Small-time stoolie, Jake " The Spinner" Jablon, made a lot of new enemies when he switched careers, from informer to blackmailer. And the more "clients", he figured, the more money -- and more people eager to see him dead. So no one is surprised when the pigeon is found floating in the East River with his skull bashed in. And what's worse, no one cares -- except Matthew Scudder. The ex-cop-turned-private-eye is no conscientious avenging angel. But he's willing to risk his own life and limb to confront Spinner's most murderously aggressive marks. A job's a job after all -- and Scudder's been paid to find a killer -- by the victim...in advance.
This is the third of Block's superb Matt Scudder series to appear (it was first issued by Dell in paperback back in 1977), and its return now in hardcover from Dark Harvest (which did the first, Sins of the Fathers , last year) is great news for admirers. The story is swift, complicated and elegant, and Kellerman gets it right when he says that the Scudder novels ``are the best New York crime novels ever written.'' In this one Scudder, still in his drinking days, is paid by ``Spinner'' Jablon, a small-time hood, to hold an envelope for him, with instructions to open it only when he dies, and then do what's necessary. What's necessary turns out to be determining which of Jablon's three eminent blackmail victims did the little man in. One is a wealthy businessman who's been covering up for his teenage daughter, whose car killed a child; there's a society wife with a past in porn movies and prostitution; another is a candidate for governor with a taste for hurting small boys in sadistic sex. How Scudder finds out who had Jablon killed, and the sometimes tragic consequences of his investigation, provide the meat of this outstanding thriller, which moves effortlessly through sleazy bars, skyscraper suites and luxury hotels. The dialogue is, as always, dead on and rivetingly entertaining, and the atmosphere--Kellerman has it right again--is ``wonderfully morose.'' Not to be missed. (Oct.) -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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August 31, 2000
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Excerpt from Time to Murder and Create by Lawrence Block
For seven consecutive Fridays I got telephone calls from him. I wasn't always there to receive them. It didn't matter, because he and I had nothing to say to each other. If I was out when he called, there would be a message slip in my box when I got back to the hotel. I would glance at it and throw it away and forget about it.
Then, on the second Friday in April, he didn't call. I spent the evening around the corner at Armstrong's, drinking bourbon and coffee and watching a couple of interns fail to impress a couple of nurses. The place thinned out early for a Friday, and around two Trina went home and Billie locked the door to keep Ninth Avenue outside. We had a couple of drinks and talked about the Knicks and how it all depended on Willis Reed. At a quarter of three I took my coat off the peg and went home.
It didn't have to mean anything. Our arrangement was that he would call every Friday to let me know he was alive. If I was there to catch his call, we would say hello to each other. Otherwise he'd leave a message: Your laundry is ready. But he could have forgotten or he could be drunk or almost anything.
I got undressed and into bed and lay on my side looking out the window. There's an office building ten or twelve blocks downtown where they leave the lights on at night. You can gauge the pollution level fairly accurately by how much the lights appear to flicker. They were not only flickering wildly that night, they even had a yellow cast to them.
I rolled over and closed my eyes and thought about the phone call that hadn't come. I decided he hadn't forgotten and he wasn't drunk.
The Spinner was dead.
They called him the Spinner because of a habit he had. He carried an old silver dollar as a good-luck charm, and he would haul it out of his pants pocket all the time, prop it up on a table top with his left forefinger, then cock his right middle finger and give the edge of the coin a flick. If he was talking to you, his eyes would stay on the spinning coin while he spoke, and he seemed to be directing his words as much to the dollar as to you.