Wednesday 1 April 2020



Presenting Evan Tanner - the first series character created by Lawrence Block, best-selling 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 importantly, time to do his dreaming while he's wide awake.

Karlis, Tanner's comrade in the Latvian Army in Exile, is pining for his true love, a gymnast who can't get out of the Soviet Union. So Tanner sneaks through a hole in the Iron Curtain, meets the child he unwittingly fathered on an earlier trip to Macedonia, smuggles a dissident intellectual out of Yugoslavia, adds to his retinue a six-year-old Lithuanian girl, who'd be the rightful heir to the Lithuanian throne if there ever were one, and winds up not with one Latvian gymnast but with a whole company of them. (Collect them all! Win valuable prizes!)

And he does all this without a passport. Oh, he had one, but he gave it away...

The third Evan Tanner book is similar in vein to the first couple - The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep and The Canceled Czech. We have the same landscape - late 60s Eastern Europe, the same cast of eccentric characters Tanner encounters on his road trip and what is an improbable and unlikely mission at the start, becoming more bizarre and impossible as the book progresses, before Block pulls it off spectacularly at the end.

Fun and, frantic, unlikely and unbelievable, enjoyable and entertaining.

Events, scenes and outcomes which in anyone's else's hands would have you saying... yeah, right and FFS, I was savouring and anticipating just to see how exactly Block gets Tanner out of his latest scrape.

Ostensibly, Tanner goes to Europe to visit his unseen offspring and to attempt the rescue of a Latvian gymnast - all in the name of love. What we get is ....... dissident smuggling, Chinese secrets, a Romanian child princess, a suppressed manuscript, a gymnastics team, state of the art Russian fighter planes, a defecting pilot and an unlikely unofficial child adoption. All in a few day's work for our special agent.

As per usual there are some prescient observations regarding nationalism and the state of nations in respect of the Soviet Union and its then satellite states.

Roll on book 4 and a new landscape - Asia.

4 from 5

Read - (listened to) February, 2020
Published - 1967
Page count - 216 (5 hrs 5 mins)
Source - Audible download code from one of the author's assistants
Format - Audible


  1. The more you share these Tanner stories, Col, the more I really feel I ought to try one. Block is such a good writer, and that's a really interesting context for a story. Tanner sounds like a well-drawn protagonist, too.

    1. Margot, even though they are over 50 years old the landscape is recognisable and they are good fun. Tanner is great company. I think you ought to try one at the very least!