First Book of the Year: Lawrence Block, Sinner Man

A hard-boiled crime novel my Aunt got me for Christmas set in the lower west side of Buffalo. It’s hard for an author to write such an unlikeable character well enough to keep their audience reading until the end, much less not be able to put the book down, but Block masters that art in this book. (That and the art of the great one-liner, of which each chapter has more than a few.) Published by a small house and lost for fifty years until Block went on a mission to find it, recounted in the very entertaining afterword. And of course, it was great to read about all these places I know. For all that’s changed on the lower west side, there’s a lot that’s still the same: neighborhoods run by organized crime, a police force that does just enough to keep it’s citizens thinking they’re actually doing something. And yes, the winter sky in Buffalo is often seven different shades of gray. I’m looking at one now.

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