- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 6 hours and 23 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Lawrence Block
- Audible.com Release Date: June 30, 2014
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00LETILKM
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Borderline: A Hard Case Crime Novel Audible – Unabridged
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Top Customer Reviews
Borderline itself is exactly what it purports to be: an ensemble piece that hinges on the sexual appetites of the characters. As such, it moves fast and doesn’t delve too deep. The five main characters are well-drawn and distinct enough that they feel like real people instead of just porn archetypes. I might not particularly have liked Marty, Lily, or Meg (I don’t think Block intends you to like them, honestly), but at least I wasn’t bored by them; Block’s penchant for making even unlikeable characters interesting is what set his books in this realm apart from most of what was published (and subsequently lost) in the genre at the time. The newly-minted serial killer Weaver is the darkest aspect of the novel, and in Weaver’s scenes Block pulls no punches – the violence is raw and brutally described and little is left to the imagination; my stomach lurched in one particular scene. Only Cassie, the redhead, feels like a one-note character present mostly to move the plot along – and that could be because of the five main characters, Cassie is the only one not given her own POV scenes; all we know about her we learn through Lily’s eyes.
The back half of the book contains three short stories of the period. One is about a pyromaniac, one is about a meet-cute in a roadside bar, and one is a straight-up private detective story. The first two have sexual components to them (one emotional, one overt) that link them at least thematically with the main novel. The third,”The Stag Girl,” does a nice job of teasing the reader with ‘will they or won’t they’ at least in terms of one particular couple, but otherwise the mystery is the main point of the story.
Borderline, which has now been reissued by Hard Case Crime, was published in 1962 as Border Lust by Don Holliday. The copyright, however, indicates that it was written as early as 1958.
It is wonderful piece of old-fashioned pulp and one of the amazing things about it is that it was written so long ago. It combines many of the risqué elements of Block's early writings in the dimestore paperback industry with the mystery elements of his later writings. Here, you have hippie hitchikers, professional gamblers, divorced housewives out to experience life for the first time, and a serial killer stalking and mutilating his prey. Block takes the reader into an amazing journey, first focusing on one of these people and then on the next and weaving them into this tale.
The setting for the story is the border between El Paso and Cuidad Juarez, which even back then fifty years ago was a lawless frontier where anything goes. Americans would cross the border to gamble, to watch shows, to drink, and do anything else that was for sale and just about anything was for sale. The book is not so much about a complex story as about the atmosphere and characterizations that Block develops of these individuals whose paths cross as they try to escape their mundane lives and find freedom in the excesses of the border towns.
Marty is the professional gambler. He lives in El Paso and gambles across the border, stopping each morning for breakfast in a greasy spoon, where he eyes Betty who every trucker in the place has his eyes on. She warms up to him and suddenly her "eyes were not so washed-out." "The skirt of her uniform hugged her buttocks, and they swayed as she walked." Marty's a gambler and, if he was not good at it, he would have to do something else for a living.
Meg Rector had black hair, "loose and long, trailing down over bare shoulders that were just barely tanned." She ended up in El Paso after spending a week at an expensive hotel in Mexico City waiting for her divorce to be final. While there, she killed a week, talking to no one and staying in her hotel, sipping Beefeater Gin. After four years of boredom being married to Borden, she wanted to live it up. She wanted to blow her top and never stop exploding. She did not even know what excitement she wanted, but she wanted it. "Maybe it meant getting laid or getting drunk or shooting dice or taking dope or driving in a fast car. She hadn't seen any excitement in too long."
Lily had run away at sixteen or seventeen, ended up in San Francisco and left there when her boyfriend's buddy robbed a place and they had to split. "She was seventeen. Her face looked about two years younger than that until you saw her eyes, which looked twenty-five. Her figure was petite but perfect." She had aged that year in San Francisco and had become cold and hard inside. And then, when they got to Dallas, her boyfriend and his friend had sold her to a Texan for a hundred dollars and split, leaving her to get beaten and abused and left penniless to hitchhike. Lilly knew some people in Mexico City and figured she could try to get with them if she could manage to get up a stake.
Cassie is a stripper that Lily meets in a Mexican bar. Between shots of tequila, redheaded Cassie convinces Lily to join her in an all-girl floor show in a Mexican brothel, a show so intoxicating that Meg practically loses her mind watching it.
Then there was Michael Patrick Weaver, man who was short, wiry, and ugly, with pig eyes, "beady pig eyes." He wore his hair combed down across his forehead in unconscious imitation of Hitler. He had liked to wander the streets of Tulsa at night as a peeping tom until he got caught and beaten. Then, he stumbled across a young girl out at night and, excited by a vampire movie, grabbed her, knocked out three of her front teeth, attacking her, and ripping her apart with his teeth. While he violated her, his teeth found her throat. The descriptions of Weaver's brutal, sadistic attacks on his poor victims leave little to the imagination.
All these people meet in El Paso and Ciudad Juarez and the story details their journey as they let loose and either live out fantasies or struggle to survive. It is a quick reading dimestore pulp read. It is not for the faint of heart and is rather risqué, adult faire. A worthwhile addition to the Hard Case Crime series, indeed.
About one-third of the volume is taken up with short stories in addition to the feature-length novel. Who knew Block wrote shorts? Well, most writers start out getting shorts published in whatever magazine will take them and Block was no stranger to the pulp magazine world in the fifties.
The Burning Fury was originally published in the February 1959 issue of Off Beat Detective Stories. On the surface, it is merely a folksy down-home tale of a miserably unhappy lumberjack taking a drink in a bar. Oh, but it is so much more than that. There is atmosphere and characterization here that is simply outstanding. The lumberjack who never gets named once had bright polished boots, but now they were dingy brown, scuffed, and battered -just like him. He tosses down shots of rotgut rye and wonders how much of the slop he would need to pour down his gullet that night. He drank till he dropped on his days off, but not when he was working because when he was working, there was "nothing to forget, no memories to grab him around the neck, no hungers to make him want to reach out and swing at somebody." But, as he sits in the bar, he explains that he knew it would be bad the minute she walked in through the door. He saw the shape of her body, the color of her hair, the look in her eyes, and knew that it was going to be one hell of a night. Her "dark green skirt was tight, and it did things to the other half of her body. He looked at her and the ball of fire in his mind burned hotter and brighter every second." Wow! Whatever is going on here, Block has set the stage in a full-on noir fashion. Drinking and femme fatales and hell on earth. It is going to be one hell of a story
A Fire At Night was originally published in Manhunt in 1958. It's a short tale about a firebug.
Stag Party Gal was originally published in the February 1963 issue of Man's Magazine. It has an interesting, attention-getting title and it's long for a short. In fact, at eleven chapters, it's long enough to be worth a read in its own right. Ed is hired by a client who is getting married in a few days, but the client has been getting calls from the mistress he dropped a few weeks earlier, threatening calls. Ed agrees to hang around as a bodyguard and attends the bachelor party. Lo and behold, Karen jumps out of a giant cake, naked as the day she was born and, when all eyes are on her, someone guns her down. Ed then sets out to solve the mystery and absolve his client from blame. The plot itself is typical of fifties era pulp, but what makes this worth reading is how solidly hardboiled the writing is.
"Even at that ghastly hour," he explains, "she looked like a toothpaste ad. Her hair was blonde silk and her eyes were blue jewels and her skin was creamed perfection." She could have been a vogue model, but "the body was just too bountiful." That's the fiancé who sits in Ed's apartment making coy comments and having the equipment to carry it off.
If you enjoy reading fifties era pulp like Frank Kane or Richard Prather, you'll get a kick out of this bonus tale.