Small Town

Small Town

by Lawrence Block

NOOK Book(eBook)

$6.99 View All Available Formats & Editions

Available on Compatible NOOK Devices and the free NOOK Apps.
WANT A NOOK?  Explore Now


The author of dozens of acclaimed novels including those in the Scudder and Keller series, Lawrence Block has long been recognized as one of the premier crime writers of our time. Now, the breathtaking skill, power, and versatility of this Grand Master are brilliantly displayed once again in a mesmerizing new thriller set on the streets of the city he knows and loves so well.

That was the thing about New York -- if you loved it, if it worked for you, it ruined you for anyplace else in the world.

In this dazzlingly constructed novel, Lawrence Block reveals the secret at the heart of the Big Apple. His glorious metropolis is really a small town, filled with men and women from all walks of life whose aspirations, fears, disappointments, and triumphs are interconnected by bonds as unbreakable as they are unseen. Pulsating with the lives of its denizens -- bartenders and hookers, power brokers and politicos, cops and secretaries, editors and dreamers -- the city inspires a passion that is universal yet unique in each of its eight million inhabitants, including:

John Blair Creighton, a writer on the verge of a breakthrough;

Francis Buckram, a charismatic ex–police commissioner -- and the inside choice for the next mayor -- on the verge of a breakdown;

Susan Pomerance, a beautiful, sophisticated folk-art dealer plumbing the depths of her own fierce sexuality;

Maury Winters, a defense attorney who prefers murder trials because there's one less witness;

Jerry Pankow, an ex-addict who has turned being clean into a living, mopping up after New York's nightlife;

And, in the shadows of a city reeling from tragedy, an unlikely killing machine who wages a one-man war against them all.

Infused with the raw cadence, stark beauty, and relentless pace of New York City, Small Town is a tour de force Block fans old and new will celebrate.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061826726
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 576
Sales rank: 450,276
File size: 575 KB

About the Author

Lawrence Block is one of the most widely recognized names in the mystery genre. He has been named a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America and is a four-time winner of the prestigious Edgar and Shamus Awards, as well as a recipient of prizes in France, Germany, and Japan. He received the Diamond Dagger from the British Crime Writers' Association—only the third American to be given this award. He is a prolific author, having written more than fifty books and numerous short stories, and is a devoted New Yorker and an enthusiastic global traveler.

Read an Excerpt

Small Town

Chapter One

By the time Jerry Pankow was ready for breakfast, he'd already been to three bars and a whorehouse.

It was, he'd discovered, a great opening line. "By the time I had my eggs and hash browns this morning ... " Wherever he delivered it, in backroom bars or church basements, it got attention. Made him sound interesting, and wasn't that one of the reasons he'd come to New York? To lead an interesting life, certainly, and to make himself interesting to others.

And, one had to admit, to plumb the depths of depravity, which resonated well enough with the notion of three bars and a whorehouse before breakfast.

Today he was having his breakfast in Joe Jr.'s, a Greek coffee shop at the corner of Sixth Avenue and West Twelfth Street. He wasn't exactly a regular here. The whorehouse was on Twenty-eighth, two doors east of Lexington, right around the corner from the Indian delis and restaurants that had people calling the area Curry Hill. Samosa and aloo gobi wasn't his idea of breakfast, and anyway those places wouldn't open until lunchtime, but he liked the Sunflower coffee shop on Third Avenue, and stopped there more often than not after he finished up at the whorehouse.

This morning, though, he was several degrees short of ravenous, and his next scheduled stop was in the Village, at Charles and Waverly. So he'd walked across Twenty-third and down Sixth. That stretch of Sixth Avenue had once afforded a good view of the twin towers, and now it showed you where they'd been, showed you the gap in the downtown skyline. A view of omission, he'd thought more than once.

And now here he was in a booth at Joe's with orange juice and a western omelet and a cup of coffee, light, no sugar, and how depraved was that? It was ten o'clock, and he'd get to Marilyn's by eleven and be out of there by one, with the rest of the day free and clear. Maybe he'd catch the two-thirty meeting at Perry Street. He could stop by after he left Marilyn's and put his keys on a chair so he'd have a seat when he came back at meeting time. You had to do that there, it was always standing-room-only by the time the meeting started.

Recovery, he thought. The hottest ticket in town.

