The bear is on the prowl in many different guises. He may be the master thief stealing into Graceland, an intense young passenger experimenting in terror, or a psychiatrist haunted by his patient's nightmare. Or maybe he's beautiful, lethal woman in a blood-red scarf. So beware of the this huge, dangerous beast. Because first he will enthrall you.. and then he will strike.
Best known for his Matt Scudder private eye novels, Block is also an accomplished writer of short fiction, and the 22 stories here, most of them post-1984, have appeared in a variety of magazines, including Playboy and the Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines. They are all skilful, written tightly and economically, with a mastery of dialogue; several are also, however, terribly slight. Some, like ``Cleveland in My Dreams,'' ``As Good as a Rest'' or the title story, are essentially no more than extended shaggy-dog tales. One of the three Scudder stories, ``By the Dawn's Early Light,'' is a treat--like one of the novels in miniature, and full of the tough melancholy that shrouds that impassive PI; another, ``Batman's Helpers,'' is a cutting New York cameo of casual brutality toward helpless street merchants. ``Hilliard's Ceremony,'' a story of faith and cynicism set in West Africa, could have been written by Somerset Maugham; ``Someday I'll Plant More Walnut Trees'' is also atypical, a brooding Chekhovian country tale. Only Block, however, could have conceived ``The Burglar Who Dropped In on Elvis,'' a welcome reminder of Bernie Rhodenbarr, one of Block's series heroes he seems to have abandoned. Sometimes the author's macabre imagination lends a remoteness, as in ``The Tulsa Experience,'' ``How Would You Like It?'' or ``Like a Bug on a Windshield,'' that is less chilling than distasteful. But the entertainment level is high throughout, and there is never any doubt of Block's prose mastery. (Apr.)
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September 30, 1994
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