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Hit Man Mass Market Paperback – Feb 5 2002

3.8 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTorch; Reissue edition (Feb. 5 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038072541X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380725410
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 2.2 x 17.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 558 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #344,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Mass Market Paperback
im a big fan of lawrence block (my favs of his are burgler in the closet, 8 millions ways to die, thief who couldnt sleep, and so many more i cant name em all)! i couldnt put this book down! its disturbingly how interesting a hitman's life could be. you sorta feel for him and hope that somehow his life would be resolved and that he'd answer all his unanswered questions. he tries to find comfort and solace in various things.... but he doesnt kill out of passion or malice, he kills without emotion, he does it because it's his job - just as any other person works at there job, they do theyre work efficiently, but when they turn in their timeslip, they return to doing what they really want to do. except keller really doesnt have anything to do, which is why he feels so miserable and empty.... a rather interesting one at that. block is in fine form here. he has written innumerable great novels and short stories and he has nothing to prove, he knows what he's good at and what he's not, and isnt that when most authors really shine?
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
In between killing people, 'renaissance' man John Keller likes New York City culture and collecting worldwide stamps. Since being a paid assassin is not a forty-hour-a-week job, Keller also has time for a dog and an occasional romance.
But Keller is dead serious about his work, and thus neurotic about the details and nuances of what he does. He meticulously plans his 'hits,' often adding a personal flare to his execution methods. Why use a bullet when you can make a death look accidental? And in a perverse irony, Keller has a strong sense of right and wrong, and sometimes improvises on an assignment to improve a conflicted situation as a result of his deadly deed. What a guy.
HIT MAN is the premiere episode of another Lawrence Block book series. It is slow out of the blocks, using valuable prose to set the stage for future installments. The humor gets lost in the mechanics, which is a shame as HIT MAN's sequel, HIT LIST, is a knee slapper. This inaugural episode is worthy of a pass, while the Keller series itself is shaping up to be a fun, clever and humorous look at the life of a 'thoughtful' paid assassin.
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