He let the waiter refill his coffee cup, smiled his thanks, then automatically checked the fellow out as he walked away, only to roll his eyes at his own behavior. Cute butt, he thought, but so what?

If he were to show up at a meeting of Sex Addicts Anonymous, he thought, nobody would tell him to get the hell out. But did it make his life unmanageable? Not really. And, more to the point, could he handle another program? He was in AA, sober a little over three years, and, because drugs played a part in his story, he managed to fit a couple of NA meetings into his weekly schedule. And, because his parents were both drunks -- his father died of it, his mother lived with it -- he was an Adult Child of Alcoholics, and went to their meetings now and then. (But not too often, because all the whining and bitching and getting-in-touch-with-my-completely-appropriate-anger made his teeth ache.)

And, because John-Michael was an alcoholic (and also sober, and anyway they weren't lovers anymore), he went to Al-Anon a couple of times a month. He hated the meetings, and he wanted to slap most of the people he saw there -- the Al-Anon-Entities, his sponsor called them. But that just showed how much he needed the program, didn't it? Or maybe it didn't. It was hard to tell.

Three years sober, and he started each day by visiting three bars and a whorehouse, inhaling the reek of stale beer and rancid semen. The bars were in Chelsea, all within a few blocks of his top-floor walkup on Seventeenth west of Ninth, and of course they were closed when he arrived for the morning cleanup. He had keys, and he would let himself in, trying not to dwell on the way the place stank, the odor of booze and bodies and various kinds of smoke, the dirty-socks smell of amyl nitrite, and something else, some indefinable morning-after stench that was somehow more than the sum of its parts. He'd note that and dismiss it, and he'd sweep and mop the floor and clean the lavatories -- God, human beings were disgusting -- and finally he'd take down the chairs from the tables and the stools from the bar top and set them up where they belonged. Then he'd lock up, and off to the next.

He hit the bars in what he thought of as working his way up from the depths, starting with Death Row, a leather bar west of Tenth Avenue with a back room where safe sex required not just condoms but full body armor. Then one called Cheek, on Eighth and Twentieth, with a neighborhood crowd that ran to preppy types and the aging queens who loved them. And, finally, a straight bar on Twenty-third Street -- well, a mixed crowd, really, typical for the neighborhood, straight and gay, male and female, young and old, the common denominator being an abiding thirst. The place was called Harrigan's -- Harridan's, some called it -- and it didn't reek of pot and poppers and nocturnal emissions, but that didn't mean a blind man might mistake it for the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

In his drinking days, Jerry might have started the evening at Harrigan's. He could tell himself he was just stopping for a quick social drink before he settled in for the night ...

Small Town. Copyright © by Lawrence Block. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.


Block in the City
Whenever an award-winning writer like Lawrence Block comes out with a new book, people take notice. That should go double for Small Town: At once a riveting stand-alone thriller set in post-9/11 New York City and a poignant exploration of the way very personal connections happen in big cities just as they do in small towns, this is an all-around powerful novel. It offers a variety of perspectives on life in the Big Apple, from an unlucky janitor and an unexpectedly successful writer to an adventurous gallery owner and an unambitious bartender -- plus cops and crooks, politicians and publishing professionals, lawyers, hookers, and more. (Not to mention one all-too-inventive killer who is turning everyone else's world upside down.) Ransom Notes asked Block to talk about why he thinks people have such strong feelings about New York City and what the setting and the 9/11 connection added to Small Town.

Lawrence Block: For over a decade I've had the intention of writing a big, multiple-viewpoint New York novel, holding as much of the city as I could cram into it. I set almost all my fiction in New York for essentially the same reason that I elect to live here: The city excites and energizes me. My wife and I travel everywhere with great enthusiasm, and we like most of the places we visit, but this is home. Neither of us would be happy living anywhere else...and my characters feel the same way. I began work on Small Town during the summer of 2001 and had around 100 pages done when the towers came down. I went back to work the following June, with the characters I'd developed but a new story line that reflected the new reality of life in New York. People have described Small Town as a post-apocalyptic New York novel, and I can't argue with that.

Ransom Notes: Several characters in Small Town are involved in publishing. What made you decide to share these insights into a writer's life in this book?

