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Hit Man

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Author: Lawrence Block

Published: 1999 by Orion (first published January 21st 1998)

Format: Paperback , 320 pages

Isbn: 9780752825922

Language: English


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Keller is an assassin – he is paid by the job and works for a mysterious man who nominates hits and passes on commissions from elsewhere. Keller goes in, does the job, gets out: usually at a few hours’ notice . . . Often Keller’s work takes him out of New York to other cities, to pretty provincial towns that almost tempt him into moving to the woods and the lakeshores. Alm Keller is an assassin – he is paid by the job and works for a mysterious man who nominates hits and passes on commissions from elsewhere. Keller goes in, does the job, gets out: usually at a few hours’ notice . . . Often Keller’s work takes him out of New York to other cities, to pretty provincial towns that almost tempt him into moving to the woods and the lakeshores. Almost but not quite. But then one job goes wrong in a way Keller has never imagined and it leaves him with a big problem. Finding himself with an orphan on his hands, Keller's job begins to interfere with his carefully guarded life. And once you let someone in to your life, they tend to want to know what you do when you're away. And killing for a living, lucrative though it is, just doesn't find favour with some folks.

30 review for Hit Man

  1. 5 out of 5

    James Thane

    Aside from Matthew Scudder, J. P. Keller has always been my favorite of the characters created by Lawrence Block. Keller is just your basic guy, living alone in New York City and doing the sorts of things that a lonely, single guy would do. But every once in a while, his phone rings and it's Dot on the line, summoning him to White Plains to meet with the Old Man. After reporting in and receiving his instructions, Keller then goes off somewhere and kills somebody. As the book's title would imply, Aside from Matthew Scudder, J. P. Keller has always been my favorite of the characters created by Lawrence Block. Keller is just your basic guy, living alone in New York City and doing the sorts of things that a lonely, single guy would do. But every once in a while, his phone rings and it's Dot on the line, summoning him to White Plains to meet with the Old Man. After reporting in and receiving his instructions, Keller then goes off somewhere and kills somebody. As the book's title would imply, Keller is a hit man, and logically, we readers should be repelled by him and his actions. But as is the case with Richard Stark's amoral thief, Parker, you can't help but root for the guy, even though you know you shouldn't. He's the BAD guy, for god's sake, and we should despise him, but he's just too damned likable. This is a collection of stories, many of which originally appeared in Playboy magazine, and which were the reason why so many people read the magazine back in the day. They trace the arc of Keller's life through a series of assignments and entanglements, romantic and otherwise. What makes the character so appealing are his inner musings about life in general and his own in particular. He has a habit of traveling to a small town somewhere and wondering what it would be like to live there permanently; he goes into analysis, but naturally, he can't really reveal anything about himself to the analyst--he has to make it all up. He gets a dog and a girlfriend, both of which complicate his life. He sometimes gets too close to his targets and has trouble carrying out his mission. It's a complicated life, and in the hands of any writer less skilled than Lawrence Block, the premise would never work. But this is a great collection of stories, and Keller is a character that no fan of crime fiction will want to miss. It's interesting that Block and Richard Stark (Donald Westlake) were close friends and collaborated on a couple of books, and that they would create two great characters like Keller and Parker, protagonists that any right-minded person should revile but that reader can help but love.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kemper

    Keller's a pretty normal guy. He does crosswords, loves dogs, collects stamps and buys earrings for his girlfriend every time he travels. And he travels a lot since his job is killing people. Block did a great job with this string of short stories about Keller that build a character study about a professional hit man who often finds himself dealing with odd circumstances despite his desire to just do the job and get out of town. Keller isn't a psycho, but he isn't exactly wracked with guilt eithe Keller's a pretty normal guy. He does crosswords, loves dogs, collects stamps and buys earrings for his girlfriend every time he travels. And he travels a lot since his job is killing people. Block did a great job with this string of short stories about Keller that build a character study about a professional hit man who often finds himself dealing with odd circumstances despite his desire to just do the job and get out of town. Keller isn't a psycho, but he isn't exactly wracked with guilt either. Keller's also got a tendency to get a bit lost in his own imagination as he does his job, and Block uses these to add some themes to the stories. For example, after reading a paperback western on the plane to a Wyoming town to kill a guy, Keller spends the rest of the trip thinking of himself as the heroic drifter in a western movie who's blown into town. It's Keller's idle musings that make these stories different from other hired killer books. Keller's mind will wander, but at some point his pragmatic streak kicks in and he'll focus on just getting the job done. Too bad for his targets that he's really good at it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    Keller is your standard lonely bachelor. He makes a decent wage, but every night comes home to his apartment alone. He spends his time with his hobbies, watching TV, reading the occasional book… he’s starting to get into stamp collecting. He likes dogs, and every once in a while he has to go out of town and kill someone; but that’s just a job, and a profession doesn’t have to define a person, now does it? Nope. Keller’s your average, occasionally boring guy. Block’s first collection of short stor Keller is your standard lonely bachelor. He makes a decent wage, but every night comes home to his apartment alone. He spends his time with his hobbies, watching TV, reading the occasional book… he’s starting to get into stamp collecting. He likes dogs, and every once in a while he has to go out of town and kill someone; but that’s just a job, and a profession doesn’t have to define a person, now does it? Nope. Keller’s your average, occasionally boring guy. Block’s first collection of short stories about Keller is something of a minor masterpiece. It balances some fairly clever crime stories with an extremely witty sense of humor. For a while I debated if it was appropriate to put this in the humor bookshelf. I recognize that I have a fairly dark sense of humor, so just because I found myself cackling didn’t mean that most reasonable people wouldn’t shake their heads in horror and/or disgust…. Then a scene happened where he called his apartment, worrying that his dog would be lonely, only to reveal that he didn’t even have an answering machine and that he just hoped that it would pick up good vibes through the ringing. I decided at this point that if the idea of this insecure/self conscious hit man worrying about his dog as he plots to murder someone didn’t come off as absurdly humorous to others… well, that’s just their loss. This is a very funny book, just in a borderline surreal way. It all just fits into place, despite the absurdity; it always feels appropriate for the character. Keller is a surprisingly likeable protagonist. He’s doing horrible things, but it’s hard not to smile while he sits there pondering how his situation is straight out of a western and inventing parallels to go along with it just for the hell of it. There’s a wonderful moment where he keeps going to the same restaurant multiple days in a row and inventing a backstory for the waitress there, only to be disillusioned with the entire place when he hears about her real life not matching his fantasies. To Keller, his job is a touch boring, and these fantasies help keep him going. The continuity between the stories is a nice touch. While I gather they were published in multiple magazines before being collected, they have enough callbacks and references that it feels consistent. If there had been a more overarching plot, I would have considered it a novel with a bit of an episodic feel. As things stand it all works wonderfully, and I will be delighted to give Keller another shot in the future. A solid 4/5.

