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Small Town: A Novel [Hardcover]

Lawrence Block
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 9 2003 Block, Lawrence

The author of dozens of acclaimed novels including those in the Scudder and Keller series, Lawrence Block has long been recognized as one of the premier crime writers of our time. Now, the breathtaking skill, power, and versatility of this Grand Master are brilliantly displayed once again in a mesmerizing new thriller set on the streets of the city he knows and loves so well.

That was the thing about New York -- if you loved it, if it worked for you, it ruined you for anyplace else in the world.

In this dazzlingly constructed novel, Lawrence Block reveals the secret at the heart of the Big Apple. His glorious metropolis is really a small town, filled with men and women from all walks of life whose aspirations, fears, disappointments, and triumphs are interconnected by bonds as unbreakable as they are unseen. Pulsating with the lives of its denizens -- bartenders and hookers, power brokers and politicos, cops and secretaries, editors and dreamers -- the city inspires a passion that is universal yet unique in each of its eight million inhabitants, including:

John Blair Creighton, a writer on the verge of a breakthrough;

Francis Buckram, a charismatic ex–police commissioner -- and the inside choice for the next mayor -- on the verge of a breakdown;

Susan Pomerance, a beautiful, sophisticated folk-art dealer plumbing the depths of her own fierce sexuality;

Maury Winters, a defense attorney who prefers murder trials because there's one less witness;

Jerry Pankow, an ex-addict who has turned being clean into a living, mopping up after New York's nightlife;

And, in the shadows of a city reeling from tragedy, an unlikely killing machine who wages a one-man war against them all.

Infused with the raw cadence, stark beauty, and relentless pace of New York City, Small Town is a tour de force Block fans old and new will celebrate.

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Product Description

From Amazon

A solid craftsman with five bestselling series under his belt as well as numerous standalone mysteries and short-story collections to his credit, Lawrence Block breaks new ground with a resonant, compelling thriller about one man's response to the Twin Towers tragedy--an insane yet totally comprehensible, seemingly unconnected string of serial murders, or, as the killer calls them, "sacrifices" to the city he believes will be reborn out of the ashes of destruction. Block, a New Yorker born and bred, has penned a paean to the Manhattan he knows and loves, and created a cast of fascinating characters whose lives are touched by the killings. Among the most interesting are a woman whose sexual obsessions ensnare a former police commissioner who's being groomed for higher political office, a crime novelist uncertain about his own culpability in the so-called Carpenter Killings, and a gay housecleaner whose clients keep ending up dead. This may be Block's best novel to date--it's certainly his most erotic and astonishing one, and it will keep you going until the last extraordinary page. A mesmerizing take on New York after 9/11, this solidly paced, brilliantly executed thriller deserves all the attention it will surely receive. --Jane Adams

