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Borderline: A Hard Case Crime Novel Audio Download – Unabridged

4.0 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an early book by Lawrence Block, basically a pulp novel written under a pseudonym just for the money. Nevertheless it gets 5 stars because it is a perfect example of the genre. The story is set in a two towns on the border of Mexico, the American town is upmarket seedy the Mexican town has no such pretensions and involves the interrelation of four characters. This is not an erotic or hard boiled novel but it is borderline pornographic, definitely bleak and has all the hallmarks of a true noir story. A good read for those who want to immerse themselves in world of human misery.
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Format: Audio Download
I listened to this as an audio book and the first thing to say is that it was superbly read by Mike Dennis. Written over 50 years ago, this set comprises a short novel (the title piece), two short stories and a novella. The main story is a hard boiled noir yarn involving four key players: a professional gambler, a divorcee seeking thrills and excitement, a party girl come drifter and a nasty serial killer. The action takes place on the U.S./Mexico border, alternating between the cities of El Paso and Juarez. The dialogue is sparse and sharp and the action is uncompromising and raw as their lives intersect, ultimately culminating in a brutal conclusion. This isn’t a novel for the prudish or feint hearted, but I loved it!
The two short stories are entertaining enough, but I preferred the whodunit novella. Like the longer tale, the prose is excellently crafted and the plot intriguing enough to keep you locked in.
Anyone familiar with the author’s later work will know that LB can string a good sentence together and is expert at drawing his audience into an enthralling narrative. This compendium of early offerings shows that he had talent to spare from his 20’s. It’s amazing how much quality work he’s produced in his long and industrious writing career.
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Format: Paperback
My second 5 star read from December was Lawrence Block’s Borderline, a short novel written back in the early 60’s. I think I’d be entertained reading this guy’s shopping list.

Sometimes it’s hard to define what I like about books. This one ticked a lot of boxes though…..interesting characters, especially Marty our professional gambler and Lily our young hitchhiker, drifting south from a feckless boyfriend who had her turning tricks, to becoming a participant in one of the legendary Mexican stage shows. Our other characters, including our killer were slightly less interesting to me….still you can’t have 5 leads can you?

With the action unfolding in our border towns of El Paso and Juarez and our characters criss-crossing the divide between the two countries, setting was a massive plus for me also.

One of the main characters or drivers in the book was SEX. I’m no prude but I was surprised by the amount of it in this one. I think a lot of my previous exposure to the pulps has been mainly at the bash ‘em and beat ‘em end of the spectrum as opposed to the strip ‘em and screw ‘em end. Block does have a way with words though, and I’m sure my ears tinged pink as I read, feeling like a ring-side viewer at our live sex-show! You've got to love this guy.

With our characters, Block serves up their pasts and presents in surprisingly quick order. When they intersect and collide, sparks fly and without spoiling, it’s fair to say our climax doesn't see a happy end for most of our participants.

Borderline was short and kind of ended surprisingly abruptly – I’d forgotten the extra stories at the back of the book and was still expecting an inch of story judging by the number of un-thumbed pages still to come.
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Format: Paperback
Having just completed the principal novella contained within this glorious, and quite beautifully presented Hard Case Crime hardback, I find it difficult to say farewell to such deeply flawed, dangerous and yet perfectly drawn characters. In some respects, not much time passes from go to woe, and yet so much happens that it pays to pause at the end to simply take it all in. To begin with, there is Weaver, a sad, pathetic loner who was always destined to live a desperate and singular life. It was not long before he found his own macabre form of happiness in one of the most offensive manners possible.

Marty is an amateur poker player who relies on his card winnings to live. That is about all you can say about this fellow without giving any of the story away.

Meg is a bored and lonely housewife who has recently received divorce finalisation from her husband in Chicago, and is looking for a little excitement. Happenstance, fate, serendipity, call it what you will, leads her to a public park in Mexico, which leads her to Marty. And more excitement than she can handle.

Finally, we have Lily, a girl barely out of her teens, who is also trying to find her life - in more ways than one - and decides to accept a job as a "dancer" in a brothel just passed the US/Mexican border.

Put these ingredients into a dish at the hands of the established master of the crime novel and you are sure to come out with a somewhat explosive result. That is putting it mildly. This book is violent, it is explicit at times but I would certainly not call it pornographic. The book is a perfectly pitched character study of a set of lost and lonely souls, who are (mostly unknowingly) about to embark on a terror filled journey toward the darkness of the human soul. Who will survive?
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