Killing Castro

Hard Case Crime is reprinting a long-lost Lawrence Block novel called KILLING CASTRO. It’s a book Block wrote under a pseudonym fifty years ago. And if this excerpt doesn’t whet your appetite for more, you don’t have a pulse:

The taxi, one headlight out and one fender crimped, cut through
downtown Tampa and headed into Ybor City. Turner sat in the back seat
with his eyes half closed. He was a tall, thin ramrod of a man who was
never tense and yet never entirely relaxed. His hair was the color of
damp sand, his eyes steel gray. His lips were thin and he rarely
smiled. He was not smiling now.

The stub of a cigarette burned
between the second and third fingers of his right hand. The fingers
were yellow-brown from the thousands and thousands of cigarettes which
had curled their tar-laden smoke around them. He looked at the
cigarette, raised it to his lips for a final drag. The smoke was
strong. He rolled down the window and flipped the butt into the street.

The street lights were on in Ybor City, Tampa’s Latin quarter. Taverns
winked seductively in red and green neon. Cubans, Puerto Ricans and
Negroes walked the streets, congregated around pool halls and small
bars. Here and there butt-twitching hustlers were rushing the season,
looking to catch an early trick before the competition got stiff.
Turner watched all this through the taxi window, his thin lips not
smiling, not frowning. He had bigger things on his mind than corner
loungers or early-bird whores.

He was thirty-four years old, and he was wanted for murder.

What’s amazing about it is that he was so good from the get-go, long before he would achieve all his well-earned honors and accolades.

6 thoughts on “Killing Castro”

  1. I can’t wait to read this one. I’ve been to Ybor City a few times in the last two years, and it’s really become a gentrified party town, without all the old, steamy Cuban clubs anymore. There’s even a tram running through it for the tourists.

  2. I love the second paragraph: he uses five sentences to describe how the character takes a drag on a cigarette, and you can see the yellowed fingers, an image that adds so much to the characterization.
    I’m wondering if Mr. Block made an in-depth study of Mickey Spillane. Mr. Spillane writes these kind of information-intensive paragraphs on small things, and the effect is both highly visual and highly visceral. Ayn Rand wrote a glowing essay on Mr. Spillane’s technique, highly praising it for being so realistic, rational, and full of courage (always facing the problem squarely and not running away when it gets ugly.)
    Anyway, this one sure starts out visual and intense. It’ll be a treat to dig in.

  3. This sounds like a great book. I’ve read just about everything by Lawrence Block, so I’ll pick this one up as soon as it comes out.
    As for Block doing an in-depth study of Mickey Spillane…maybe, but I doubt it. I remember reading once in one of Block’s writing books that he wasn’t a big fan of the Mike Hammer books (though he did state a lot of respect for Spillane.)
    P.S. – Totally off topic here but I just read that actor Stanley Kamel from Monk passed away yesterday. Horrible, horrible news.

  4. Yes, Bud, that was the knock against Mr. Spillane. They had great respect for his writing talent but didn’t like the Mike Hammer books. The reason was, Hammer’s attitude about killing. He felt justified in taking human life.
    That’s one reason, I believe, that in Robert B. Parker’s novel, “Back Story,” Spenser agonizes so much when he kills three really awful, evil antagonists. Mr. Parker realizes that the audience values any life, even a really evil character, and that taking a life should have huge moral consequences for the hero.
    As for Mr. Block studying Mr. Spillane, the cigarette smoking in paragraph 2 echoes the opening of one of Mr. Spillane’s 3-million-copy bestsellers. I think it’s, “My Gun is Quick,” but it may be another. In any case, Mr. Block has his own unique talent and style and deserves to be studied in his own right.

  5. Or maybe it was, “One Lonely Night.” Ayn Rand quoted the same smoking scene.
    Yes, I should passed on my condolences to Mr. Kamel’s family and friends. He was a very talented man who gave a lot of pleasure to a lot of people.

  6. Hard Case Crime should be applauded for reprinting these old novels, with great new covers. It’s fascinating to see books that were considered disposable entertainment in their day become time capsules of the underworld.


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