Doak Miller

Created by Lawrence Block (1938--)

The cover of Block's The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes (2015) boasts the prominent (and seriously retro-looking) HardCaseCrime logo and a naked babe with the obligatory gun and come-hither look. Even the title suggests we may be time-traveling back to the heady days of the original paperback boom, when thousands of cheesy paperbacks (and their lurid covers) promising varying degrees of sex and violence filled the spinner racks of America. Some of them were well worth reading, some even approached the levels of literature, but they all promised at minimum some fast, cheap thrills.

But all the years and all my alleged maturity are defenseless against Block's latest, a knock-off quickie that gets in, gets out, and leaves behind only the lingering stench of sex, sweat, booze and blood. DOAK MILLER is a former NYPD dick, pushing fifty, who's set up shop as a cut-rate private eye in some steamy Florida bunghole somewhere between Tampa and Panama City. He has an understanding with the local cops, as well as with several hot-to-trot women in the area. But the fireworks, sexual and otherwise, really begin when he agrees to pose as an out-of-town gun in order to help the fuzz nab a Mrs. Otterbein, who's looking to get rid of Mr. Otterbein. Simple enough, until Doak sees the wife, she of the deep blue eyes, and then all bets are off.

There's an instant sexual attraction, and before you can say James M. Cain, the two are plotting to murder her husband -- in between several steamy sexual encounters that definitely weren't written in the 1950s. "It was more than kinky,"Doak reflects at one point, "It was... well, he didn't know what it was, exactly."

What it is -- exactly -- is an unholy combo of primal urges, sexual obsession, perverted desires and murderous treachery played out in motel rooms, bars and dark alleys that will not end well for anyone.

But, then, all the best noir never has a sequel. This is Block at his very best, having a bit of fun. It's cheap and dirty and fast, but sometimes cheap is how I feel.

UNDER OATH

  • "...classic pulp... set in the present day of Web searches and burner phones. Block is more up on technology and new media than many of his contemporaries."

-- Gerald So, DetecToday

NOVELS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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