Thursday, February 28, 2019

A Time to Scatter Stones by Lawrence Block

First Sentence:  The four of us—Kristin and Mick, Elaine and I—stood on the stoop of their brownstone for the ritual round of hugs.

Matt Scudder is now retired, 25-years sober, and still attending AA meetings.  His wife, Elaine, informs him of a group called TARTS that she helped start for sex workers who want to stay out of the life.  However, when one young woman informs Elaine of an abusive client who won't let her quit, Elaine suggests Scudder might help.
It is hard to describe how wonderful it is to read Lawrence Block—"You get old and things hurt and then they don't and then they do again."  He has an obvious love for New York City, and his characters are real, imperfect people with pasts. If you've not previously read Block, in this case his Matt Scudder series, he brings readers up to speed on the characters within a very short time.  There's no more backstory than one needs, yet just enough to know the characters.
Prostitution isn't something about which most people even think, unless it's in the news, let alone about the women involved, and not at all about a support group for those who want to leave the life. It is remarkable the way Block creates a sense of danger through a conversation.  It causes one to realize just how vulnerable and at risk any woman can be.
Block's dialogue is so natural.  It wanders, as real conversations do, from topic to topic within a single conversation—"God, I hate when that happens.  Something you said triggered a thought, and then the conversation whet on, and the thought got lost.  Where were we saying?"  There are wonderful kernels of truth sprinkled along the story's path.  "There three stages of a man's life," I said, "Youth, middle age, and 'You look wonderful?" 
"A Time to Scatter Stones" is perfectly written.  It does have violence and sex, but always offstage.  While this is a nostalgic read for those who have loved this series, it could also be an excellent impetus for new readers to go back and further explore this fine author.

A TIME TO SCATTER STONES (Novelette-Matt Scudder-NYC-Contemp) – Ex
      Block, Lawrence – A Matt Scudder Novelette
Subterranean; Deluxe Hardcover edition - Jan 2019

1 comment:

  1. There is definitely something compelling about Block's writing. He weaves a top-notch atmosphere and setting, and his characters have real depth. It's hard to go wrong with one of his Matt Scudder stories.