No Exit Press, £6.00 stg
Pornography, prostitution, violence, detective work – Chip Harrison likes to wet his beak in it all in this new collection of Lawrence Block stories. 'The Affairs Of Chip Harrison' is the first time that these adventures have been available in an omnibus and, like Chip, it is a real diamond in the rough.
We meet our anti-hero in a bedroom with his love Francine, trying to convince her to have sex with him, and that sets the tone perfectly for Block's unique blend of hard-boiled, soft-centred writing. To understand what Chip is like in these stories, think Bogart meets Benjamin Braddock; you are now somewhere near the genius of Block's characterisation. At turns enthralling, funny and sexy, Block's style has you rattling through the pages to see what scrape Chip will find himself in next.
The book divides into two distinct parts; the first two stories are erotic coming of age tales, while the second two detail Harrison's involvement in the seedy world of the private investigator. Chip may well be one of the great literary anti-heroes of the early 1970s and, some 30 years after his first story appeared, it is now high time for a reappraisal. Block's writing defined 'pulp fiction' before Tarantino was in nappies, and a generation of writers are indebted to him, not least for his redefinition of the hard-drinking, hard-living femme fatale.
This will certainly not be to everyone's taste. Block takes us on a journey to the black heart of America, invoking images and tales that would not be out of place in a David Lynch film. Trust is anathema and everyone looks out for number one. All told, this is a supremely seedy stroll through Travis Bickle's scum-ridden streets.