (1966)
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.
THE CANCELED CZECH is Tanner's second adventure. A key figure in the Nazi puppet regime of Slovakia is in jail in Prague's Hradcany Castle, and the mysterious US spymaster who thinks Tanner works for him sends our lad to rescue the man. Not surprisingly, the Slovak has an obnoxious personality; he also suffers from catalepsy. Tanner, using his contacts and working his magic, does what he's asked to do—but with a poetic twist that only Evan Tanner could think up.
Another European adventure behind the old Iron Curtain for reluctant spy, Evan Tanner. A Slovak Nazi needs rescuing from his imprisonment in a Prague Castle so that the Americans can hopefully gain access to his files concerning like-minded dunderheads secretly working towards the establishment of a Fourth Reich.
Persona non-grata in this part of the world after his previous exploits, Tanner poses as an American tourist travelling around Europe. All to no avail, dodging secret police, jumping from moving trains, hiking through the night, sleeping in barns on a circuitous route to Prague, picking up a knockout sex-mad Aryan goddess along the way; Tanner discovers he's not the only man seeking Janos Kotacek, encountering some radical Israeli members of The Stern Gang.
Allied with his partners, all with different agendas for Kotacek, Tanner works with and against his cohorts taking advantage of a torch and his charge's catalepsy to outwit everyone and save the day, but not necessarilly the loathsome Slovak.
Fun, action, light hearted humour and a bit of sex (non-graphically depicted), as well as some pithy observations on the political map of Europe and the state of nations, I really enjoyed it. Tanner is great company and however tight the scrape he's in you do always know that Block is gonna get him out of it.
I enjoy the quirks of character - his inability to sleep and his grasp of multiple languages as well as his use of a myriad of contacts through his membership of a multiude of subversive and frankly strange organisations. I like his free spirit and his ability to improvise and decide the outcome of his mission, irrespective of his master's wishes.
Two down, six to go.
4 from 5
The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep was enjoyed previously. Tanner's Twelve Swingers is next.
Read - (listened to) February, 2020
Published - 1966
Page count - 186 (6 hr 56 min)
Source - Audible download code from one of the author's assistants
Format - Audible