First Jack Reacher, now John Paul Keller.
Two of my favorite Junk Fiction anti-heroes: gone for good. And all in the space of three weeks. First, the British writer of tuff-guy thrillers, Lee Child, changes his ex-MP brawler, Reacher, from a sort of Libertarian Lone Ranger into a Greenpeace activist. (See my mournful review.) Now Lawrence Block transforms his epitome of evil, the hitman Keller, into a Sword of Justice in his new novel, Hit and Run.
Keller’s previous appearances in Hit Man, Hit List, and Hit Parade gave no warning that he would metamorphose into a good guy — or what passes in Lawrence Block’s world for a good guy. He had been an emotionally blank, unimaginative, conscienceless professional murderer. The guilty pleasure of those books — one novel and two linked-story collections — lay in Block’s luring the reader into siding with this charmless psychopath. Imagine Patricia Highsmith writing The Talented Mr. Ripley with Chauncey Gardiner (from Kosinski’s Being There) in the lead.
Sadly, in his latest, Block turns Keller into a righteous left-wing hero. Keller crosses the country avenging the assassination of an Obama-like presidential hopeful by killing Republicans on the golf course. No, really. At one point he executes a Bible-thumping NRA yokel in Indiana who sleeps with an Ann Coulter blow-up doll. Ho ho. Look to your laurels, Al Franken.
It gets worse, but why go on? Politics ruins everything. If Block wanted so badly to chime in this election year with some ham-fisted lefty satire, hey, more power to him. Free country. But did he have to suborn Keller?