  4. 5 out of 5

    carol.

    I'm completely embarrassed to say that I've read this one before, somehow, in some form. One would think I'd remember a book called Hit Man. Alas, I'm getting old. So what did I do when I discovered my little error? Keep on reading, of course, because I could only vaguely remember details and it is a fast read. What I have to say about memory is that it's very odd to read one long deja vu, and somewhat disconcerting to realize my memory had inserted another chapter. Perhaps I was channelling Blo I'm completely embarrassed to say that I've read this one before, somehow, in some form. One would think I'd remember a book called Hit Man. Alas, I'm getting old. So what did I do when I discovered my little error? Keep on reading, of course, because I could only vaguely remember details and it is a fast read. What I have to say about memory is that it's very odd to read one long deja vu, and somewhat disconcerting to realize my memory had inserted another chapter. Perhaps I was channelling Block. More likely, I read the next book and forgot most of the specifics. Now, if only I can get my subconscious to review it... Block does it again, creating sympathy and a multifaceted character in that most staple of thriller tropes, the assassin. The book is written as a series of loosely connected shorts that cover episodes in Keller's life as he goes through his routine at home in NYC and on the road plying his trade. This assassin is definitely a little different. As he follows his mark around the small town of Roseburg, Oregon, he starts to fantasize what living there would be like. Perhaps he'll take his savings and buy a 'starter home.' Perhaps he'll start his own business, do some printing. However, the job ends, the fascination passes, he comes back to his life in NYC. Not for long, however; soon he is on his way to Martingale, Texas, carting along a paperback he hasn't read on the strength of the line "he rode a thousand miles to kill a man he never met." In a boozy barroom, he listens to stories about cheatin' hearts and naturally, meets a woman looking for a good time. Back in NYC, he shares a dream about mice with his therapist. Long before Tony Soprano sat with Dr. Melfi, Keller was sitting with Dr. Breen. That doesn't work so well, but soon he's moving on to his new dog, followed by a dog-walker, because after all, an assassin's got to travel. Then he and Dot have some trouble at the agency with the man upstairs (literally). Overall, a fun, fast read and an unusual character study. I found myself discovering sympathy (likely for the second time) for the hit man, who has so badly actualized himself. These books are--in the wise words of Trudi--potato chip reads; you might only mean to read a few pages, but soon you've downed the whole bag. Cross posted at: http://clsiewert.wordpress.com/2012/1...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Marwan

    A collection of short stories featuring John Keller, a professional hit-man whose job takes him to different places where he eliminates the target and then return home after that. He is not a typical hit man (the ones you see in spy movies) nor a psycho-path, He's close to a normal person. Keller takes his time in doing his job, waiting for the right moment to strike. He passes time by solving crosswords puzzles, fantasizing about the places he went to (settling down there, having a normal life) A collection of short stories featuring John Keller, a professional hit-man whose job takes him to different places where he eliminates the target and then return home after that. He is not a typical hit man (the ones you see in spy movies) nor a psycho-path, He's close to a normal person. Keller takes his time in doing his job, waiting for the right moment to strike. He passes time by solving crosswords puzzles, fantasizing about the places he went to (settling down there, having a normal life), watching movies and other stuff. The novel has some twists, and each story reveal a side of Keller's personality. The book was fun and I recommend it to those who likes hit man novels.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dan Schwent

