Wednesday, 24 June 2020
LAWRENCE BLOCK - DEAD GIRL BLUES (2020)
You might as well know this going in: Lawrence Block’s new novel is not for everyone. It’s recounted in journal form by its protagonist, and begins when he walks into a roadhouse outside of Bakersfield, California, and walks out with a woman.
And rapes and murders her.
But, um, not in that order.
Right. But it’s what he does with the rest of his life that’s really interesting…
Lawrence Block has been writing and publishing crime fiction for sixty years. He’s received recognition for lifetime achievement in the US and the UK. His books have won awards and occasionally show up on bestseller lists. Several of them have been fimed.
Here’s what he’s said about DEAD GIRL BLUES:
“I don't think it's terribly commercial. And there are elements that will put off a lot of readers.
“But, see, Dead Girl Blues doesn't owe me a thing. I hadn't planned to write it, so it doesn't have to bring in money to justify the time I spent on it. The book is its own justification. I'll publish it myself, on my 82nd birthday, and all of y'all can buy it or not buy it, read it or not read it, and like it or not like it.
“I've shown it to some friends whose opinions I trust, and they told me that Dead Girl Blues is one of the very best things I've ever written. And then they added that they could see where it might have problems.
“So I read it again last week, and I realized DGB was exactly the book I wanted it to be. And how often does that happen? And what more could an old man possibly ask for?”
A new Lawrence Block novel on his 82nd birthday, what more could a fan of his work want?
A confessional novel in the form of a journal, as a man recounts events of his restless youth when he murdered and raped a woman he met in a bar, before leaving behind that life and reinventing himself as a new man.
We look back at the monster and try and reconcile these events with the happily married man, with the successful business, the cozy suburban life, the well-adjusted children and the respect of the community.
In the reading of his journal, we are privy to more insight than the sanitised confession to his son and wife. The family are somewhat surprisingly undisturbed by his revelation. It's a marked contrast to I think how my own would react to me confessing to a murder I committed in my long distant past, based on previous conversations we have had.
The journal reveals a more sadistic and spirited predator, albeit one that has managed to exercise supreme self-control for the vast majority of his life. His consensual sex life with his wife and their shared fantasy offering release and catharticism for his urges.
In the lead up to the family news and story time, our man wrestles with a few dilemnas. His murder victim is the subject of a cold case investigation and his son has unwittingly set in motion a chain of events which may preface an unwelcome knock at the door.
Disturbing, yet enjoyable. I wonder what it says about a reader who can enjoy a book like this.
4.5 from 5
Read - June, 2020
Published - 2020
Page count - 218
Source - review copy from one of the author's assistants
Format - Kindle read on laptop