Review: Sinner Man (Lawrence Block)

Nov 17, 2016
- See all 765 of my articles

Leave a comment

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Sinner Man for review purposes.

If you’re a long time reader of The Soap Boxers, you’ve probably read others articles I’ve written about Lawrence Block.  If not, you can find them all here.  Block is my favorite author.  He’s been writing professionally since the 1950s, and as a result has a pretty incredible number of books to his name.

While Sinner Man isn’t Block’s first novel, it’s his first crime novel.  He sold it a half century ago, and then it disappeared into a black hole, never to be seen again.  Until a few years ago, when a Facebook friend of Block’s pointed it out to him.  It had been renamed by the publisher (as publishers are apt to do), but it was his book.  It was resurrected from the dead, and is now available anew from Hard Case Crime.  (Note that Block does a much better job telling this tale than I do – it’s in the book’s afterword.)

Plot

Donald Barshter is a square – a normal guy, selling life insurance in Connecticut.  One night, he has a booze-fueled argument with his wife.  It ends with Barshter smacking her across the face.  She falls awkwardly and ends up dead.

Fear immediately grips Barshter.  He decides to hit the road and assume a new identity.  He ends up in Buffalo.  Why Buffalo, you might ask? I suspect it’s because Block himself is from Buffalo.

Barshter gets himself a brand new social security card (which was much easier to do in those days) and becomes Nat Crowley.  Crowley won’t be able to get an honest job, because he has no academic credentials or professional references in that name.

Crowley is determined to get involved with the Buffalo mob.  If he can’t get an honest job, why not get a job cooking the books for the crooks?  Before too long, he’s running a bar, and not longer after that he’s an important cog in the Buffalo crime industry

Character development

Aside from Barshter/Crowley, there are only a few characters with much “screen time” in the book.  Many of the characters end up dead, which limits the author’s ability to provide much definition.  Crowley is defined very well, and we get a good idea of that his motivation is, even though the logic seems hard to grasp at time.

Verdict

I enjoyed the book.  The knowledge that it was Block’s first crime novel and the back story of its disappearance and reappearance certainly biases me, and I think I would have liked it a bit less if I read it blind, with no knowledge of the author.  Specifically, the crime bosses seem a bit too willing to accept Crowley’s at his word.  Even in the 50s and 60s, I would think they would be done a more comprehensive vetting job.  Having said that, Block is a great story teller, and he does spin a good story in this book. Many of the scenes are very well done.

If you’re a fan of Block’s work, you definitely want to have this book in your collection.  It’s a good sample of Block’s early writing and give great insight into how his writing style has changed over time.  If this is your first exposure to Block, I think you’ll also enjoy it – and I urge you to check out his other work.

Sinner Man goes on sale November 22.

 

Leave a comment

Share this article via email

Like this site? Subscribe via RSS, Subscribe via Email, or Follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

The permanent URL for this article is:
http://www.thesoapboxers.com/review-sinner-man-lawrence-block/

Review: Quarry in the Black (Max Allan Collins)

Sep 30, 2016
- See all 765 of my articles

Leave a comment

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Quarry in the Black for review purposes. Quarry in the Black is the 13th in the series by Max Allan Collins.  I hadn’t read the previous twelve books in the series, so I was jumping in blind.  There’s always a danger in doing that, as there can sometimes […]

Read the full article

Review: New Pompeii (Daniel Godfrey)

Jun 13, 2016
- See all 765 of my articles

Leave a comment

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Daniel Godfrey’s New Pompeii for review purposes. A quick glance at the book’s synopsis had me hooked.  A company has found a way to bring people from the past forward through time and land them in the present day.  Their biggest challenge so far was to rescue the population […]

Read the full article

Budget Tablet: HP 10 G2 (Android 5)

May 26, 2016
- See all 765 of my articles

1 Comment

I recently decided to buy a tablet.  I’ve thought about it in the past, but recently received a financial award at work and decided to spend a (small) chunk of it on myself and save the rest. We do already have some tablets in the house: A Kindle Fire 1st generation – Fewer and fewer […]

Read the full article

Back from the dead

Apr 29, 2016
- See all 765 of my articles

1 Comment

Things have been very quiet around here lately, mostly because work had been consuming my life for the year or so.  The good news is that my work hours have now dropped off significantly (to 40ish, down from 65 or 70 recently).  That should give me quite a bit more time to write. I’m probably […]

Read the full article

The Burglar Who Counted The Spoons (Review)

Aug 12, 2014
- See all 765 of my articles

1 Comment

Late late year I (along with several others) was contacted by the publicist for my favorite author, Lawrence Block.  Would I like to receive an Advance Review Copy of his forthcoming book.  Absolutely!  I’d read the book and then write a review soon after. Life got in the way, as it tends to do.  Winter […]

Read the full article

Is The Government Hiding Link Between Vaccines and Autism?

May 19, 2014
- See all 765 of my articles

Leave a comment

Keith Law is a baseball writer for ESPN who focuses primarily on prospects (players not yet in the Major Leagues).  He’s also a bit of an anti-Jenny McCarthy, never missing a chance to point out studies that show no link between childhood vaccines and autism. Reading the responses to his tweets is often, um, educational. […]

Read the full article

How Hard is 300 wins? Ask King Felix.

Apr 14, 2014
- See all 765 of my articles

Leave a comment

300 wins and 3000 hits have long been the benchmarks for a hall of fame player.  Hit well enough, hit high enough in the order, play enough years, and avoid taking a lot of walks, and a hitter can reach 3000 hits without much help from his teammates.  It is a largely team-independent stat.  The […]

Read the full article

Hall of Fame Reactions

Jan 09, 2014
- See all 765 of my articles

2 Comments

On Wednesday, the Baseball Writers of America (BBWAA) announced the 2014 Hall of Fame class. The inductees are: Greg Maddux – Maddux is the winningest living pitcher, with 355 wins.  He won four straight Cy Young awards, was almost always in the conversation as one of the top five pitchers in any given year, mentored […]

Read the full article

SEC Shocker: Auburn Upsets Alabama

Dec 02, 2013
- See all 765 of my articles

Leave a comment

With just a second remaining on Saturday and the game tied at 28, Alabama lined up for a game winning 57 yard field goal.  Make the kick and they are in the SEC title game, just one step away from the National Championship game.  Miss the kick and they just go to overtime, right?  Well, […]

Read the full article

Page 1 of 7712345...10...Last »

Writers for The Soap Boxers are freelance writers who work as independent contractors. Opinions expressed by the writers may not necessarily reflect the opinion of management.

Copyright for all content belongs to the writer identified in the byline. Copyright for any content not associated with a particular writer belongs to Kosmo. Copyright for comments belongs to the writer of the comment.

Content from The Soap Boxers cannot be reused in any manner other than what is allowed under the fair use doctrine of US copyright law or the applicable copyright laws of your country.

© 2008-2016. All rights reserved.

Please email Kosmo at Kosmo@ObservingCasually.com with any questions you may have.


The Soap Boxers is a division of Hyrax Publications, LLC.