    Hitman is a collection of short stories about a professional killer named Keller. What sets this book apart from others of its kind is that it's more about what Keller does when he's not actively killing people, what makes him tick. He has fantasies about living in whatever town he's visiting for a job. He has a dog that he's quite attached to. And eventually he takes up stamp collecting as a hobby so he'll have something to do when he retires. That's not to say there's no action. Keller dispatch Hitman is a collection of short stories about a professional killer named Keller. What sets this book apart from others of its kind is that it's more about what Keller does when he's not actively killing people, what makes him tick. He has fantasies about living in whatever town he's visiting for a job. He has a dog that he's quite attached to. And eventually he takes up stamp collecting as a hobby so he'll have something to do when he retires. That's not to say there's no action. Keller dispatches quite a few people in this book. He's a professional and the ways he figures out how to pull off the killings are well done. Lawrence Block's writing is another attraction for picking this up. He knows how to weave a short story like nobody's business. There isn't a single dud in the collection as far as I'm concerned. If hitmen interest you, go out and get this RIGHT NOW! Keller's a fleshed out character and a joy to read about. I'll be picking up the other two Keller books in short order.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mike (the Paladin)

    I'll say up front, I fully expected that if I got into this book I'd at best be mildly interested. It is after all a story of a "Hit Man". Personally I don't condone murder either as profession or pass time, so in rating this book a 4 I'm saying this is an interesting book. It's odd to find yourself at least mildly sympathetic to a killer. When I first "met" Keller he put me in mind of a homicidal Walter Mitty. When he goes somewhere to "fulfill" a contract he tends to start day dreaming about ha I'll say up front, I fully expected that if I got into this book I'd at best be mildly interested. It is after all a story of a "Hit Man". Personally I don't condone murder either as profession or pass time, so in rating this book a 4 I'm saying this is an interesting book. It's odd to find yourself at least mildly sympathetic to a killer. When I first "met" Keller he put me in mind of a homicidal Walter Mitty. When he goes somewhere to "fulfill" a contract he tends to start day dreaming about having a normal life "there", wherever "there" happens to be. In the course of the book we will see interesting depths in "Mr. Keller" and also interesting voids. No spoilers here. This is not a book I would have picked up but for a recommendation here, and I do plan to read the next book. While there are some sour notes in the book, a little misinformation etc. (but then it is fiction) oddly, unexpectedly, even unsettlingly, I like it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Toby

    A composite novel about a hitman who spends a lot of his time wondering just what it is he is doing with his life, I had expected it to be closer to Block's Scudder novels than the Burglar Bernie books in terms of tone and content, but Block plays it light and observational and somehow makes it work. He doesn't revel in the sordid details of the act like your common Lee Child might, instead he finds value in his character and the humanity he observes, using the collection of stories to explore h A composite novel about a hitman who spends a lot of his time wondering just what it is he is doing with his life, I had expected it to be closer to Block's Scudder novels than the Burglar Bernie books in terms of tone and content, but Block plays it light and observational and somehow makes it work. He doesn't revel in the sordid details of the act like your common Lee Child might, instead he finds value in his character and the humanity he observes, using the collection of stories to explore his new creation and his world before giving us what I expect will a more traditional novel in Keller's second outing. Sure, I would have preferred dark and moody and contemplative, something like Marin Booth's A Very Private Gentleman perhaps, but Lawrence Block is a fine writer, an intelligent man who seeks to entertain and always gives you something to think about. Or as GQ's generic pull quote rather condescendingly puts it on my copy "popular fiction that always respects his readers' desire to be entertained but never insults their intelligence." They are an entertaining, very easy read, exactly what I have come to expect from the Grandmaster, and I am looking forward to more Keller adventures in the future.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ivonne Rovira

    How does Lawrence Block do it? He's the author of the comic Evan Tanner series about an ultra-insomniac CIA agent. He's written the dark and suspenseful Matthew Scudder series. Then he's got the uproariously funny and New York-hip series about Bernie Rhodenbarr, the world's suavest burglar. You'd never think that these three series were penned by the same author. Now Block does it again with the incredibly inventive Hit Man, a debut novel about a philosophical murderer for hire. You'd expect such How does Lawrence Block do it? He's the author of the comic Evan Tanner series about an ultra-insomniac CIA agent. He's written the dark and suspenseful Matthew Scudder series. Then he's got the uproariously funny and New York-hip series about Bernie Rhodenbarr, the world's suavest burglar. You'd never think that these three series were penned by the same author. Now Block does it again with the incredibly inventive Hit Man, a debut novel about a philosophical murderer for hire. You'd expect such a man to be amoral, but Keller -- just Keller, no first name -- has his own code of honor. The novel is a series of short stories that sometimes intersect. This series is as different from Block's other three as they were from each other. Keller's stories are even darker than those of Scudder although Keller is considerably more introspective than Scudder (even after Scudder went on the wagon). Perhaps that's because, as a deliberate loner, Keller has a lot more time for self-analysis. (God knows, you'll find that traditional analysis didn't do much for the guy!) It's a fabulous, fabulous read. You won't be able to wait to get the next one in the series, Hit List.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    Finally getting round to reading the Keller series after having read all the Matt Scudder books last year. Had forgotten how much I enjoyed reading Lawrence Block and am really glad that I have a new series to read as was suffering Scudder withdrawal symptoms (that sounds like quite a horrible disease). It's not quite as good as the Scudder books but still a really fun read with plenty of unexpected twists. This one is written as a series of short stories but each follows on from and refers to p Finally getting round to reading the Keller series after having read all the Matt Scudder books last year. Had forgotten how much I enjoyed reading Lawrence Block and am really glad that I have a new series to read as was suffering Scudder withdrawal symptoms (that sounds like quite a horrible disease). It's not quite as good as the Scudder books but still a really fun read with plenty of unexpected twists. This one is written as a series of short stories but each follows on from and refers to previous ones so it is pretty much like a normal novel. Love the way that Block describes the day to day normal activities of his characters when they are not doing their day job (contract killing)so that you really feel like you know the characters personally. Four more books to go in the series - one on order and my library has the remaining three ! - so more Keller reviews to follow soon.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Leon Aldrich

