A successful socialite's beautiful wife was raped and murdered in her own home -- and Matt Scudder believes the victim's "grieving" husband was responsible for the outrage. But to prove it, the haunted p.i. must descend into the depths of New York's sex-for-sale underworld, where young lives are commodities to be bought, perverted...and destroyed.
- Edgar Awards (Edgar Allan Poe Awards)
Block masterfully builds the pressure in this Edgar Award winner, as newly sober Manhattan PI Matt Scudder investigates the death of a TV producer's wife. (Aug.) -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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June 30, 2000
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Excerpt from A Dance at the Slaughterhouse by Lawrence Block
Midway into the fifth round the kid in the blue trunks rocked his opponent with a solid left to the jaw. He followed it with a straight right to the head.
"He's ready to fall," Mick Ballou said.
He looked it, too, but when the kid in blue waded in the other boy slipped a punch and groped his way into a clinch. I got a look at his eyes before the referee stepped between the two fighters. They looked glazed, unfocused.
"How much time is there "
"More than a minute."
"Plenty of time," Mick said. "Watch your man take the lad right out. For a small man he's strong as a bull."
They weren't that small. Junior middleweights, which I guess would put them somewhere around 155 pounds. I used to know the weight limits for all the classes, but it was easy then. Now they've got more than twice as many classifications, with junior this and super that, and three different governing bodies each recognizing a different champion. I think the trend must have started when someone figured out that it was easier to promote a title bout, and it's getting to the point where you rarely see anything else.
The card we were watching, however, was strictly non-title, and a long way removed from the glamour and showmanship of championship fights staged in Vegas and Atlantic City casinos. We were, to be precise, in a concrete-block shed on a dark street in Maspeth, an industrial wasteland in the borough of Queens bordered on the south and west by the Greenpoint and Bushwick sections of Brooklyn and set off from the rest of Queens by a half-circle of cemeteries. You could live a lifetime in New York without ever getting to Maspeth, or you could drive through it dozens of times without knowing it. With its warehouses and factories and drab residential streets, Maspeth's not likely to be on anybody's short list for potential gentrification, but I suppose you never know. Sooner or later they'll run out of other places, and the crumbling warehouses will be reborn as artists' lofts while young urban homesteaders rip the rotted asphalt siding from the row houses and set about gutting the interiors. You'll have ginkgo trees lining the sidewalk on Grand Avenue, and a Korean greengrocer on every corner.
For now, though, the New Maspeth Arena was the only sign I'd seen of the neighborhood's glorious future. Some months earlier Madison Square Garden had closed the Felt Forum for renovations, and sometime in early December the New Maspeth Arena had opened with a card of boxing matches every Thursday night, with the first prelim getting under way around seven.
The building was smaller than the Felt Forum, and had a no-frills feel to it, with untrimmed concrete-block walls and a sheet-metal roof and a poured concrete slab for a floor. It was rectangular in shape, and the boxing ring stood in the center of one of the long walls, opposite the entrance doors. Rows of metal folding chairs framed the ring's three open sides. The chairs were gray, except for the first two rows in each of the three sections, which were blood red. The red seats at ringside were reserved. The rest of the arena was open seating, and a seat was only five dollars, which was two dollars less than the price of a first-run movie in Manhattan. Even so, almost half of the gray chairs remained unoccupied.