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Borderline by Lawrence Block
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Borderline

by Lawrence Block

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Borderline, which has now been reissued by Hard Case Crime, was published in 1962 as Border Lust by Don Holliday. The copyright, however, indicates that it was written as early as 1958. It is wonderful piece of old-fashioned pulp and one of the amazing things about it is that it was written so long ago. It combines many of the risqué elements of Block's early writings in the dimestore paperback industry with the mystery elements of his later writings. Here, you have hippie hitchikers, professional gamblers, divorced housewives out to experience life for the first time, and a serial killer stalking and mutilating his prey. Block takes the reader into an amazing journey, first focusing on one of these people and then on the next and weaving them into this tale.

The setting for the story is the border between El Paso and Cuidad Juarez, which even back then fifty years ago was a lawless frontier where anything goes. Americans would cross the border to gamble, to watch shows, to drink, and do anything else that was for sale and just about anything was for sale. The book is not so much about a complex story as about the atmosphere and characterizations that Block develops of these individuals whose paths cross as they try to escape their mundane lives and find freedom in the excesses of the border towns.

All these people meet in El Paso and Ciudad Juarez and the story details their journey as they let loose and either live out fantasies or struggle to survive. It is a quick reading dimestore pulp read. It is not for the faint of heart and is rather risqué, adult faire. A worthwhile addition to the Hard Case Crime series, indeed.

About one-third of the volume is taken up with short stories in addition to the feature-length novel.
The Burning Fury was originally published in the February 1959 issue of Off Beat Detective Stories. On the surface, it is merely a folksy down-home tale of a miserably unhappy lumberjack taking a drink in a bar. Oh, but it is so much more than that. There is atmosphere and characterization here that is simply outstanding.

Stag Party Gal was originally published in the February 1963 issue of Man's Magazine. It has an interesting, attention-getting title and it's long for a short. In fact, at eleven chapters, it's long enough to be worth a read in its own right. The plot itself is typical of fifties era pulp, but what makes this worth reading is how solidly hardboiled the writing is. "Even at that ghastly hour," he explains, "she looked like a toothpaste ad. Her hair was blonde silk and her eyes were blue jewels and her skin was creamed perfection." She could have been a vogue model, but "the body was just too bountiful." That's the fiancé who sits in Ed's apartment making coy comments and having the equipment to carry it off.
( )
  DaveWilde | Sep 22, 2017 |
Good book. Easy reading. Ending sucked. Better ending I would have given it four stars. That's how bad the ending is. ( )
  Zapple100 | Jan 31, 2016 |
Synopsis/blurb………

THE SCORCHING PULP NOVEL BY LAWRENCE BLOCK, AVAILABLE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 50 YEARS!

On the border between El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico, five lives are about to collide - with fatal results. You'll meet

MARTY - the professional gambler who rolls the dice on a night with...

MEG - the bored divorcee who seeks excitement and finds...

LILY - the beautiful hitchhiker lured into a live sex show by...

CASSIE - the redhead with her own private agenda...

and WEAVER - the madman, the killer with a straight razor in his pocket, on the run from the police and determined to go down swinging!

This is MWA Grand Master Lawrence Block at his rawest and most visceral, a bloody, bawdy, brutal story of passion and punishment--and of lines that were never meant to be crossed.

PLUS: Three of Block’s rarest short stories from the pulps, mapping the border between sanity and depravity…..THE BURNING FURY, A FIRE AT NIGHT and STAG PARTY GIRL
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My take.....

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. Once I got my wits back, my verdict was – fantastic.

The 3 extra stories entertained as well. Perfect reading material for a grim December.

I'm definitely hoping to get back to more from Mr Block in 2015, picking up where I left off with Scudder..... somewhere around book 5 or 6.

5 from 5

I did get access (sort of) to an Audible version after responding to an offer on one of the author’s newsletters, unfortunately I was incapable of downloading the correct programme properly in order to listen to this. I went to my local library instead and borrowed.

Read back in December, 2014
http://col2910.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01... ( )
  col2910 | Apr 3, 2015 |
Originally published in the late 1950s, republished with this edition in 2014. Four drifters wind up in Juarez on the Texas/Mexico border and find that some borders, once you cross them, cannot be uncrossed...

Borderline is the story of four drifters whose lives intersect once they reach the border towns of El Paso and Juarez. Marty is a moderately successful gambler, with a preference for poker. Meg is a recent divorcee looking for thrills. Lily is a hitchhiker looking to start a new life who ends up working in a cathouse. Weaver is a cold-blooded serial killer with nothing left to lose.

This has some of Block's trademarks from his later books - the shortness and tightness of the story for instance as well as his characters being more than a little damaged (and who like their drink). However, there are some things that have not followed through, such as the explicit horniness of many of his characters (excused in one on her high intake of alcohol and weed), as well as the dealing with the gutters of life - the cathouse, the rapes, incest, pornography, voyeurism, orgies, murders etc...as well as a mad killer with a switch-blade! (and all in less than 170 pages!).

