Lawrence Block. Even if you’re not a fan of mysteries or crime fiction, you’ve probably heard the name. And why wouldn’t you? The man has been writing fiction for 50+ years, has won just about every mystery award known to man, and was named an MWA Grand Master. Plus, his stuff is just good. I’ve read several of his novels and have never been disappointed. So imagine my surprise and excitement when I found that one of his previous works—the 1974 crime novel Not Comin’ Home to You—had recently been republished by Open Road Media (a publisher-crush of mine) and released in audio book format and was available at my local library. Hot damn, right?
Right. But that was just the tip of the iceberg, because
also agreed to front an electronic copy of the book for a giveaway (the drawing
for which you can enter by following the handy-dandy directions at the bottom
of this post) and coordinated a short Q&A session with the man himself (which will be forthcoming tomorrow). I think I lost consciousness for a few seconds
when I heard that last bit. I still get
a little slack-jawed when I think about it.
But I can’t afford to go all loopy now. I’ve got a review to do. Gotta throw some cold water on my face, slap myself around a little bit. Yeah, that’s the ticket. I’m feeling better already. And now, with all the hero worship beaten out of me, allow me to tell you a thing about Not Comin’ Home to You. It goes a little something like this:
Jimmie John Hall is 22, handsome, and a career drifter. He hitchhikes across the
, stealing whatever catches his eye,
assaulting people that get in his way, and generally riding high on a never-ending
speed trip. Betty Deinhardt is a lonely
fifteen-year old high school student from Podunk, United
Her father drinks, her parents fight constantly, and she keeps to
herself, dreaming of one day escaping from her family and her little town and
living a life of excitement like she sees in the movies. In some ways, the two seem diametrically
opposed; in other ways, they seem destined for one another. Enhancing this feeling is the way that Block
tells the story, alternating POVs between the two of them every other chapter. It gives the impression of two fated planets
spinning closer and closer until they crash into one another. Nebraska
The events of the story are set into motion when Jimmie John kills a man for his car and his gun and hauls ass for parts unknown. His meandering path takes him north into
|Lawrence Block (photo © Open Road Media)|
Block goes to great lengths to depict deep, intricate character portraits for both Jimmie John Hall and Betty Deinhardt. He illustrates detailed facets of their lives, from events in their childhood, to their relationship with their parents, to their inward thoughts and reasoning. Hell, fully one third of the book goes by before the two even meet each other. That’s how much time he puts into developing these characters. He accomplishes this depth through the alternating POV I mentioned earlier (which didn’t stoke my ire in this instance, mostly because it was well-structured and actually had a damn point), but also with short snippets of news reports or interviews or personal conversations spliced in at the end of each chapter. And it's not all death an horror for these two--included as well are brief interludes of tenderness and humanity, scenes illustrating the fact that--just as all heroes have flaws--so too should villains have their... well, whatever the hell is the opposite of "flaw." The result is an almost kaleidoscopic view of the characters—multifaceted, twisted, and yet somehow relatable.
This wasn’t my favorite Block novel (for that, I’ll kindly direct you to Grifter’s Game, originally published under the title Mona), but it rates pretty damn high—which is why I give Not Comin’ Home to You four out of five stars. Give it a look if you get a chance. If you’re a fan of the crime genre—or hell, of well developed characters in general—you’ll probably enjoy it.
Oh hey, and there’s this giveaway thing, too. If lady luck is on your side, that could be your chance to get your paws on it right there. Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter. The first entry is on the house (i.e., you don’t have to do anything extra to get it), and then you can earn more entries by helping a brother out in various ways. See the fine print for more details.