    Until now, I have never read any Lawrence Block. Is that a cardinal sin for an avid reader? It should be. My penance will just have to be more Block...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Col

    LAWRENCE BLOCK - HIT MAN (1998) Synopsis/blurb…. Keller is an assassin – he is paid by the job and works for a mysterious man who nominates hits and passes on commissions from elsewhere. Keller goes in, does the job, gets out: usually at a few hours’ notice . . . Often Keller’s work takes him out of New York to other cities, to pretty provincial towns that almost tempt him into moving to the woods and the lakeshores. Almost but not quite. Then one job goes wrong in a way Keller has never imagined a LAWRENCE BLOCK - HIT MAN (1998) Synopsis/blurb…. Keller is an assassin – he is paid by the job and works for a mysterious man who nominates hits and passes on commissions from elsewhere. Keller goes in, does the job, gets out: usually at a few hours’ notice . . . Often Keller’s work takes him out of New York to other cities, to pretty provincial towns that almost tempt him into moving to the woods and the lakeshores. Almost but not quite. Then one job goes wrong in a way Keller has never imagined and it leaves him with a big problem. Finding himself with an orphan on his hands and his conscience, Keller is looking at a whole lot of changes he's not sure he wants...He may even end up sharing his bed. ----------------------- My take..... If someone held a gun to my head - Keller possibly - and told me Groundhog Day was here and I was compelled to re-read one book over and over again for the rest of my life, I think Block's Hit Man would be a candidate. I read this one years ago and re-read it in January and possibly enjoyed it more second time around. Keller kills people and you probably shouldn't warm to him, but you do. I don't think Hit Man was originally conceived as a novel, but was several shorter stories which Block eventually spun together. I think I read that was the case somewhere, but surprisingly this just flows. Block has such a gift for story telling that I'm pretty much rapt every time I get stuck into one of his books. Keller gets his assignments from a man in White Plains, via Dot. Keller and the old man don't really have much of a relationship, but there's a real rapport with Dot - pretty much every conversation includes some gentle teasing, usually about Keller settling down in one of the towns he passes through for an assignment. I kind of think they would make a decent couple, but hey maybe better not mixing business with pleasure. In our novel/short story set...... We have a phase where Keller toys with domesticity as his dog-sitter, Andria moves in for a while and they play happy families. Inevitably it doesn't last. Work-wise - we have an error and the wrong man gets killed - not an error of Keller's. This is followed by a lull and things go quiet on the "murder for hire" front. Things need shaking up at HQ. Another assignment sees Keller become a minor local celebrity when he saves a boy from drowning at a poolside party. Probably not the best effort at anonymity when you're in the killing game. We have a disagreement with our therapist, which may not be the best long term career move our shrink has ever made. A spell working for Uncle Sam (yeah right) sees Keller get less than minimum wage for his skill set. Eventually the penny drops and Keller's not playing a patsy any more. Lastly we toy with retirement, but instead take up stamp collecting, and what better way of funding your expensive hobby than killing people! I could write and rewrite and tinker with this for hours and still not do this book justice. I loved pretty much every word, every sentence, every page, every set-up, every conversation and every death. Top marks - 5 from 5 Luckily for me there are another 4 full length novels in the series that I haven't yet read - Hit List, Hit Parade, Hit and Run and Hit Me. Good reading ahead! Re-read in January, 2017 Published - 1998 Page count - 310 Source - owned copy Format - paperback http://col2910.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Terence M (Temporarily Indisposed)

