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No redeeming qualities? Really?

February 24, 2013

“Keller is a cold-blooded killer with no redeeming qualities whatsoever to make him worth reading about.”

Someone felt the need to post that on my Facebook page. Fortunately some reviewers have had nicer things to say—

Margaret Cannon, in the Toronto Globe & Mail:
“There are few writers who can touch Block for happy hooligan-style mayhem. Keller flits from Dallas to Florida to Wyoming and New York, flipping one-liners all the way. The plot is as tight as Jessica Simpson’s Spandex. Welcome back, Mr. Block.”

Jim Higgins, in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
“From the beginning I found [Block’s] writing like pizza: good even in its ordinary manifestations, mind-blowing in its excellent ones….HIT ME is so suffused with stamp lore and lust that philately can often be said to outrank murder on any given page. It’s testament to Block’s talent that I find these passages entertaining, even though I’ve never collected stamps. I think he gets how a collection, for certain men, can be a passion, even an obsession, that provides a sense of purpose.”

aaaHITMEMarilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review:
“HIT ME brings back his most fatally appealing protagonist, the professional hit man known as Keller….Aside from their ingenious methodology, what make these amuse-bouches so delectable are the moral dilemmas Block throws up to deflect his philosophical antihero from a given task.”

Tom Callahan,
“The stories in HIT ME hold together perfectly, and the conversations Keller has with Dot are a delight to read. But then you discover that Block has not just written an entertaining book but also has managed to say something very serious about the age in which we live.”

Alison Fensterstock, New Orleans Times-Picayune:
“The appeal of Keller has always been the thoughtful and dryly, darkly humorous way he ponders the moral relativity of his vocation, and applies the same thoroughness and attention to detail to his stamp collecting as he does to murder for hire.”

And y’all seem to be lining up on Keller’s side. The good people at Mulholland Books have just ordered a third printing, and I’ve learned that HIT ME will debut at #28 on the New York Times Bestseller List on Sunday, March 3. The wistful hit man seems to have a genuine hit on his hands.

You’re probably tired of hearing about the limited Philatelic Edition, and it’s time for me to stop mentioning it, as we’re down to five copies (of 500) and they may all be gone by the time you read this. So I’ll tell you instead about some other ways to catch up on Keller.

HarperCollins published the first four books, and presently offer them as both mass-market paperbacks and eBooks. Now, for a limited time only, they’ve dropped their ePrices dramatically. Hit List, Hit Parade, and Hit & Run, regularly $7.99, are $3.99 apiece; Hit Man, Keller’s debut, is a virtual giveaway at 99¢. That link is to Amazon, but the same special pricing is in effect at Nook, AppleKobo, and Sony Reader. (It is, I’m sorry to say, a US-only promotion; the books are available worldwide, but not at these prices. )

I’ve ePublished several Keller stories individually, and they’ve been getting a strong reception. “Keller in Dallas” is in fact the first episode of Hit Me, and appeared initially in EQMM and American Stamp Dealer & Collector. “Keller on the Spot” and “Keller’s Therapy” first keller's_adjustmentappeared in Playboy, and both won Edgars from Mystery Writers of America; they were subsequently included as chapters in Hit Man. “Keller’s Horoscope” was first published in Death by Horoscope and became an episode of Hit List, while “Keller’s Adjustment” is my top bestseller this month; a novella written for Evan Hunter’s all-star anthology, Transgressions, it’s a component of Hit Parade, and begins with Keller’s reaction to the 9/11 atrocity. While “Keller in Dallas” is widely available, the others can be bought (or borrowed!) only on Kindle.

If the philatelic aspect of the Keller saga resonates for you, you might want to read Generally Speaking, an eBook of my collected columns from Linn’s Stamp News.

If you enjoy reading with your ears, most of Keller’s adventures are on tap in audio. Hit Man, unabridged and superbly narrated by Robert Forster, is available as an Audible download. Richard Poe’s the splendid narrator of both Hit & Run and Hit Me, and both are unabridged. Hit Parade is similarly unabridged, but it would be unseemly of me to praise the narrator. (You can probably figure out why.)

Hit List is not available in unabridged audio. I narrated an abridged version on cassette years ago, and you can probably dig up a copy, but I don’t recommend it. I hope to get someone to publish an unabridged audiobook of Hit List before too long.

Yes? Arnold?

Audiobooks, eBooks—what about real books??? And it wouldn’t hurt if they were autographed…

Sure, we’ve got books. HIT ME is in the stores right now, both online and brick-n-mortar. And these stores all obtained autographed first editions from the publisher:
A Capella Books | Alabama Booksmith | Book Carnival | Book People | The Booksmith | Carmichael’s Bookstore | Garden District Bookshop | Iowa Book |Lemuria | Murder By the Book | Murder on the Beach | Mysterious Bookshop | Mystery One | Once Upon A Crime | Poisoned Pen | Seattle Mystery Bookshop | VJ Books

For the Keller backlist, David’s got ten items listed in LB’s eBay Bookstore, and we’ve dropped prices on several of them. (Hey, if HarperCollins can lower the paperbacks, why can’t we be equally obliging?) Hardcover first printings of Hit Man and Hit List are $39.99 and $29.99 respectively, but all the rest (including first printings of Hit Parade, hardcover second printings of Hit & Run and Hit List, UK editions, an audiobook) are all pegged at $9.99. A word to the wise: some of these are in short supply. And yes, everything’s signed.

We’ll be adding some signed Keller paperbacks as well, and plenty of non-Keller items, as soon as David gets around to it. So check the store from time to time.


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  1. Don’t feel bad, Larry. This guy is probably what they call a “sock puppeteer.” They are trolls who go on Amazon and other sites and kill the competition. I got one one-star review on Amazon that said, “This book is horrible. Not even worth 99 cents.”

    It was signed “Love Mom.” Only kidding!

    For some reason, Amazon took the review down. I never found out why.

  2. Allie permalink

    No redeeming qualities? What a weird thing to say.

    I loved it. My favorite parts are the conversations between Dot and Keller. That last section was made of awesome. I am wondering if Keller has a new career focus. 🙂

  3. Joanne permalink

    Keller’s terrific- what’s not to like about a philosophical-stamp-collecting-guy who just happens to be a creative gun-for-hire?

  4. No redeeming qualities. So this reviewer doesn’t like stamp collecting?

  5. Levin Messick permalink

    Anyone who does not appreciate stamp collecting and collectors,in general, really has no sense of the historical preservation that collectors have done for centuries and is probably clueless about popular literature as well. Check out Mark Twain’s comments about critics in the foreward to Huckleberry Finn and then go and laugh all the way to the bank. While you are at it please have a comfortable and productive old age and keep up the great writing.

  6. I’m happy to report that Kobo is on board with the price breaks on all the Hit Man books, and I picked up all 4 of them last night! This is the one Lawrence Block series I’ve never read, and I am so looking forward to the treat!

  7. Maria Murad permalink

    We don’t read Troll. “Hit Me” is terrific, as I posted in my review on Amazon. Worth waiting a year for, indeed. And dare I say the ending gives me hope we might see more of just plain Keller.

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