Sinner Man by Lawrence Block

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Sinner Man by Lawrence Block

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sam Tyler
Reviewed by Sam Tyler
Summary: After accidently killing his wife, Don decides to flee.. He is now Nat, the full time hustler. Can Don/Nat hide his true personality in this rediscovered slice of quality pulp crime fiction?
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: November 2016
Publisher: Hard Case Crimes
External links: [= Author's website]
ISBN: 9781785650017

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Everybody has to start somewhere, but if you are as prolific a writer as Lawrence Block, you may no longer be able to find the beginning. His first crime publication came and went in the early 60s and fifty years later he did not have a copy as the book had been published under an alias with a different title unknown to him. In 2016 that book has surfaced in the form of Sinner Man and has all the hallmarks of the veteran crime writer's early books; murder, dubious characters and a bit of pulp naughtiness.

Don Barshter did not set out to become a killer, but when his wife annoyed him one to many times that is what he became. Rather than phoning the police and confessing all, Don decides to ditch his old life and move to Buffalo. With the new name of Nathanial Crowley he sets out to become a gangster, but can the mild mannered insurance man become a criminal so easily?

The Dime novels of the 50s and 60s are great quick reads for someone looking to get some fast pulp action. The quality varies, even within Lawrence Block's own cannon, but when you find a good one, they are a guilty pleasure. Sinner Man is certainly one of the good ones – most people don't think about killing their partner, but a fair few may have thought about what how life could have been. The story of Don/Nat is one of a man living his fantasy, but to survive he really needs to buy into the character.

Rather than have the new persona of Nat fall easily into the life of a criminal, Block makes the character work for it. The first half of the book is made up of Don fleeing his old life and building his new one brick by brick. By doing this the reader is invested in Don's story. This is not a nice man; he killed his wife and fled. However, you cannot help rooting for him and don't really want to see him get his comeuppance. The book has a particularly good ending when Nat's lies starts to unravel – the conclusion is very satisfactory and fits in with the tone of the book.

What does not fit in with the tone is the erotica sections. They are pretty mild, but the book was written at a time when Block made his money with blue books. Sinner Man was to be his break away from this and instead allow him to become a crime writer. Unfortunately, his bad habits followed him. The ruder scenes feel a little flat and from another story.

Sinner Man is another great piece of hidden pulp fiction rediscovered. A Block completest will enjoy the usual high quality prose by the writer, but any reader of action or crime books will get some vicarious thrills from the book. Just watch what happens when events get a little fruity!

Block has written many, many novels from the ridiculous Borderline to the sublime The Burglar Who Counted The Spoons.

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Buy Sinner Man by Lawrence Block at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Sinner Man by Lawrence Block at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Sinner Man by Lawrence Block at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Sinner Man by Lawrence Block at


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