EIGHT MILLION WAYS TO DIE by Lawrence Block

This is the fifth in the Matt Scudder  detective crime series, out of  24 volumes, the last one being published in 2011.   It was made into a movie in 1986, starring Jeff Bridges.

I really liked this ex cop-turned P.I., so I will print out a list of the series titles in order and see what others I can snag.

One thing about mid-twentieth century crime fiction, it all kind of has the same flavor, and I read three or four almost in a row, and now the plots are all swirling about in the mosh pit of my mind.  Let’s see if I can sort out the story line of this book from the others.

Plot stolen from a much better reviewer than me (somebody named Kemper, to give credit where due, since it sure as shootin’ isn’t due to me for this symopsis) slightly edited so I can feel better about my outright theft:  “Still working as an unlicensed private detective, Scudder is approached by an upscale prostitute named Kim. She wants to quit the business but is nervous about telling her pimp, Chance. Kim hires Matt to break the news to Chance and gauge his reaction to see if he’ll try to keep her working.

After Matt tracks Chance down, he’s surprised to find that the pimp seems reasonable and doesn’t object to Kim leaving. Matt passes the word along to Kim and thinks his work is done. Days later, he’s shocked to learn that Kim has been brutally murdered.”

OK, enough of other people’s words.  Some interesting characters here, starting with the elegant Black pimp, a connoisseur of African tribal masks, and his stable of 5 working girls with a heart of gold.  One of his ladies is a not-successful poet, one is a woo woo hippie, etc.  The first soiled dove to be murdered is not the last, and Chance is starting to get nervous that someone is working their way through his entire stable.

Good mystery.  But the almost more interesting flip side is the fact that Scudder is a recovering alcoholic, and throughout the book we are witness to his sometimes not-so-successful struggle to stay off the booze.  The story is filled with AA meetings, and his musings on whether or not to drink.  It is a formulaic recovering alcoholic ex-cop turned P.I. / noirish detective crime mystery, but although both halves of the book are formulaic, somehow it really works.  A tribute to a good writer and story teller.

Lawrence Block is quite prolific, having churned out over 100 books.   Wow. If you set yourself the task of reading his entire oeuvre, even if you read two of his books a year, it will take you a couple of years.  Wow.

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2 comments on “EIGHT MILLION WAYS TO DIE by Lawrence Block

  1. […] read.  I am certainly enjoying this series, although so far, the fifth, Eight Million Ways to Die, is the […]

  2. […] is the second in the Matthew Scudder series.  I got into this series after having read Eight Million Ways to Die,  and decided a mid-century noir-ish detective series was just the ticket for those cozy times […]

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