Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep: Lawrence Block

Lawrence Block started publishing mysteries in the early 1960s. This first entry in the Evan Tanner series was published in 1966.

From the description of Evan Tanner at a UK publisher, No Exit Press:
He is 34 years old and hasn't slept a wink since a piece of shrapnel destroyed the sleep centre in his brain during the Korean War. Tanner loves lost causes and beautiful women.
This is a very entertaining caper novel. I went into it thinking it was the first book of a spy series, and in a sense it is. But it is more of a spoof than a real spy story, and much less realistic than most spy novels I read.

For the first half of the book I was thinking the story was just too fantastic, even though it was an easy read and entertaining. In fact, it did remind me of fantasy novels I have read where the most unusual things happen and the hero gets in lots of deep water and is rescued time and again magically. At about the half way mark, the story becomes a bit more realistic -- just a bit.

Even when I was having problems with the plot or the whole impossibility of the situations he gets into, I still found this a fast, entertaining read. I have the next book in this series, The Canceled Czech, and plan to read it. At that point, we will see if I continue on

An interesting note: Most of the book is a wild, funny ride. But parts of this book are set in Turkey, and a large part of the plot depends on Tanner's research related to the Turkish massacres of Armenians during and after World War I. Before reading this book, I did not know much on that subject. I discussed it with both my son and my husband, who are more knowledgeable of both history and current events than I am. And did a little research on my own.

A quote from the book:
But it was during World War I, when Turkey fought on the Axis side and feared her Armenian subjects as a potential fifth column, that the Armenian massacres reached their height and the phrase “Starving Armenians” found its way into our language. In mid-1915 the Turks went berserk. In one community after another the Armenian population was uprooted, men and women and children were massacred indiscriminately, and those who were not put to the sword either fled the country or quietly starved.
I don't read mysteries to educate myself, I read them for entertainment. But knowledge gained from reading fiction is a welcome side effect. There is an afterward by the author describing his circuitous route to coming up with this plot.

I have read some books from two of Lawrence Block's other series: the Matthew Scudder series, which is very dark, and the Bernie Rhodenbarr Burglar series, which is funny. I read those books long ago and have plans to re-read them soon (gradually, over time). I like his writing no matter whether it is light or heavy.

This counts as one of my books for the following challenges:
Mt. TBR Challenge
Read Your Own Books Challenge
A-Z Challenge
1st in a Series Challenge
Merely Mystery Reading Challenge
Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge

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