The Scoreless Thai (Evan Tanner Series #4)

The Scoreless Thai (Evan Tanner Series #4)

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by Lawrence Block

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Evan Tanner can't sleep. Ever. Which gives him plenty of free time to get involved in lots of interesting endeavors in all sorts of exotic locales.

Now Tanner's in Thailand with a partially baked plan and a butterfly net, hoping to snare a beautiful missing chanteuse who's metamorphosed into an international jewel thief. Tanner hopes everyone will buy his

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Evan Tanner can't sleep. Ever. Which gives him plenty of free time to get involved in lots of interesting endeavors in all sorts of exotic locales.

Now Tanner's in Thailand with a partially baked plan and a butterfly net, hoping to snare a beautiful missing chanteuse who's metamorphosed into an international jewel thief. Tanner hopes everyone will buy his disguise as a rare butterfly researcher. And everyone does . . .

Except the guerilla band holding him captive. They intend to remove his head when the sun rises, so Tanner must put his fate in the hands of a randy Thai youth who will do anything for a woman, even set a suspected spy free. Soon they're running through the jungle together, chased by bandits, soldiers, and yellow fever, and racing headlong into the heart of darkness—and into the flames of war.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this first hardcover edition of a 1968 paperback original (titled Two for Tanner), Evan Tanner is "the spy who never sleeps," a Korean War vet whose head injury has destroyed the sleep center in his brain. Never having to sleep, Tanner has plenty of time to become interested in hopeless causes, help oppressed groups, learn obscure languages and travel to exotic locales. The U.S. government has used his undercover talents in the past, but in this fourth novel in the Tanner series he's working for himself. Missing in Thailand is his latest girlfriend, singer Tuppence Ngawa, who is half African and half American and speaks in a bizarre '60s jive. Tuppence and the jazz musicians with whom she was on tour have been kidnapped by Communist rebels, shortly after a major burglary of the Thai royal jewelry collection. Tanner rushes to Tuppence's rescue, only to be taken prisoner by another rebel group in the dense Thai jungle. Tanner escapes from a bamboo cage perched in a tree with the help of a small, comical Thai who believes that somehow Tanner can help him finally find a woman who will relieve him of his virginity. This early Block novel is very much of its time, very '60s, with eerie echoes of the treatment of American POWs in Vietnam. It's still a great pleasure today. (Nov. 8) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Evan Tanner Series, #4
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Scoreless Thai

Chapter One

It wasn't a cell exactly. Not in the usual sense of the word. When one speaks of a prison cell, one implies rather a sort of room in a sort of building, with perhaps a barred door and window. A stone or cement floor. A cot, a dangling light bulb, a pot of some sort in which various bodily functions may be performed.

I had been in such a cell once, in Istanbul. I hadn't liked it much, but at least it was a genuine and proper prison cell.

Not like my current home. Not like this idiot contrivance in which I was presently trapped, a rude box eight feet square and four feet high, constructed entirely of bamboo, and suspended from the limb of a tall tree, with its bottom about five feet from the ground.

You couldn't call it a cell, then. What you could call it, if you were inclined to call it anything, was a large birdcage. And it was the only sort of birdcage to be found for miles around. Birds are not caged in dense teak forests far in the north of Thailand. There are plenty of birds to be found, bright of plumage and swift of flight and shrill of voice, screeching hellishly in the tops of tall trees. Such birds are not overly fond of captivity.

But, then, neither was I.

I had been in the cage ever since the guerrilla patrol captured me four days previously. It was almost impossible to believe that only four days had passed, but one must rely on the evidence of one's senses; the sun had risen and set four times, and that had to have some significance.

But I had never lived through longer days. The endless quality of those hours was in part a function of the particulardesign of my bamboo cage, which seemed to have been devised as a special form of Oriental torture. One could not stand up. One could crouch, and there was barely enough headroom to sort of crawl around, but crawling didn't really work. A single rope fastened to the center of the cage's top was all that connected my cage to a tree limb far overhead. Thus, if one moved from the very middle of the cage, the thing tilted—at which point one was unceremoniously pitched forward to the juncture of floor and wall.

Even if this had not been so, there was little enough reason to move from one part of the cage to the next, since one section of it was very much like another. True, I could just manage to peer through the bamboo sides at the guerrilla encampment surrounding me. I did this, at one time or another, from every side of the cage. I saw, at one time or another, any number of huts, cooking fires, rifles, machetes, sharpened stakes, and Siamese guerrillas. I saw various articles of my clothing—I was quite naked in my cage, like a bird plucked free of feathers—being worn by various guerrillas. I saw nothing, however, that was sufficiently deserving of a second glance to tempt me to risk leaving the point of balance in the center of the cage.

There was a small hole in the center of the floor, a small square hole cleverly cut into the bamboo flooring, through which a bowl of wormy rice was passed to me twice a day if they remembered and less frequently if they did not. Now and then someone would also pass me a cup of greasy water, and now and then I would void whatever had to be voided through the same aperture. One would have thought that with so little food and water coming into the cage, a correspondingly small quantity of matter would have to leave it. But there must have been something corrupt in either the rice or the water or both, some sociable amoebas bent on causing amoebic dysentery. Around the middle of the third day I began to worry that, eating so little and voiding so much, I was in danger of disappearing entirely or of turning myself inside out. But by the fourth day the dysentery went away; I guess I had starved it to death.

I couldn't stand up, I couldn't walk around, I couldn't rest, I couldn't eat properly. I stayed in one spot, now squatting on my haunches, now stretched out on my back, now with my legs knotted into the Yoga lotus posture. I grew increasingly hot, hungry, bored, and uncomfortable with the passage of time. At the beginning I had been afraid they would kill me. Now I was beginning to fear that they wouldn't.

It might not have been so bad if I could have slept. But when I was eighteen years old, a piece of North Korean shrapnel had been rudely deposited in my brain, and in the course of this, something called my sleep center had been destroyed. Medical science is not entirely certain what the sleep center is or what it does. Mine isn't, and whatever it once did, it no longer does; consequently I have not slept in seventeen years.

All in all, I've found this more an advantage than not. In addition to bringing me a $112 government disability check every month, my insomnia leaves me with that many more hours per day to get things done, obviates the necessity for hotel rooms while traveling, and otherwise enhances life.

But sleep, in addition to being sore labor's bath, healer of life's wounds, the death of each day's life, and all the other things Macbeth called it, is also a handy time-waster to ease one through stretches of excruciating boredom. My trek through the jungle had been sufficiently exhausting to tire me considerably, and but for that shred of shrapnel, I would probably have spent half my caged hours in blissful unconsciousness.

Instead I stayed awake.

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

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Meet 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.

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