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Hit Man Mass Market Paperback – Feb 1 1999


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; Reissue edition (Feb. 1 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038072541X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380725410
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 2.2 x 17.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 91 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #396,026 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

A man known only as Keller is thinking about Samuel Johnson's famous quote that "'patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel'... If you looked at it objectively, he had to admit, then he was probably a scoundrel himself. He didn't feel much like a scoundrel. He felt like your basic New York single guy, living alone, eating out or bringing home takeout, schlepping his wash to the Laundromat, doing the Times crossword with his morning coffee... There were eight million stories in the naked city, most of them not very interesting, and his was one of them. Except that every once in a while he got a phone call from a man in White Plains. And packed a bag and caught a plane and killed somebody. Hard to argue the point. Man behaves like that, he's a scoundrel. Case closed." But Lawrence Block is such a delightfully subtle writer, one of the true masters of the mystery genre, that the case is far from closed. In this beautifully linked collection of short stories, we gradually put together such a complete picture of Keller that we don't so much forgive him his occupation as consider it just one more part of his humanity. After watching Keller take on cases that baffle and anger him into actions that fellow members of his hit-man union might well call unprofessional, we're eager to join him as he goes through a spectacularly unsuccessful analysis and gets fooled by a devious intelligence agent. We miss the dog he acquires and loses, along with its attractive walker. Like Richard Stark's Parker, Keller makes us think the unthinkable about criminals: that they might be the guys next door--or even us, under different pressures. For a small selection of the many Blocks in paperback, try Coward's Kiss, A Long Line of Dead Men, The Sins of the Fathers, Such Men Are Dangerous, and especially When the Sacred Ginmill Closes. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Kirkus Reviews

For some years now, Block's been chronicling the adventures of fatalistic hired assassin J.P. Keller. Now Block (The Burglar in the Library, p. 912, etc.) has revised and collected ten stories showing Keller doing what he does best. As he sallies forth from his First Avenue apartment to one American city after another at the behest of the old man in White Plains, Keller ponders whether he can kill a man he's grown to like, mops up after hitting the wrong target, serves as cat's-paw for killers initially more clever than he is, and agonizes over which of two clients who've paid to have each other killed he's going to have to disappoint. In between his methodical executions, he also checks out real estate in Oregon, consults a therapist, takes up stamp collecting, wonders if learning more about flowers would enrich his life, buys earrings for the woman who walks his dog, and worries how much of a commitment he can make to either the woman or the dog. It's the combination of the many things Keller ruminates about and the many things he tries not to (``This is the wrong business for moral decisions,'' the old man's secretary admonishes him) that gives him his melancholy fascination. Is the result a novel or a cycle of stories? Block's ravenous fans--delighted to see at least three masterpieces (``Keller on Horseback,'' ``Keller's Therapy,'' and ``Keller in Shining Armor'') gathered in one volume--won't care any more than Keller would. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robert Wellen on July 8 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Keller rules. I know that sounds like a 6th grade endorsement of this zippy novel (or short story collection?), but I'm just wild about Block's book. It was fun (and quick) read that is perfect for summer. Keller is killer as he well knows. The stories are funny and sometimes surprising. Even more, Keller gets to us. He is a decent and moral man in his own way. Block and Keller have a new fan. I'll be reading "Hit List" soon...
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By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Sept. 28 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
What's it like to be a hit man (assassin for hire)? Lawrence Block takes on that challenging assignment in these connected short stories about John Keller ("call me Keller") who is one of the best in the business. Do you want it to look accidental and occur in 48 hours? Keller's your man.

In the professional ranks, everyone has cut outs. Keller gets his orders for an old man in White Plains. That man in turn accepts orders from other trusted brokers. No one knows who paid for the hit.

The terms? Half down and half on success. The amounts are a little vague but it seems more than adequate because Keller can live a carefree life without other forms of employment by working on only 8-10 jobs a year.

The hits take Keller away from his Manhattan home (near the U.N.) to some pretty obscure places. Sometimes those visits are a distraction and he hangs around to imagine what an ordinary life would be in the vicinity.

But when it comes to his work, Keller is unsentimental, creative and quick.

But occasionally something comes up that confuses matters . . . like the time he is ordered by two targets to kill each other. What to do?

The strength of the story is in taking us out of our lives to see the world through Keller's eyes. The only person he can talk openly to is Dot, the old man's assistant. The rest of the time is pretty lonely. That leads him to become a dog owner, after a strange series of events. But he travels a lot, so someone has to walk the dog. Keller doesn't want to leave the dog in a kennel so he finds a dog walker. One thing leads to another. How close can Keller get to someone else?

Keller is aware that his work has taken over whoever he was when he started. And he doesn't quite understand the process . . .
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By Kris on April 25 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is easy to read, with lots of conversation. It did hold my interest. I felt like I was reading Lawrence Block's fantasies, which they clearly are. "If I were a hit man, what would I do?" Keller, the hit man, lives in New York City, like Block. His comings and goings in various U.S. locales (mostly the mid-west it seems) bring to mind Lawrence Block traveling in these places, how he would react, the people he would meet. A nice fantasy, but with one exception: Lawrence Block doesn't really murder people, but Keller does.
Keller is obviously a sociopath. Essentially, this means he can murder and feel no remorse about it. I'm pretty sure there are youngsters out there in the world who want to emulate Keller, but is it right to trivialize his conduct and make him appear an Everyday Guy? Well, whether it's right or wrong is not the issue I guess, but what holds interest. Or is it?
This attraction to criminals and murderers, which apparently is a long-standing love affair for humanity, definitely says something about we humans. Is it any wonder we need God? Without a higher power, we'd really be at the edge of extinction, because, who else would keep us all from trying to be little Kellers, little "wanna be hit men" (and women?).
Oh, that's right, this is a "men's" book: It's the men who idolize these killers and cool hit men, isn't it? Keller's business associate Dot seems to be an exception, in that she also seems to vicariously enjoy his hits, but isn't that unusual for women, that is, to enjoy the idea of murder (and to benefit financially from it)? I think most women would be a little more upset about Keller, and take less vicarious interest in him, than men.
So thank Heaven for little girls! It's them and God keeping us from bloodthirsty Chaos Itself (Hell?). Diximus.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Although written in a light and wryly amusing tone, I found this to be a somewhat disturbing book. It features a hit man (naturally) who goes by the name of Keller. Keller is a seething mass of emotional contradictions. He thinks nothing of garrotting a man to death, yet gets all choked up himself when he sees animals in captivity.
I found that each time I started to empathise with Keller I was jolted by the realisation that - hang on, the man is a heartless murderer! It was quite a difficult hurdle to overcome. What was even harder for me to reconcile was the humorous mood of the book that dealt with the murders as quickly and efficiently as Keller himself did. This was probably the tone and the effect that Lawrence Block was hoping to achieve, but it was unsettling all the same.
Now, having expressed the aspects of the book that made me uncomfortable, I should point out that I found it very compelling reading and could virtually not put it down. A bit like driving past a road accident I suppose. Lawrence Block manages to portray the anti-hero very well in many of his books and almost pulls it off again here. When Keller's not working you could almost class him as a nice guy.
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