From Publishers Weekly

This is a rare standalone from the Edgar Award-winning creator of Matt Scudder, Bernie Rhodenbarr, hit man Keller and others, and takes a number of risks unusual for its author. For a start, it is very deliberately a post-9/11 thriller, in which a man bereaved by the loss of his wife and children in the Twin Towers sets out to wreak what he thinks of as a sacrificial vengeance on the city by becoming a serial terrorist himself. For another, Block, who wrote some pornography early in his career, has created a female character whose kinky sex antics will definitely ruffle some of his mainstream readers. And while an intimate knowledge of New York and its folkways, and of urban character and conversation, has always been one of Block's great strengths, and is on plentiful show again here, his rather improbable action climax seems carelessly tacked on to the meticulous rest of the book. The novel offers a very crowded canvas whose central characters are the sad figure of the terrorist himself; a former police commissioner who eventually sets out to bring him down; a midlist writer who suddenly gets to be a hot property when he's accused of a murder (the publishing scenes will be delightful for insiders); the aforementioned kinky lady, an art dealer when not playing pierced dominatrix; a gay recovering alcoholic who unwittingly leads the villain to the scenes of his crimes; and, of course, the city itself, which, as the title suggests, is a place where everyone is somehow connected to everyone else's business. It's a bold and flashy effort, but its deliberately disturbing elements may somewhat limit its appeal.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Block delivers again Feb. 19 2004
In many of the novels of Lawrence Block, there is a somewhat hidden character, hidden because it is not a person, but a place: New York City. In Small Town, Block brings this character to the forefront, showing how it is recovering from the wounds it received on the infamous September 11. Block treats the city with a certain reverence and by interweaving the lives of his human characters, demonstrates that there is a certain "small-town" quality to the big city. It's a formula that is mostly, but not completely successful.
As a long-time fan of Block, this book reminded me of his many books on the art of writing. First, because of the good writing that once again indicates he's an author who knows his craft. Second, because in a couple of those books he discusses writing soft porn early in his career, and this novel does have a level of sexual explicitness that is unusual for most of his mysteries. Third, because one of his characters is a writer, and Block gives a behind-the-scenes look at what such a life could be like.
The story itself involves a serial killer whose family died as a result of 9/11 and now is driven by a delusion that the city itself requires sacrifices. The two principal characters are the writer mentioned above who is suspected of one of the killer's murders and an art gallery owner whose sexual addiction drives her to all sorts of interesting behavior, much of which is described in great detail. Although never directly involved in the life of the killer, she does become entangled in the lives he has affected.
In tone, this is reminiscent of Block's Matthew Scudder novels, which is a good thing, since Block is at best with that series of novels. As one of his rare excursions into non-series fiction, this is likely to please many of his fans; although not perfect, it is entertaining.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Love Letter to Post 9/11 New York Nov. 23 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I am sure you have heard of an ensemble cast television show, or movie. "Small Town" is an ensemble novel. Block lovingly paints almost a dozen main characters, a writer accused of killing a realtor, an ex-police commisioner, a lawyer, an art gallery owner only to name a few.
This is a mystery/thriller in name but it is so much more. It is a magnum opus, not implying it is or should be Block's last novel but it just covers so many subplots and themes. The reader is treated not only to a suspenseful exciting story, but also to an inside track of a writer's life. The latter allows Block to suggest a theme so the reader ponders the whole universe of fiction, memory and imagination. One character off-handedly comments how any one is capable of murder and in the context of this tale one has to wonder how honest is that statement.
This was my first Block novel so I have nothing to compare it to per se, and am not sure how capable I am of conveying his range as a writer, in this a love letter at heart to the city of New York.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Block Has Lost His Way Oct. 14 2003
To this point I think I have read all of Lawrence Block's oeuvre. By his established standard Small Town was truly awful and will end my streak. There are several possibilities for his decline. He has "run dry", his gifts are diminishing with age or he is being "trendy" and simply writing for the tin ear of the current reading public. The book is too long (either because editing/pruning is "out of style", that publishers find that it is more economical to sell by the pound or they want to expand the market and put something in for everyone) and too bizarre. Nipple rings and same sex twaddle are best left for the painted windowed purveyors of unabashed pornography. Note that Dick Francis has also succumbed to word bloat but happily to this point not gratuitous sexual deviance. Both Block and Francis used to write a taut, focused narrative but have both have switched styles to absentmindedly stumbling around in rambling subplots. Parenthetically it is hard to imagine any of the nitwits in Small Town tithing their gains (as Matt Scudder engagingly used to do with his windfalls). Two firm thumbs down (both mine).
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4.0 out of 5 stars Homage July 28 2003
First, we have to understand that this is author Block's homage
to his favorite place in the world, New York City, and the story
here concerns the lives of a multitude of people following the
9/11 terror attack.
The title comes from Block's premise that even New York can be
a "small town" in some respects, and even though that stretches
our imagination, he manages to do a very good job of weaving
all these individual stories into a coherent novel.
The point of the novel, the one thing that really keeps us
moving forward through the story, wanting more, is that someone
is killing people apparently at random, at an ever-increasing
pace, and the people whose lives are directly affected by the
killings are connected in a "small-town" way. Those affected
most are eating at the same restaurants, visting the same art
galleries, waving at old friends, talking to the same people,
and even-amazingly-having sexual relations with the same
There are some odd points of view at work here, but Block is a
master at putting them all together so they work, and he is an
experienced story-teller whose skills are revealed here.
This is a very good, moving and fast-paced story whose multiple
characters are all interesting.
Even if New York isn't your favorite city, this novel almost
makes you wish you could be having dinner there with some friends, including some of the characters in this story.
You need to read this one.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars JUST OK
I usually like Block's books a little more then this one. Not bad but not hard to put down & come back to later.
Published 10 months ago by bettyl
1.0 out of 5 stars What a stinker!
Hard to believe that an author with such strong credentials wrote this mess. Improbable plot, thoroughly unlikeable, flat characters, excessive boring, badly-described, kinky sex,... Read more
Published on April 17 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars thineagle
I'm a real Block fan, but where this book was concerned, I just wanted it to end. Where is the Block who gave me those concise Matt Scudder books where I was hooked for hours on... Read more
Published on March 22 2004 by Robert S. Hunsberger
4.0 out of 5 stars Characters are the Driving Force.
I was unsure of this book when I bought it because of the reviews. However, I found this book interesting based on the strength of its characters. Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2004 by Scott A. Misko
5.0 out of 5 stars Haning on the edge of your seat-astonishing and brilliant.
Best book I've read in years. A little ashamed to admit it with all the strange sex etc, but this is a fabulous book. Brilliant.
Published on Jan. 1 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars Starts with a Bang, Ends with a Whimper
This book started out in a fascinating way - a janitor discovers a body, a writer is possibly guilty (but doesn't remember the crime), etc., but then goes downhill fast. Read more
Published on Dec 30 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, not great
1. A lot of graphic sex scenes that just got boring after a while, I didn't mind, but without pictures, they didn't really add anything to the story.

2. ... Read more
Published on Dec 20 2003 by clutchhitter
1.0 out of 5 stars small town sucks (literally and figuratively)
What was he thinking? Found this book to run on and I didn't like any of the characters. If this is what small town New Yorkers are like...I pity them. Getting back to the book. Read more
Published on Dec 17 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Murder and sex !
This is an intriguing murder mystery story involving a group of New Yorkers following the terrible days of 9/11. Read more
Published on Dec 10 2003 by Beverley Strong
4.0 out of 5 stars story of many perspectives
Funny how Manhatten can become a small town. At least that's Lawrence Block's premise in writing this crime drama from several folks' perspectives - folks that don't really know... Read more
Published on Dec 4 2003 by Paul Skinner
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