Getting Off by Lawrence Block

Richard GodwinShe felt at home here, but she had the knack of feeling at home just about anywhere. And a girl didn’t want to overstay her welcome. – Kit Tolliver

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).

Lawrence Block is one of the most acclaimed and highly decorated living mystery writers, having received multiple Edgar, Shamus and Maltese Falcon Awards, as well as lifetime achievement awards in the US, UK, and France. He was named a “Grand Master” by the Mystery Writers of America, the organization’s highest honor. In the 1960s and 70s he wrote seven novels under the pen name “Jill Emerson,” a pseudonym he is reviving for the first time in nearly 40 years for Getting Off.
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.”


  • Amy

    April 23, 2012 - 9:49 AM

    I think that this book sounds much more twisted and dark than the pulpy cover suggests! This is intriguing – I definitely want to give this a go.

  • Chris A White

    April 19, 2012 - 10:42 AM

    Not going to lie, that book cover grabs your attention! 😉

    • Cathy D.

      July 12, 2013 - 6:19 PM

      Chris: The cover (loving pulp) is the reason I picked it up from the library. Boy was I in for a rude awakening. It was great though…and through it all, I liked her.

      Whoa, great review here, Elizabeth White! Congrats.

  • Benoit Lelievre

    April 19, 2012 - 10:13 AM

    I’m just getting started on Lawrence Block, going through the Scudder novels and man, he is SO good. From my reading culture, he’s one of the best plotters, if not THE best that I’ve ever came across.

  • Thomas Pluck

    April 19, 2012 - 9:05 AM

    One of our finest writers, and what a premise. This one just jumped to the top of the pile.

  • sabrina ogden

    April 18, 2012 - 6:08 PM

    Wow, this books sounds pretty intense. It’s been on my radar, but I hadn’t committed to it just yet. Your review, however, just changed that. 😉

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