There’s a reason author Lawrence Block has received countless awards for his writing and been recognized as a Grand Master of his craft – the man is damn good at what he does.
And what he does is write books that are a marvel of plotting and pacing, nearly always infused with a wickedly sly sense of humor, and which often strike a cord that resonates so strongly the characters and outcome echo in your mind long after you’ve finished reading.
Getting Off was such book for me, one I actually had to take a little step away from before I could gather my thoughts and write (what I hope is) a proper review.
Writing as Jill Emerson, a pseudonym under which Block penned seven erotic pulp fiction novels in the 60s and 70s, Getting Off is the story of young Kit Tolliver. At least that’s one of her names. She tends to change them quite frequently as she moves from town to town finding, seducing, fleecing, and killing a string of lovers.
While reflecting on her black widow tendencies after one of her kills, Kit realizes there are actually five men whom she’s slept with without killing; five who were lucky enough to pass through her life before she dedicated herself to a series of ultimate one-night stands. Bothered by the idea those men are still alive, Kit decides to track each of them down for one last fling.
Sounds straightforward enough, right? Well this is Lawrence Block we’re talking about, folks, so there’s more to it than that. As Kit travels the country trying to balance her mental scorecard the reader is treated to a peek inside her mind, including the childhood events that gave rise to her deadly sexual obsession. Quite decidedly, however, Block does not use the trauma of Kit’s past to justify her actions, merely to explain them. In fact, one of the more engaging facets of Getting Off is the very matter-of-fact manner in which Kit is presented, as Block dares the reader to take or leave Kit as she is, much as Kit carries herself through life.
As Kit travels the country she crosses paths with some of the worst dregs society has to offer, and along the way she begins to think of herself in a slightly different light. But it’s not until Kit finally encounters someone whom she not only doesn’t feel the need to kill, but with whom she actually tries to envision a future that Block really kicks things into a higher gear. Don’t worry, Kit doesn’t blossom overnight into Sandra Dee. Block does, however, use Kit’s dawning awareness of a life beyond impersonal sex and nomadic homicide to explore the dark connection between love and hate, as well as the question of whether one can ever truly overcome traumatic events which leave an imprint on them during formative years.
Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out for the more delicate flowers that the book is subtitled “A Novel of Sex & Violence” for a reason. There is a copious amount of both to be found amongst the pages of Getting Off, including sex of the sapphic variety. So, if detailed descriptions of sex bother you this is definitely not a book with which you’ll be comfortable. If, however, you appreciate strong female characters, wickedly dark humor and bold storytelling, you should definitely consider Getting Off with Lawrence Block.
Getting Off is available from Hard Case Crime (ISBN: 978-0857682871).
To learn more about Lawrence Block, visit his website or catch up with him on Facebook and Twitter.
PS – I also highly recommend Block’s short story “Like A Bone in the Throat.”