    Given that Crime/Thriller is pretty much my favourite genre, I am surprised that I have read only one other novel by the prolific Lawrence Block, "Burglars Can't Be Choosers". I did enjoy that book and I equally enjoyed "Hit Man" and its protagonist, murderer-for-hire, Keller. Well written in an easily read but quite captivating style, "Hit Man" engenders something close to empathy for Keller, if not for his means of earning a living and while not really liking the character, I did feel that he Given that Crime/Thriller is pretty much my favourite genre, I am surprised that I have read only one other novel by the prolific Lawrence Block, "Burglars Can't Be Choosers". I did enjoy that book and I equally enjoyed "Hit Man" and its protagonist, murderer-for-hire, Keller. Well written in an easily read but quite captivating style, "Hit Man" engenders something close to empathy for Keller, if not for his means of earning a living and while not really liking the character, I did feel that he was, in his own way, a man of honour. I will certainly be reading more of Block's novels, including the others in the "Hit Man" series. A solid 3.5 stars rounded to 4.0 because of the narration by Robert Forster and also to comply with the GR rating method.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    This was a cool introduction to a new (to me) series by Lawrence Block. It's about, as the title suggests, a hit man named Keller. Each chapter is an assignment for Keller, so it's like a series within a single book. This style kept it from ever becoming a bulky read. Or listen, in this case. I found the audiobook and was pleased to try it out with this method. The actor Robert Forster did the narration and I'd have to say was pretty much perfect for this book. He really fit the style of the writi This was a cool introduction to a new (to me) series by Lawrence Block. It's about, as the title suggests, a hit man named Keller. Each chapter is an assignment for Keller, so it's like a series within a single book. This style kept it from ever becoming a bulky read. Or listen, in this case. I found the audiobook and was pleased to try it out with this method. The actor Robert Forster did the narration and I'd have to say was pretty much perfect for this book. He really fit the style of the writing, and the character of Keller. I will definitely be picking up more Block, and more in the Keller series in particular.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Lawrence Block is a hard working pulp crime novelist, best known for his hard-boiled detective Matthew Scudder, gentleman thief Bernie Rhodenbarr and hit man John Keller. Hit Man is the first book in the Keller series, combining a collection of short stories to develop this character. This is an interesting technique and Block’s short story book One Night Stands and Lost Weekends remains one of my favourite crime collections. He manages to pack the same punch of a normal pulp novel into a stripp Lawrence Block is a hard working pulp crime novelist, best known for his hard-boiled detective Matthew Scudder, gentleman thief Bernie Rhodenbarr and hit man John Keller. Hit Man is the first book in the Keller series, combining a collection of short stories to develop this character. This is an interesting technique and Block’s short story book One Night Stands and Lost Weekends remains one of my favourite crime collections. He manages to pack the same punch of a normal pulp novel into a stripped down story. I enjoy Lawrence Block’s style; it is nice to know someone is trying to keep the pulp crime genre alive. However Hit Man is more of a thriller series, which develops the complexities of this character with short intervals for an assassination. I like the way the stories interlock as a way to introduce John Keller, I have never seen this technique and think it worked well. Having said that, I think this is a fun book but I am not sure if I will continue the series. I am looking for something darker and do not think the Keller series will give me what I desire. This review originally appeared on my blog; http://www.knowledgelost.org/book-rev...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Hit Man was a little different from the other Lawrence Block books I've read. This one was published in 1998. Keller is a hit man. But, at this stage in his life he seems to be going through some changes. He goes into therapy, then gets a dog, and that brings him a girlfriend. He loves New York and his lifestyle for the most part, but keeps a running fantasy of moving to some quaint small town and living a quiet obscure life. But, he always goes back to New York and his career. This book is kind Hit Man was a little different from the other Lawrence Block books I've read. This one was published in 1998. Keller is a hit man. But, at this stage in his life he seems to be going through some changes. He goes into therapy, then gets a dog, and that brings him a girlfriend. He loves New York and his lifestyle for the most part, but keeps a running fantasy of moving to some quaint small town and living a quiet obscure life. But, he always goes back to New York and his career. This book is kind of like reading a memoir of a hit man. We get to travel along with Keller as he does his job, makes mistakes, gets taken in a few times, and deals with his own personal problems. This was a very interesting type of novel. The first part of the book had me in stitches. It was laugh out loud funny at times, but then it sort of ran out of steam about half way through. It was still strangely absorbing at times and I kept wondering where all this would lead. Well, it didn't really lead anywhere. It's not really a mystery, but I guess you could call it a crime novel. A little off beat, but enjoyable. Over all a B-/C+

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brad Lyerla

    I sort of liked Block’s 8 Million Ways to Die. It features An alcoholic former cop who accidentally killed a little girl when his bullet ricocheted. So he resigned from the force out remorse. (About 5 cliches there.) Then I tried Block’s hitman series. Geez. It’s awful. The guy is an assassin. He is some sort of psychopath. His dialogue is about as interesting as what I imagine the inner dialogue of a reptile to be like. Snore.

