by Lawrence Block
Audible, June 2014, $17.95

Back in the late 1950s, when Borderline first appeared, it was called Border Lust and its author was identified as Don Holliday. Holliday was one of the young Lawrence Block’s phalanx of pseudonyms and, considering the amount of skin-on-skin behavior throughout the short novel, the book’s original title was more accurate a description than this Hard Case Crime reissue. Set on the El Paso-Juarez boarder, it involves a quintet of characters who, in Bridge of San Luis Rey-fashion, are unwittingly drawn to a final, fatal meet—professional gambler Marty, borderline-nymphomaniac divorcée Meg, hipster-chick hitchhiker Lily, hot redhead Cassie, and, the wild card, Weaver, a straight-razor-wielding psycho killer. Though the characters are rough-edged, Block does a fine job of weaving their activities into a tightly knit finale. The audio includes three other examples of his early work. “The Burning Fury” is a very short study of a pickup at a logger bar. “A Fire at Night” follows the shifting moods of an arsonist as he watches his effort’s flaming result. Both feature unexpected endings. That leaves the most entertaining, and most Block-like entry in the collection—“Stag Party Girl,” a novella in which private detective Ed London is hired by adman Mark Donahue to keep him alive until his wedding in 24 hours. He’s received threats from his former girlfriend, “a model, more or less” named Karen Price. At Donahue’s bachelor party, Karen pops out of the cake and is immediately gunned down by an unknown member of the party. Donahue is arrested and, shortly after his release, is found dead, an apparent suicide. The cops close the case but London, in true Matt Scudder mode, continues to investigate. Reader Mike Dennis has a deep, rugged voice that sounds as if he swallowed Charles McGraw. It adds the perfect hardboiled touch to these enjoyable, if unvarnished, crime yarns.

Dick Lochte
Teri Duerr
June 2014