Saturday 16 May 2020



THE SCORCHING PULP NOVEL BY LAWRENCE BLOCK, AVAILABLE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 50 YEARS! On the border between El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico, five lives are about to intertwine — with fatal results. You'll meet MARTY: the professional gambler who rolls the dice on a night with... MEG: the bored divorcee who seeks excitement and finds... LILY: the beautiful hitchhiker lured into a live sex show by... CASSIE: the redhead with her own private agenda... and WEAVER: the madman, the killer with a straight razor in his pocket, on the run from the police and determined to go down swinging! This is MWA Grand Master Lawrence Block at his rawest and most visceral, a bloody, bawdy, brutal story of passion and punishment — and of lines that were never meant to be crossed. PLUS: Three of Block's rarest short stories from the pulps, mapping the border between sanity and depravity...

Another Audible outing with a book I've previously read about 6 years ago and whilst it didn't quite hit the same heights as the first time around - a 5 STAR read, it was still pretty damn good.

Sex, a professional gambler, cards, drinking to excess, a madman with murder and mutilation on his mind, an abandoned girlfriend turning tricks for lifts and participating in sex shows to earn a crust, her on stage partner - a lesbian who's falling deep for her, and another bored woman finding excitement and disappointment in the border towns of El Paso and Juarez.

Lots going on, quite a busy book, an interesting cast of characters, none of which are especially likeable, they're all selfish, all self serving and despite that motivation none of them especially seem particularly happy with the cards they've been dealt.

Quite a decent pace, as we switch from character to character and a swift violent climax which seemed to rush up on this reader.

4.5 from 5

Read - (listened to) April, 2020
Published - 1962
Page count - 256 (6 hrs 23 mins)
Source - Audible download code from the author's assistant
Format - Audible


My second 5 star read from December was Lawrence Block’s Borderline, a short novel written back in the early 60’s. I think I’d be entertained reading this guy’s shopping list.

Sometimes it’s hard to define what I like about books. This one ticked a lot of boxes though…..interesting characters, especially Marty our professional gambler and Lily our young hitchhiker, drifting south from a feckless boyfriend who had her turning tricks, to becoming a participant in one of the legendary Mexican stage shows. Our other characters, including our killer were slightly less interesting to me….still you can’t have 5 leads can you?

With the action unfolding in our border towns of El Paso and Juarez and our characters criss-crossing the divide between the two countries, setting was a massive plus for me also.

One of the main characters or drivers in the book was SEX. I’m no prude but I was surprised by the amount of it in this one. I think a lot of my previous exposure to the pulps has been mainly at the bash ‘em and beat ‘em end of the spectrum as opposed to the strip ‘em and screw ‘em end. Block does have a way with words though, and I’m sure my ears tinged pink as I read, feeling like a ring-side viewer at our live sex-show! You've got to love this guy.

With our characters, Block serves up their pasts and presents in surprisingly quick order. When they intersect and collide, sparks fly and without spoiling, it’s fair to say our climax doesn't see a happy end for most of our participants.

Borderline was short and kind of ended surprisingly abruptly – I’d forgotten the extra stories at the back of the book and was still expecting an inch of story judging by the number of un-thumbed pages still to come. Once I got my wits back, my verdict was – fantastic.

The 3 extra stories entertained as well. Perfect reading material for a grim December.

I'm definitely hoping to get back to more from Mr Block in 2015, picking up where I left off with Scudder..... somewhere around book 5 or 6.

5 from 5

I did get access (sort of) to an Audible version after responding to an offer on one of the author’s newsletters, unfortunately I was incapable of downloading the correct programme properly in order to listen to this. I went to my local library instead and borrowed.


  1. If I'm being honest, Col, I think this one's a bit brutal for me, much as I like and respect Block's work. That said, though, I do like the noir sound of the characters and their interplays. And Block's writing, well, need I say more?

    1. Margot, not everything he has written will tickle everybody's fancy. I do like the variety and range of his work. And like you say, it's Lawrence Block...