  18. 5 out of 5

    K

    Delightful. I thoroughly enjoy Block's sense of humor and the irreverence that he imbues into the protagonist, Keller, a professional hit man who is both likeable and existentially curious at the same time. Adding this to his thief series makes Block a frequent visitor to my "to read" shelf. Hooray.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Perry Whitford

    Keller travels all across the United States, a patient, sedentary life of airport lounges, flights, hired cars and hotel stays (preferably those with HBO), casually carrying out his job of hired hit man. As he does so he takes time out to do some idle musing on innocuous subjects, such as the various names of roofing features and just how long it would take to ride a thousand miles on a horse. Keller kills anyone for a fee, regardless of who or why. He even kills the wrong people by accident, as w Keller travels all across the United States, a patient, sedentary life of airport lounges, flights, hired cars and hotel stays (preferably those with HBO), casually carrying out his job of hired hit man. As he does so he takes time out to do some idle musing on innocuous subjects, such as the various names of roofing features and just how long it would take to ride a thousand miles on a horse. Keller kills anyone for a fee, regardless of who or why. He even kills the wrong people by accident, as well as the wrong people on purpose. Sure, he thinks about the morality of what he does for a living, but for only about as much time as he spends thinking about the shopping channel, or how many pairs of earrings a woman can reasonably own. Essentially he's a lonely soul. He enjoys his brief chats with Dot, the assistant to the old man from White Plains who he gets his jobs from, has the occasional girlfriend, even tries the companionship of a dog for a while. But essentially he's a loner. Perhaps it's the job? I mean, it would be understandable if it made him undervalue the life of others just a touch. He dreams of retirement, but maybe he could just do with a hobby? Meanwhile, the old man is starting to behave erratically, making some costly mistakes. Block had been writing top-notch crime fiction for decades before he invented Keller, establishing a few characters along the way, most notably the unlicensed alcoholic private detective Matthew Scudder and kind hearted burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr. But Keller is his ultimate creation. Always a master of ironic plotting and black humor, a whimsical hit man for a protagonist plays perfectly to those strengths. You can't help but like him, laugh along with him, root for him even, though you know you shouldn't. The book consists of ten stories, most of which had been previously published separately then slightly altered and additions made in order to introduce the few consistent threads needed to make a novel. A contrived method maybe, but it works a treat. All the stories are clever and funny, virtually on the same high par in quality, though the third story in particular, in which Keller tries therapy and turns it into a busman's holiday, is especially brilliant. Keller, you kill me.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Maddy

    RATING: 4.5 You know how you take those tests in high school that help you determine what profession is best suited to you? Well, there was never a match for John Paul Keller. It was only when he became an adult that he found out what he was destined to be. His career, at which he excels, is that of a hit man. At various times, he receives a call from Dot in White Plains, contacts his travel agent and jets off to wherever the dirty deed needs to be done. He carries out the hit, no fuss, no bother RATING: 4.5 You know how you take those tests in high school that help you determine what profession is best suited to you? Well, there was never a match for John Paul Keller. It was only when he became an adult that he found out what he was destined to be. His career, at which he excels, is that of a hit man. At various times, he receives a call from Dot in White Plains, contacts his travel agent and jets off to wherever the dirty deed needs to be done. He carries out the hit, no fuss, no bother, no remorse, and comes back home until the next job comes along. He goes back to being Mr. Average Joe, living alone in New York City, doing his crossword puzzles and going to the Laundromat. The book is really a series of interlocking stories about various hits that Keller carries out that reads like a hit man’s memoirs. The stories were originally written for Playboy, so at times there isn't a lot of transition between chapters. However, I still found them to be wonderfully done. You wouldn’t think that you would enjoy reading about a man who is basically an assassin, but Block presents Keller in such a way that you just have to like the guy. He grows on you. We’re never really exposed to the gruesome details of the jobs. We see how they’re set up, how Keller overcomes various obstacles and are treated to his wry observations along the way. And as we go along, other characters are introduced, a new girlfriend, a new dog, a new hobby, that help us understand the layers of Keller the man. This book is a delight to read. It is wonderfully entertaining, funny and touching at the same time. At one point, Keller experiences a midlife crisis and visits a shrink. And how does he end the session when he’s had enough of the analysis? He throws the guy out the window. Realistic dialogue, excellent characterization, clever plotting. Recommended.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Darren

    Hit Man is a pile of short stories pieced together as chapters in the life of John Keller. It's not a spoiler to let you know Keller's a hit man; it's right there in the title. That's very nearly all there is to him, really. Keller has the odd girlfriend, but he's no suave son of a bitch, leaving a trail of broken hearts and tear-stained pillowcases. He's awkward and earnest by parts, and even occasionally impotent. He's a successful, resourceful killer, but he doesn't exude violence, nor does h Hit Man is a pile of short stories pieced together as chapters in the life of John Keller. It's not a spoiler to let you know Keller's a hit man; it's right there in the title. That's very nearly all there is to him, really. Keller has the odd girlfriend, but he's no suave son of a bitch, leaving a trail of broken hearts and tear-stained pillowcases. He's awkward and earnest by parts, and even occasionally impotent. He's a successful, resourceful killer, but he doesn't exude violence, nor does he spend his free time in bars staring down the local toughs of Wherever. Keller spends his off hours walking his dog, Nelson, until his dog leaves him. And then he starts collecting stamps. Every single chapter in the book is about murder, and yet almost none of the violence is even described. It's an afterthought. Done and moved on from. In other words, there are none of the things one expects in the story of a contract killer. If you're looking for grisly descriptions of death, you won't find them here. If you're looking for the wild life of a career criminal, you won't find that, either. If what you're looking for is a compulsively readable, inexplicably funny, incidentally murderous book which never once panders to expectations, then grab your stamp tongs and hold on. Four Stars

