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“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”
― Voltaire

A Ticket to the Boneyard - Lawrence Block I am not the target audience for this book.1) I'm a chicken when it comes to horror/thriller.2) In Ticket, Block experiments with a thriller plot of a sadistic freak stalking Scudder and Elaine for revenge. Yes, they set him up, but they were totally justified, because he was stalking prostitutes, assaulting and raping them and trying to use mind Jedi tricks to convince them to let him be their pimp for good. No cop thought the charges would stick because, you know, this is a New York jury: they would have thought the pros totally deserved it, right?3) Did I mention I am a chicken when it comes to horror? I am.4) While the stalker-rapist was in jail, he killed at least two people and possibly three more, but the prison authorities couldn't prove anything (cuz he was already in a prison, natch)5) I made it to about page 50 before I read ahead so I could know who survives.6) Yes, I know there are like 10 other Scudder books. See #3.7) Now that I know the ending (roughly; I didn't totally cheat--what do you think I am?? I skimmed it) I'll go back and finish the book.*********Alright, plowed through it today. Not out of any great love, mind you, but out of sense of responsibility and completion. The fact that there were some very nicely written sections and several great scenes with Scudder and his retinue (Elaine, Danny Boy, Mick Ballou, a random Ohio detective) were sheer bonus, much like discovering bacon bits on a spinach salad. One of the pleasures remains Scudder's struggles with personal growth. Jim Faber, AA sponsor, recommended he take up The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius and Scudder's been meditating on it (and finding it useless, but that's part of the fun). There's a nice bit where dry Scudder feels slightly frustrated by the ghosts of hangovers past: "I like to think I'd given up mornings like this along with the booze. Instead my head ached and my mouth and throat were dry and every minute took three or four minutes to pass." He ends up discussing the experience at an AA meeting, and it's refreshing to see him taking the time to puzzle out his feelings instead of drowning them in Kentucky coffee. He still makes a stupid mistake or three because he is so very desperate to take down the stalker. Scudder seriously abuses some shoe leather as he knocks on doors (so to speak) and hits just about every flophouse in town. Those parts are believable enough, but I'm surprised his cop friends give him so much grief later in the book about pressing charges for assault. That is less explicable in context of prior books and the old-boys' club, and it feels more like a device to create a feeling of entrapment and futility. I feel like some of the plotting in building the stalker-tension was more forced, less consistent with Scudder and his NYC world. The psychological intimidation on the part of the stalker was enough to put me off, but I'm not sure it squared as well with the addition of the sadistic murdering qualities as well; it was a little too "this is the ultimate bad guy so everything that happens to him is justified." I'm not sure it was psychologically consistent within the criminal personality either--he killed in a multitude of ways, a multitude of people (some not even connected), sodomized, had sex with dead bodies, targeted women, etc. He did everything but abuse puppies and kittens. What Block really does well are nuanced characters--witness Ballou--and this villain didn't play to his strengths. Still, decent enough. Onward!