Best known for his Matt Scudder private eye novels, Block is also an accomplished writer of short fiction, and the 22 stories here, most of them post-1984, have appeared in a variety of magazines, including Playboy and the Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines. They are all skilful, written tightly and economically, with a mastery of dialogue; several are also, however, terribly slight. Some, like ``Cleveland in My Dreams,'' ``As Good as a Rest'' or the title story, are essentially no more than extended shaggy-dog tales. One of the three Scudder stories, ``By the Dawn's Early Light,'' is a treat--like one of the novels in miniature, and full of the tough melancholy that shrouds that impassive PI; another, ``Batman's Helpers,'' is a cutting New York cameo of casual brutality toward helpless street merchants. ``Hilliard's Ceremony,'' a story of faith and cynicism set in West Africa, could have been written by Somerset Maugham; ``Someday I'll Plant More Walnut Trees'' is also atypical, a brooding Chekhovian country tale. Only Block, however, could have conceived ``The Burglar Who Dropped In on Elvis,'' a welcome reminder of Bernie Rhodenbarr, one of Block's series heroes he seems to have abandoned. Sometimes the author's macabre imagination lends a remoteness, as in ``The Tulsa Experience,'' ``How Would You Like It?'' or ``Like a Bug on a Windshield,'' that is less chilling than distasteful. But the entertainment level is high throughout, and there is never any doubt of Block's prose mastery. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/29/1993 Release date: 04/01/1993 Genre: Fiction
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