If you are looking for a Matthew Scudder or Bernie Rhoddenbarr style book, this is not the book for you. This is a pulp fiction at its dirtiest, and is not for the easily offended!

There are three short stories included in this edition, all very short, but at time of writing, I was not in the mood to read. Read into that what you will.

At time of writing, I saw the following post from "Past Offences" - a website who does a mean turn in "mystery and thrillers" published in earlier times

http://pastoffences.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/wheres-papa-going-with-that-ax-the-...

Wanted to mention that particular post, as the cover art mentioned reminded me of the cover art for this book - even if a few years earlier!
  nordie | Sep 1, 2014 |
"Borderline" by Lawrence Block is volume 115 from the Hard Case Crime imprint and is another visceral gut punch of a novel from the brilliant Block. Originally published by Nightstand in December 1961 under the title "Border Lust" (with Block writing under the pseudonym Don Holliday) this Hard Case Crime release represents the novel's first publication in 50 years. Block was in his early twenties when he wrote the story and it is an amazingly deft and mature achievement for such a young writer –it is a yarn that crackles with pulp energy, violence, sex and immorality and given the risqué content it must have been pretty shocking back in 1961. "Borderline" tells the story of five disparate characters who find themselves gravitating to the dark and gritty night-time netherworld between El Paso and Juarez on the Mexican border with the United States. There's Marty, the cocky professional gambler on the look-out for an easy score; Lily, a broke teenage hitch-hiker who's willing to do anything and anyone to raise the cash to get her to New York; there's Meg, a recent escapee from a stale and boring marriage looking for a weekend of kicks and dirty debauchery; Cassie, a sexy red-haired hipster lesbian who works at a sleazy x-rated live action, back-street theatre and finally Weaver a psychotic, depraved serial murderer who's on an insane kill spree. Their five separate stories are soon converging and inevitably they will all collide in an explosion of greasy sex and grisly violence. Block's writing is powerful and unflinching; his plot and humour is edgy and his depiction of violence is graphic and his depiction of sex explicit. His prose is excellently crafted for such a young writer and he is particularly clever at moving between his ensemble of characters, each of whom, no matter how despicable, is compelling and expertly narrated. The occasional splashes of hipster dialogue add colour and neatly place the book in its particular time. Block builds the suspense incrementally and when it reaches breaking point he unleashes a climatic burst of violence that is stunning, powerful and totally unexpected – a real gut-punch of an ending. This Hard Case Crime edition also includes three rare early Block short stories. "The Burning Fury" from the February 1959 issue of "Off Beat Detective Stories", a grim and vicious story about the nastiest drunk you're ever likely to meet. "A Fire at Night" from June 1958s "Manhunt" is a short, sharp tale about a pyromaniac that carries a great twist in its tail. The final story, "Stag Party Girl", which appeared in the February 1963 issue of "Man's Magazine" is a cracking novelette about a private detective hired by a soon to be married man, who's accused of murdering a stripper at his stage party – that stripper just happens to be his ex-girlfriend who has been threatening to blackmail him. Intricately plotted this is a great wee tale. Finally it is worth noting the cover art for "Borderline" by Michael Koelsch. The vast majority of the Hard Case Crime books carry beautifully pulpy painted covers, but this particular cover from Koelsch is an absolute beauty that captures the milieu and feel of Bloch's story to perfection. More at: http://kvlt-kvltvre.blogspot.co.uk/ ( )
  calum-iain | Aug 3, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 178116777X, Paperback)

THE SCORCHING PULP NOVEL BY LAWRENCE BLOCK, AVAILABLE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 50 YEARS!

On the border between El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico, five lives are about to collide - with fatal results. You'll meet  

MARTY - the professional gambler who rolls the dice on a night with... 

MEG - the bored divorcee who seeks excitement and finds... 

LILY - the beautiful hitchhiker lured into a live sex show by...

CASSIE - the redhead with her own private agenda... 

and WEAVER - the madman, the killer with a straight razor in his pocket,  on the run from the police and determined to go down swinging!

This is MWA Grand Master Lawrence Block at his rawest and most visceral, a bloody, bawdy, brutal story of passion and punishment--and of lines that were never meant to be crossed.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:59 -0400)

This book includes three of Block's rarest short stories, from the pages of the pulp magazines of half a century ago. On the border between El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico, five lives are about to collide--with fatal results. You'll meet Marty--the professional gambler who rolls the dice on a night with... Meg--the bored divorcee who seeks excitement and finds... Lily--the beautiful hitchhiker lured into a live sex show by... Cassie--the redhead with her own private agenda... and Weaver--the madman, the killer with a straight razor in his pocket, on the run from the police and determined to go down swinging!… (more)

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