Every year around this time, my allergies act up. In good years, they come and go. In most years, I wind up with a sinus infection that sometimes turns into bronchitis. In really special years, the bronchitis goes all the way to pneumonia. (I hold off until one of these things happens because I don’t want to waste antibiotics prematurely. You’re welcome.)
This year was almost a really special year, according to the doctor at the urgent care center this morning. So I’ve started a course of meds, and watched my beloved Kentucky Wildcats upset the despicable Louisville Cardinals this afternoon with only occasional barking spasms on my part.
One of the downsides to all this was that I haven’t slept terribly well lately, but the silver lining is that I’ve had a little extra time to read. One evening earlier this week I read Sinner Man, Lawrence Block’s first crime novel. It was published in 1960, but was only recently recovered from the land of pulp pseudonyms and reissued by Hard Case Crime.
The premise is a neat one — a fellow unintentionally kills his wife in an argument, and assumes a new identity in a remarkably different line of work. Complications, as they say, ensue. There’s a fair amount of pulp-style sex and a remarkable amount of noirish introspection. (There’s also a throwaway line that would surface decades later as the title of one of Larry’s series books, but I’ll leave that for you as an Easter egg.) There’s even a hint of the inescapable fatalism one finds in The Maltese Falcon‘s famed “Flitcraft parable.”
Given that the book was published when Block was 22, it’s a very strong early novel, with strong hints of the career that would come. While some reissues of this sort might be for completists only, Sinner Man is a nice evening’s read in its own right. You may buy a copy here.
So while I try to silence my rales, I’d like to share one of the highlights of my trip to Philly with y’all. One of the cooler presentations at NoirCon was when Woody Haut talked for an hour about the jazz scene on L.A.’s Central Avenue during David Goodis’s time there. You can check out a version of his talk at the LA Review of Books here. It’s worth your time.
And in the meantime, here’s a little music for your evening. It’s a weird little number from Toronto’s The Paupers, and I think a song that could only have been released in the late 60s. From their album Ellis Island, this is “Ask Her Again.”
See you soon!