LB: I write intuitively, so I'm rarely able to say afterward why I made a particular choice. I will say that the conventional wisdom used to hold that one should never write about a writer, that readers would find it hard to identify. Given the proportion of readers who are hard at work on a novel or screenplay, the argument strikes me as doubtful. I do know that including a writer as a major character in this story gave rise to some thematic considerations I found interesting: reality versus imagination, the nature of fame and success, etc.

RN: What is it about the mystery/suspense genre that most appeals to you as a writer?

LB: Two things. First, the emphasis on story value in these stories, in an age when literary novelists are writing more and more about less and less. And second, the intelligence and sophistication of the readers. As almost anyone in the business can tell you, mystery readers are a cut above the rest.

RN: Would you like to hear from readers?

LB: I do like to hear from readers (although I trust they understand that I don't always have time to answer them). The best way to reach me is via my web site at There's a free newsletter they can sign up for, and a link to send me an email. If they just want to write, the e-dress is

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Small Town 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
caro488 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
John Blair Creighton, writer, takes a woman home and the next day she is found strangled. He is accused of murder, and while waiting for trial, writes his next book. Susan Pomerance, an art dealer, explores fierce and kinky sexuality. Other strange and powerful characters - perhaps too much or too graphic sex. I think the sex reflects the (natural?) desperate response of people to an event like 9/11 (Are there any other events like 9/11?) as all the characters, in relative degrees of sanity, try to cope.
LouCypher on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In an after 9/11 New York the lives of several characters intertwine around a murderer on the streets. A former police comissioner, art gallery owner, author, bartender, private eye, piercer, lawyer, agent, and many others all live their lives in this supprisingly "Small Town"I have read a couple other Lawrence Block books and enjoy his writing style but this one just didn't do it for me. The characters were there, the suspense was there, but it just did't seem to come together in that great kinda way. Still a good read but not the best I have ever read.
delphica on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
(#3 in the 2004 Book Challenge)This was very different from any of the other Block books I've read (mostly, the Bernie the Burglar series which are the kind of books that have a lot of puns, and Hit Man which I think is one of the greatest books ever and everyone should run not walk to find this book and read it and worship it like I do). Anyway, this book, Small Town is set in NYC in the year after 9-11, and that setting is a device that moves the story forward. I thought this was very interesting and admirable, because that was a really strange year (to say the least) but it was a crazy normalized strange because when everyone's having a strange year, it's easy to lose touch with what normal is. I don't think I absorbed how odd it was until I looked back on it. I thought it was admirable because it strikes me as a bit of a risky choice to focus on -- if it doesn't come off, an author could get a lot of backlash on that.Also, this book has A LOT of sex. Raunchy sex. Which is okay, I just wasn't expecting it. I'm still trying to figure out if there was a point to it or not (in terms of serving a purpose in the novel). It did have that annoying aspect of feeling rather forced edgy, I don't like that. I'll decide if I think it's edgy, thankyewverramuch.Grade: a solid B. You know, the more I think about it, the more the sex annoyed me. I still give him credit for writing ultra-believable NYC stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*waits for rebel*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Takes off to the Ally
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm sure this must have been Mr. Block's plan, but the simultaneous possession of the mysterious turquoise rabbit, belonging to one of the murder victims, by two of the book's main characters was extremely puzzling, because it introduced the possibility of multiple murders committed by both people. It was certainly provocative, and took the edge off what otherwise might have been an engrossing read. Mr. Block does not, apparently, entertain questions from his readers, thus preventing clarification of this apparent plot hole. As such, I cannot highly recommend this novel, as I have done others in the past.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A huge disappointment. I have read most of Lawrence Blocks books, and enjoyed every one of them. After reading almost half of the book, I found myself not only unsympathetic to the characters, but actually disliking them. And normally I find sex scenes in books titilliting, but the ones in this book made me uncomfortable. Just what could Block have had in mind when he wrote this. DON'T BOTHER!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is completely and utterly bizarre, but there is something about it that made want to keep reading. It is not the best Lawrence Block book I have read, but that is not a particularly easy feat to match in the first place. If you do not have too much of a sense of dignity and you enjoy the chase after the mysterious, disturbed, serial killer, start reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having read most of Lawrence Block's other novels, I was thunderstuck with embarrassment when I received a phone call from the Mother Superior after I suggested that anything by Lawrence Block would be okay to use for the convent's mystery reading club. 