by Lawrence Block
writing as Jill Emerson
Occasionally I watch a movie or read a book that makes such a deep and lasting impression it slides through the folds and into the crevices of my cerebral cortex like acacia honey and sticks. I can’t stop thinking about it.
Winter’s Bone, with Jennifer Lawrence, was one such movie. I loved every single dysfunctional second of the film. It kept me up for at least three nights, and I kept my husband up, poking him, wanting to discuss it. Thought about it for months afterwards. Still think about it.
Psycho, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, is another. For some weird reason, my father allowed me to watch it when I was ten years old. I haven’t been the same since. Not once, in the intervening years, have I closed my eyes in the shower. Unfortunately. Very. Sticky.
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote. Found the book at my aunt’s house when I was eleven and read it cover to cover – kept me tossing and turning for months.
Jaws. That’s all I need say. Not only did I refuse to stick a foot in the community swimming pool for an entire summer, I wouldn’t even take a bath. God only knows when a great white might pop out of the drain!
Well, Getting Off did it to me. Last night was the first time in ages a book has kept me up all night. I can’t even remember the last time this happened… Oh wait, Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay. Yeah, that kept me up all night. But I read that book way back in 2010. It’s been a year since then.
Author Lawrence Block plopped me into the very sticky, incredibly scary cerebral cortex of Katherine Anne Tolliver, lovely chameleon and psychopath extraordinaire. Like the great white in Jaws, she’s a predator at the top of the food chain, a beautiful, sexy beast at the top of her game. Man oh man, she terrified me – because she’s normal. She eats normal food, drinks wine I might drink, carries on a normal conversation, has fun, enjoys sex, especially the afterglow, when, like a black widow spider, she kills her mate. ‘Kitt’ travels from place to place, creating and discarding various identities like a used tissue, leaving dead men in her wake.
She’s smart, cunning, and she takes precautions. Kitt has her reasons for behaving as she does, and she leads a life filled with purpose. It might not be your purpose or mine, but she’s a goal oriented gal. When she meets other predators, and it takes one to know one, she manages to stay one step ahead of them. I couldn’t help but admire that aspect of Kitt – her survival instincts are powerful and she thinks on her feet. The force is strong with this one…
Kitt also reminded me a little of Scarlet O’Hara, another strong female lead who used men for her own purposes. Scarlet is a survivor as well – she does whatever is required to save Tara (the plantation) and her family. She hates Melanie, has never ‘birthed’ a baby, and yet she delivers Mellie’s child and saves both Mellie and Mellie’s newborn from a burning Atlanta. She kills a Yankee deserter who appears at Tara, tries to rob them and rape her. And she says (paraphrasing) “Well, I guess now I’ve committed murder.” And she doesn’t give it a second thought. Scarlett is the only character strong enough to keep them all alive, yet she’s the one who gets the bad rap. In a powerful scene, Kitt performs a similar, singular redemptive act, not because she’s a good person, but because she’s the only character strong enough to do it. Damn, she moved me.
I began reading Getting Off at 7:05 p.m and I finished 11:45 p.m. I’m a fast reader. But that was just the beginning. I lay in the dark, reliving scenes I’d just read and when I did manage to doze off, I dreamed portions of the book. Mr. Block doesn’t write so much as paint. His words are so vivid I could see every single scene clear as day, so visceral I felt sick, so darkly funny I laughed out loud. I swear I was actually there as an observer, like maybe I was the third person omniscient POV.
Getting Off isn’t available yet, but if you enjoy thrillers, well, it would be an understatement to say you’ll sure as shit like this one.
Thank you, Lawrence Block, for allowing me to read this Advance Review Copy and thank you, Charles Ardai, for sending it. I’m honored.
Coming September 20, 2011. A Hard Case Crime Novel.