  22. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Even though I had read a few reviews I still wasn't prepared for the curve ball that Block throws here. Keller is the hit man of the title and this collection of shorts is all about him as a person; with very little focus on the detail of how he earns his living. He isn't a stone killer - he's a guy who drifted into a job and has built a routine that fills the gaps between work; without ever creating real roots or connections. How he seems to long for those roots and connections - yet when he actua Even though I had read a few reviews I still wasn't prepared for the curve ball that Block throws here. Keller is the hit man of the title and this collection of shorts is all about him as a person; with very little focus on the detail of how he earns his living. He isn't a stone killer - he's a guy who drifted into a job and has built a routine that fills the gaps between work; without ever creating real roots or connections. How he seems to long for those roots and connections - yet when he actually makes them he lets them just slip away... An interesting contradiction of a character who gets himself involved in some very odd situations (mostly by being a bit of a dreamer). Entertaining, amusing and a little sad.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Crime fiction about a hit man: his life, the people he works for, and the people he's hired to kill. The chapters originally appeared as short stories in various magazines, and are slightly altered to show continuity and become one novel. There is great character development here, along with alot of dark humor and irony. (Think John Travolta's character, Vincent, in the movie Pulp Fiction - but without the abundant use of F-words.) An entertaining read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    I read this book some time ago but it wasn't marked as read in Goodreads so I bought it and immediately remembered the book and introduction to Keller, my favorite hit man. I have been trying to find time to clean up my data and think I have resolved about 50 duplicates and deleted 100 or so to be read...that led to duplicates and other problems.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jane Stewart

    I do not enjoy watching murder of good/normal people, but it kept my interest. The only reason I gave this 3 stars instead of 2 was because I did not feel I wanted it to be over. It kept my interest because I was waiting for something more. But by the end, more never came. The character does not change. And there is no overall plot. It is a series of short stories written for a magazine. It’s a different take on the work and life of a hit man. Some readers will find this humorous, but I did not. I I do not enjoy watching murder of good/normal people, but it kept my interest. The only reason I gave this 3 stars instead of 2 was because I did not feel I wanted it to be over. It kept my interest because I was waiting for something more. But by the end, more never came. The character does not change. And there is no overall plot. It is a series of short stories written for a magazine. It’s a different take on the work and life of a hit man. Some readers will find this humorous, but I did not. I was unsettled. In contrast I did enjoy two other series about anti-heroes: Dexter a serial killer, and Parker an armed robber who occasionally killed. The difference is Keller (in Hit Man) kills anyone including good guys. Dexter only kills bad guys. Parker robs anyone and occasionally kills bad guys . The author skips too many things. For example, Keller has a dog and lives with a girl. Then in one scene he says the girl left him a month ago and took the dog. I wanted to hear why the girl left him. It was not explained. Another example, Baskin pretends to be someone he is not and hires Keller to kill some people. There is a problem, so Keller needs to find Baskin. All of a sudden Keller is in Baskin’s house waiting for him. I never saw how Keller learned who Baskin was and how he found him. Another example, receptionist tells Keller to wait on the porch until boss is done with another meeting. Next sentence says twenty minutes later Keller is on a train returning home. I assume he met with the boss. I wanted to hear his conversation with the boss. I didn’t like those gaps. It felt like I was missing things. There were about three sex scene references, but no details. They were like “she took off her clothes.” Then it’s the next day. AUDIOBOOK NARRATOR: Robert Forster was good. He used one of the Chicago-thug-type accents. DATA: Narrative mode: 3rd person. Unabridged audiobook length: 7 hrs and 49 mins. Swearing language: mild. Sexual language: none. Number of sex scenes: about 3 referred to not shown. Setting: around 1998 various U.S. locations. Book copyright: 1998. Genre: crime fiction. Ending: Keller is alive and well.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Aditya

