The New York Times bestselling author and master of the modern mystery returns with a fierce and poignant new novel featuring his acclaimed killer-for-hire, Keller
John Keller is everyone's favorite hit man: a new kind of hero for a new, uncertain age. He's cool. Reliable. A real pro: the hit man's hit man. The inconvenient wife, the aging sports star, the business partner, the retiree with a substantial legacy. He's taken care of them all, quietly and efficiently.
Keller's got a code of honor, though he'd never call it that. And he keeps the job strictly business. "What happens is you wind up thinking of each subject not as a person to be killed but as a problem to be solved. Now there are guys doing this who cope with it by making it personal. They find a reason to hate the guy they have to kill. I don't know what's a sin and what isn't, or if one person deserves to go on living and another deserves to have his life ended. Sometimes I think about stuff like that, but as far as working it all out in my mind, well, I never seem to get anywhere."
But while Keller might be a pragmatic and crack assassin, he's also prone to doubts and loneliness just like everybody else. There was a psychotherapist once. A dog. Even a woman. And though he's got Dot, his wisecracking contact and sometimes confidante, and his precious stamp collection, these days, it doesn't seem to be enough.
Keller's been at this business a long while. Just maybe it's time to pack it in and find a nice little house in the desert. Only problem is, retirement takes money. And to get money, he's got to go to work. . . .
Hit Parade, the third novel featuring the fascinating Keller, displays the hallmarks that distinguish Lawrence Block's award-winning fiction: the intelligence, the clever plotting, the humor, the tricky twists and ironic turns, the darkness and emotional complexity -- and, above all else, the humanity.
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June 01, 2007
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Excerpt from Hit Parade by Lawrence Block
Keller, a beer in one hand and a hot dog in the other, walked up a flight and a half of concrete steps and found his way to his seat. In front of him, two men were discussing the ramifications of a recent trade the Tarpons had made, sending two minor -- league prospects to the Florida Marlins in return for a left -- handed reliever and a player to be named later. Keller figured he hadn't missed anything, as they'd been talking about the same subject when he left. He figured the player in question would have been long since named by the time these two were done speculating about him.
Keller took a bite of his hot dog, drew a sip of his beer. The fellow on his left said, "You didn't bring me one."
Huh He'd told the guy he'd be back in a minute, might have mentioned he was going to the refreshment stand, but had he missed something the man had said in return
"What didn't I bring you A hot dog or a beer "
"Either one," the man said.
"Was I supposed to "
"Nope," the man said. "Hey, don't mind me. I'm just jerking your chain a little."
"Oh," Keller said.
The fellow started to say something else but broke it off after a word or two as he and everybody else in the stadium turned their attention to home plate, where the Tarpons' cleanup hitter had just dropped to the dirt to avoid getting hit by a high inside fastball. The Yankee pitcher, a burly Japanese with a herky -- jerky windup, seemed unfazed by the boos, and Keller wondered if he even knew they were for him. He caught the return throw from the catcher, set himself, and went into his pitching motion.
"Taguchi likes to pitch inside," said the man who'd been jerking Keller's chain, "and Vollmer likes to crowd the plate. So every once in a while Vollmer has to hit the dirt or take one for the team."
Keller took another bite of his hot dog, wondering if he ought to offer a bite to his new friend. That he even considered it seemed to indicate that his chain had been jerked successfully. He was glad he didn't have to share the hot dog, because he wanted every bite of it for himself. And, when it was gone, he had a feeling he might go back for another.