Imagine several cars plowing full speed ahead from all different directions toward a common intersection. Only now imagine that, instead of going in straight lines toward the center, their routes are long and curvy, allowing some of them to pass each other like ships in the night. In some cases, they even ride two abreast for a while. But their destination is never in doubt. Because this is noir, baby!
In fact, this is Borderline (Hard Case Crime/Titan Books), a 1962 effort by Lawrence Block, and it’s as steamy a tale as you’ll ever read. Block was writing erotic crime fiction in those days, and while this would never be confused with pornography today, in 1962, it was pretty hot stuff. Beyond that, though, is a solid plot involving people moving, for their own troubling reasons, back and forth across the Rio Grande between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez.
Marty Granger is a professional poker player who lives on the Texas side and plays in the lucrative games in Juárez. One day, while walking in a park on the Mexican side, he meets Meg Rector, newly-minted divorcée from Chicago, who’s looking for kicks. And so it begins.
Throw in a teenage runaway and one of the most frightening and despicable serial killers ever to walk onto a printed page, and you have the makings of a delicious noir brew. Noir characters traditionally allow themselves to be consumed by extraordinary emotions, and when faced with their subsequent choices, they always choose wrong. Block has seen to it that his characters do not disappoint.
Hard Case Crime has toiled in these vineyards for years, re-releasing pulp and noir classics from days gone by. Several of Block’s early novels are in their catalog, as are many from lesser-known writers. All of these books, however, have spent decades in the forgotten swamps beyond literature’s fringe, awaiting reclamation. And HCC has succeeded in introducing them to new generations of readers.