Borderline by Lawrence Block

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Borderline by Lawrence Block

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Category: Crime
Rating: 2/5
Reviewer: Sam Tyler
Reviewed by Sam Tyler
Summary: The world of Lawrence Block's 'Borderline' is one of pleasure seekers and murderous intent. Dare you open to pages of a book that has more eye opening elements than a laser surgeon's workshop?
Buy? No Borrow? No
Pages: 256 Date: May 2014
Publisher: Titan Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781783290574

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I can imagine the scene back in 1950s America. The Hays Code was at full force meaning that movies where forced to dull their more exuberant edges. Comic books had been vilified as perverting the minds of the youth; horror had turned to All American Superheroes. That left the hidden Dime Novel, a book you could pick up for only 10 cents to revel in its vicarious pleasures. Anyone could don an old Macintosh coat and pick up something like Lawrence Block’s ‘Borderline’, a book that purports to be crime noir, but is something very different indeed.

Marty is a professional gambler and to stay on top in this game you have to keep a clear head, but this is hard to do when you come across a women as drop dead gorgeous and as passionate as Meg. The two of them decide to cross the border from El Paso in Texas to Juarez, Mexico. Here they indulge in all their pleasures of both the mind and the flesh. On their travels they will meet a damaged young woman called Lily and a shy man called Weaver whose problems are far more extreme than appear on the surface.

‘Borderline’ is pure exploitation and titillation. It is a book designed by Block to allow certain people during the 50s to indulge in illicit pleasures without actually carrying them out. Think of it as a ’50 Shades of Grey’ from the 1950s. But wait, this is my grandfather’s era; one of clean country air and marrying your childhood sweetheart. You tell that to the absolute debortuary that drips of the page here – naughty inter war generation!

As a man in his 30s I can handle a little adult content, but even I felt my ears redden with ‘Borderline’, the sex and violence is almost incessant. There is meant to be a crime element to the book that gives it meaning, but this is nothing more than an excuse for a different type of exploitation. Here Block examines murder fantasies; you are given a glimpse into a very disturbed killer’s head. In a straight crime novel the dark imagination of the villain would play well of our hero, but seeing as the rest of the book is all about carnal pleasures, you have to assume that this element of the book is a continuation and not a contradiction.

I’m not an overly moralistic person, but I do like some sort of good and bad element to my books – even a touch of grey would do. No one is sympathetic in ‘Borderline’, but even so the book may have worked if it felt there was a point to it. The narrative ends sharply with no real sense of closure. The events leading up to the end never really matter as what happens in the story does not really impact the conclusion. It could literally have been a series of any scenes leading to the last moments – the book is an excuse to write about rude things!

At fewer than 200 pages, ‘Borderline’ is not only a pretty poor attempt at a story, but too short too. However, to combat this Titan books have also added 3 short stories by Block; two of which continue the slightly dubious tone of the main story, but one that shows why Block is so popular. This is an author who has produced the Bernie Rhodenbarr series, but also the Chip Harrison books. Bear in mind, that bodies will be bared if you dare to cross the ‘Borderline’. The main issue with the book is not the sex or the violence, but the complete disregard for any type of storyline that is worth reading; how could a book with so much going on; be so boring?

If the idea of this book appeals then you might like to have a look at Telling Lies for Fun and Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers by Lawrence Block and Complex 90 by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins. We also have a review of Block's Sinner Man.

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