    Ten loosely connected short stories about a hit man - Keller, going around the country completing contracts. The stories are formulaic - Keller gets a mission, runs into a complication and ultimately overcomes it. For a book about assassinations, the hit themselves are devoid of shocks or set pieces. Keller follows the target around, waits for the opportune moment and then moves in for a close combat kill. There is one exception where he poisons the target and that is the most elaborate hit of t Ten loosely connected short stories about a hit man - Keller, going around the country completing contracts. The stories are formulaic - Keller gets a mission, runs into a complication and ultimately overcomes it. For a book about assassinations, the hit themselves are devoid of shocks or set pieces. Keller follows the target around, waits for the opportune moment and then moves in for a close combat kill. There is one exception where he poisons the target and that is the most elaborate hit of the book. The best part of the book is Block's writing. Keller's sardonic musings from what ifs to could have beens, his idle thoughts about philosophies and semantics often range from wistful to witty and morbid to meditative. But one thing that remains constant about them is that they are always entertaining because Block squeezes out a lot of ironic humor from every day situations. Keller is capable of empathy, love and logical thinking. He is actually written as a regular loner except the fact that he is not burdened with any sort of morality. So if someone is repulsed with the subject matter of the book, don't expect Block to change your minds. This is not a morality play just a regular guy who kills others for a living because it is an easy way to make money. Every time I hear the word Hit Man I will always think of the game series with the same name first, so the book is not even the definitive Hit Man in pop culture landscape. And this series is nowhere as good as Block's Scudder series. In spite of all that the writing is solid enough for it to be a fun, quick read that is not especially memorable. Rating - 3/5.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Hit Man is a clever and entertaining series of interconnected short stories about an aging hit man, who is considering leaving his very specialized career. Keller is a hit man with morals -- every killer has to draw the line somewhere -- and many of the stories have Keller struggling with what is right or wrong about that particular hit. Each story (or hit) deals with the varieties of jobs one might encounter in this career; and each story ties together with the previous stories perfectly. Hit M Hit Man is a clever and entertaining series of interconnected short stories about an aging hit man, who is considering leaving his very specialized career. Keller is a hit man with morals -- every killer has to draw the line somewhere -- and many of the stories have Keller struggling with what is right or wrong about that particular hit. Each story (or hit) deals with the varieties of jobs one might encounter in this career; and each story ties together with the previous stories perfectly. Hit Man is a humorous book, albeit darkly so, and some readers may feel a little odd being asked to empathize with a professional killer, but Keller is not cold blooded by any means. Hell, he even adopts a dog at one point! Hit Man is a breezy and smart read and quite different from Block's Matthew Scudder series, but very entertaining in its own right. I look forward to finding out how the aging killer Keller (say that three times fast.) fares in the upcoming novels.

  28. 4 out of 5

    LJ

    Hit Man - G Lawrence Block - 1st in series Keller is your basic Urban Lonely Guy. He makes a decent wage, lives in a nice apartment, works the crossword puzzle. Until the phone rings, and he flies halfway across the country...and kills somebody. It's a living, but is it a life? You've never met anyone like Keller. Keller is a killer. Professional, cool, confident, competent, reliable. The consummate pro. The hit man's hit man. But he is a complex person: understandably guarded and reclusive, icy a Hit Man - G Lawrence Block - 1st in series Keller is your basic Urban Lonely Guy. He makes a decent wage, lives in a nice apartment, works the crossword puzzle. Until the phone rings, and he flies halfway across the country...and kills somebody. It's a living, but is it a life? You've never met anyone like Keller. Keller is a killer. Professional, cool, confident, competent, reliable. The consummate pro. The hit man's hit man. But he is a complex person: understandably guarded and reclusive, icy and ruthlessly efficient, he is also prone to loneliness, self-doubt, and career worries. Keller may be a crack assassin, but he is also an all-too-human being. We first met Keller in Hit Man. He's back again in HIT LIST. Same job, new list of targets, and a hit man who's after him. Very different. Professional killer as the protagonist.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    How do you say you enjoy reading about a hit man, a killer for hire.? And yet, Keller is likable. I was hooked on this one - and have read all in this series. Strange Just reread this here in May still enjoy it. Toward the end he takes up stAmp collecting and.that will.be fun to.explore.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brandon

    Between his trips out of state to kill people, Keller spends his days just like you and I would.  Going to therapy, collecting stamps and ordering takeout.  Oh?  You want to hear more about how he kills people?  Well, you’re in luck.  In “Hit Man”, Lawrence Block collects the first ten tales from the world of Keller – assassin for hire. As a self-proclaimed “large fan of Lawrence Block”, you’ll have to forgive the fact that outside of his infamous detective series featuring Matt Scudder, I haven’ Between his trips out of state to kill people, Keller spends his days just like you and I would.  Going to therapy, collecting stamps and ordering takeout.  Oh?  You want to hear more about how he kills people?  Well, you’re in luck.  In “Hit Man”, Lawrence Block collects the first ten tales from the world of Keller – assassin for hire. As a self-proclaimed “large fan of Lawrence Block”, you’ll have to forgive the fact that outside of his infamous detective series featuring Matt Scudder, I haven’t checked out any of his other series.  Well, after reading the first Keller book, that’s likely not going to be a problem for much longer. Being a reader of noir for several years, I’m already used to rooting for the bad guy at this point.  With Keller, it doesn’t take too much on the part of the reader to drop their proclivity to cheer for the good guy.  Sure, Keller does some reprehensible stuff, but it’s clear he isn’t doing it with malice.  He’s very much a blue collar guy punching the clock although instead of say, hauling bricks, he’s breaking necks. As with most of Block’s work, the true joy doesn’t come from the violence, but rather the characters and their relationships.  Much of the killing is reserved for quick, one-sentence scenes where Keller is done before you know it (the work that goes alongside with setting up a hit is much more intricate and focused).   The rest of the story is populated by Keller’s meetings and long conversations with Dot, the lady who works in the house in White Plains where all of Keller’s work originates from and by moments in his personal life and the women he goes to bed with. It’s rare that I ever have anything but a great time reading whatever Block writes and John Keller is proving to be no exception.  Hit Man lays the groundwork for a truly interesting series that I cannot wait to explore.

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