Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Play It Again Bernie

I love Lawrence Block. I don't know why. He's like a male Evanovich without the sexual angst, though he doesn't quite have her timing. Nonetheless he makes me laugh and that's a special thing in these somewhat somber days.

In The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart, Block brings back his gentleman burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr what? Solve a case? Fall in love? Commit larceny in a lovable way? Who cares? I don't read Block for the mystery or the romance or because I have any latent philosophical affinity for crime. I read him for the fun and he never disappoints.

In this parody of old mysteries, I finally stopped trying to keep up with the convoluted plot and just followed Bernie to the Bogart film festival he attends every night with his newest romance, Ilona, a mystery woman from Anatruria. He is hired to steal documents, his employer is murdered, the suspected murderer is murdered, Ilona disappears then reappears with a boyfriend who is the heir to the throne on Anatruria and in need of the documents Bernie was to steal. (I think.) There's a fat man and a midget and a punk bodyguard and Raffles the cat and, always in the background, the many characters Bogie played in his lifetime in film.

Forget the plot--Block weaves Bogart's dialogue in and out of the conversations, Bernie begins to become Bogie, and the fun is all in revisiting those wonderful old Bogart classics and reliving his characters in a savvy new way. The author obviously had fun writing the book and I appreciated the joy of reading it.

Mr. Block, I love your writing. "Here's lookin' at you, kid."

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