'Honest to goodness,' I frantically explained, 'I thought you would pick one of the Burglar Who novels.' But the good sister would hear none of this. And now I'm persona non-grata by the entire nunnery. With ill-concealed restraint, the congregational minister (as they are now called) informed me that Small Town was NOT a novel depicting rural Americans, but one with such sexual explicitness that three of her sisters are back on their respirators, one elderly sister keeps asking questions about body parts she didn't know she had (much less could get pierced) and one of her young novices can never look at a sandwich in the same way again. So now I am blackballed. And as for writers of such language...she would like to meet with you. Something about a bar of soap with your name on it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Unbelieveably bad....this writer has no clue about the way women feel or trashy sex scene after another..not one character in the book that one would wish to identify with....sad writing from a man who gave us the Matthew Scudder novels.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is ruined by page after page of excruciatingly explicit sex scenes that do nothing to further the plot. Although this author gets good reviews, this book was so bad that I'm not inclined to give him another chance.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a case of a good, no great, writer heading up a very wrong road. Larry's gift has been the ability to combine outstanding character development with a well paced, well developed story line. Neither is present in this one. Graphic sex is not a substitute for good writing. I'll buy his next book -- but this one was a waste of my time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having enjoyed at least a dozen other works by Lawrence Block I looked forward to another engrossing book and the title and description sounded interesting. But the sexual situations depicted so distracted me from the plot that I finally abandoned the book to the trash can. Whether the author was going through a personal mid-life crisis or his editor decided things needed to be juicier, I found the scenes to be demeaning to women and boorish. I never felt involved in the story or cared about any of the characters. Can't ruin the ending for you because I passed the hundred page mark and decided life was too short to spend on this trash. This will make me reevaluate buying any of this author's books in the future.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story of a serial killer whose personal connection to the events of 9/11 motivate him is well-written and unique. The reader is often motivated to feel sympathy for the killer, which is another unusual twist. I confess I never did quite understand the villain's reasoning, but it may be secondary to the concept that the fallout from 9/11 would continue in such a devastating and murderous way. I could have done without the sexual hijinks of one character - particularly since at no point in the kinky goings-on (with multiple partners) was there any mention of safe sex. It got to be tiresome after awhile, in any case!
Guest More than 1 year ago
With arresting voice and total command of his narrative, author Lawrence Block gives a dynamite reading to this saga of the city we love to read and hear about - New York. No other place evokes the visions of mystery and excitement that the Big Apple does, and Block does his beloved metropolis proud. A Mystery Writers of America Grand Master and four-time winner of the Edgar Allan Poe and Shamus Awards this author well knows how to weave a spellbinder, and he peoples it with characters we expect to find in New York - high class, low class, the dregs, but always fascinating. Of course, there is a writer - John Blair Creighton who believes he's about to really make it. Toss in a former police commissioner with political ambitions, and mix with Susan Pomerance, a gorgeous (aren't they all?) art dealer. Add a dash of one defense attorney whose metier is murder trails, and a now clean addict who's trying to right wrongs. Mix all of these together, and you have one can't-stop-listening-to thriller.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The anger of a serial killer is sometimes outdone by the sexual exploits of some of the other characters in the book. All considered, the story is bound to hold your attention.
harstan More than 1 year ago
New York, New York is a wonderful town even after 9/11 though the locals react differently to the devastation, but for the most part try to get on with life. However, while many still mourn someone responds quite differently to the mass deaths. This unknown assailant may have snapped, but the first victim of his wrath is East Village realtor Marilyn Fairchild. The cops quickly arrest author John Blair Creighton, who was in her home the night she was strangled, but his lawyer, stricken Maury Winters, makes a case for a link to the murders of two prostitutes and their madam. John has an alibi that proves he could not have killed that trio. Alcoholic cleaner Jerry Pankow discovered corpses of the hooker, but soon the police look at him as the possible culprit as the killer blows up three of his customers and bars. As the death toll mounts, the city still reeling from 9/11 cannot cope with the Carpenter, a craftsman who leaves quite a deadly calling card. SMALL TOWN is a powerful suspense thriller in which Lawrence Block takes his audience around the blocks of the five boroughs of New York in a post 9/11 homage to the great international city. The story line is fast-paced as the Carpenter performs his craft while others are pulled inside his sphere whether they choose to be or not. The key characters are all fully developed including the Big Apple that seems as much a protagonist as the cast. Mr. Block provides what might be his best novel to date with this intelligent taut thriller. Harriet Klausner