Tanner on Ice (Evan Tanner Series #8)

( 2 )

Overview

Cold War superspy Evan Tanner lost the ability to sleep on a battlefield in Korea. So where the heck has he been since the '70s?

Frozen. Cryogenically. A Tanner-sicle. Which he never thought would happen when he walked into a basement in Union City, New Jersey, more than a quarter century ago. Now he's unthawed and ready to rumble, and his somewhat addled, former super-secret boss, "the Chief," is glad his favorite operative's active again.

...

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Tanner on Ice (Evan Tanner Series #8)

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Overview

Cold War superspy Evan Tanner lost the ability to sleep on a battlefield in Korea. So where the heck has he been since the '70s?

Frozen. Cryogenically. A Tanner-sicle. Which he never thought would happen when he walked into a basement in Union City, New Jersey, more than a quarter century ago. Now he's unthawed and ready to rumble, and his somewhat addled, former super-secret boss, "the Chief," is glad his favorite operative's active again.

Tanner awoke to a different world, though some bad things have remained the same . . . or gotten worse. Even before he can fully acclimate himself to this perplexing future, Tanner's off to Burma (which isn't really Burma anymore) to pose as a monk, destabilize the government, dodge a lethal double-cross, and rescue a beautiful prisoner.

The world's still full of conspiracy, corruption, greed, political chicanery—and beautiful women. So Tanner's back with a vengeance, with a lot of lost time to make up for.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Never one to abandon a sound series hero indefinitely, Block (who recently resurrected burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr) has now also brought back international man of action Evan Tanner, after more than 25 years. As usual, Block has a good joke up his sleeve: Tanner, one of whose characteristics is his inability to sleep, had in fact been comatose in a deep freeze, in fact for all that time, and the scene where he wakes up, thinking Richard Nixon is still president, is as funny and sharp as a similar one in Woody Allen's Sleeper. After that, Tanner is off to a new exotic locale, activated as usual by his vaguely CIA manager: this time it's to Burma, where he's supposed to destabilize the government by assassinating a popular opposition figure. He doesn't do it, of course, but becomes involved instead with a beautiful woman who wants to flee the country and eventually, after participating in a guerrilla action, both manage to do so. It's never less than inventive and amusing, but Block is always most at home in Manhattan, and his overseas settings, deftly sketched as they are, lack the ultimate authenticity he finds there. Tanner, too, though endowed with the author's usual wry wit, is not as fully fleshed out as are Block's more recent creations; but this will do until another Scudder comes along.
Library Journal
Move over, Bernie Rhodenbarr, and make room for Evan Tanner, a Block protagonist back after 25 years. With the publication of this new mystery, which lands Tanner in fractious Burma, Signet will release all the Tanner novels in mass market paperback.
Kirkus Reviews
Evan Tanner, the soldier of misfortune who's been out of commission since Me Tanner, You Jane (1970), returns, youthful and hale as ever, for a murky assignment in Burma. Tanner is chilled to the bone, and no wonder: Ever since a tender-hearted activist whose politics didn't square with Tanner's decided to get him out of the picture, he's spent the past 25 years cryogenically frozen. Defrosted, updated—in a series of welcome-to-the-'90s vignettes that are the best thing in the book—and restored to his daughter-figure Minna, the Lithuanian royal claimant who's now grown to seem as old as he is, Tanner's ready for another posting at the hands of his old chief. Tanner's ostensible assignment this time is to destabilize the repressive regime in Myanmar ("Burma" to the retro sensibilities of Tanner and the Chief) by assassinating Aung San Suu Kyi, the housebound Nobel laureate who's the world's most famous dissident, at the behest of billionaire businessman Rufus Crombie, who wants to install a new regime that can buy more American goods. But even before he's politely forbidden from entering Suu Kyi's street, Tanner knows he isn't going to kill her. Unfortunately, it's never entirely clear what he's going to do in Burma instead, other than drink cheap local liquor, get involved with a Eurasian refugee whose ancestors have picked the losing side in every political struggle in the past century, and find a dead man in his hotel bed. Inevitably, Tanner gets picked up by the police, and then at last he's got a mission: to get out of Dodge ahead of the hangman while giving full rein to his creator's matchless gifts as a raconteur. Block (Everybody Dies, 1998, etc.)writes about Burma with the insider's slant of somebody who's spent time there, and with the disenchantment of somebody who doesn't expect to be invited back. Tanner's fans, happy to see him back in action, won't mind if the action doesn't seem to go anywhere in particular.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061283932
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/25/2007
  • Series: Evan Tanner Series , #8
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,220,150
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.76 (d)

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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Table of Contents

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First Chapter




CHAPTER ONE

    I flew from New York to Los Angeles, then nonstop to Seoul. I had a few hours before my flight to Bangkok, and I rode a shuttle bus into downtown Seoul, walked around, snacked on fried shrimp, drank a beer, and caught a bus back to the airport. Nothing looked remotely familiar, but then it had been quite a while since I'd been in Korea. I hadn't spent much time in Seoul, but this time around it was noisy and bustling and furiously modern, a far cry from the Korean cities and villages I remembered.

    This time around, too, nobody was shooting at me. There were no Chinese soldiers blowing bugles, no artillery rounds whistling overhead.

    I have to say it makes a change.

*

    I'd reset my watch in L.A. and in Seoul, and I reset it again a few hours later in Bangkok. By then I'd lost track of what time it was in New York, and, since there was nobody I wanted to phone, I didn't much care. It was three in the afternoon in Bangkok, and that was all I had to know. It was a half hour earlier in Rangoon, if I remembered correctly, but I would cross that time zone when I came to it.

    My only luggage was the day pack I'd carried aboard the plane with me, and all it held was a clean shirt and a change of socks and underwear. My toothbrush and razor and such rode in the Kangaroo pouch clasped around my waist, along with my Swiss Army knife. I had some cash in a money belt under my Gap khakis, and once I'd cleared Customs and Immigration I ducked into a men's room and slipped my passport in there as well. Then I ran a gauntlet of overeager cab drivers, took a train to a spot where I could catch a water taxi, and floated on into Bangkok.

    I'd been there before, and more recently than I'd been to Seoul. Late sixties, say. Thirty years ago, according to the calendar. Less than a fifth as long by the clock in my head.

    Overhead, the sun burned in the afternoon sky. I welcomed it. A breeze off the water had a cooling effect, and of course I had the deep internal chill that was always with me. The sun might give me a burn--I really should have put on sunscreen--but in the meantime it felt good.

    Other boats kept pulling up alongside my water taxi, full of people who wanted to sell me something. They all spoke some sort of English, though not one of them was ready to hire on as an announcer for the BBC. I got tired of saying no--to opium weights and ivory carvings, to pictures on rice paper, to rubies that were probably cut glass and lapis that was probably dyed, to bright-eyed offers of male and female companionship. "Very young," I was assured. "Very clean."

    "No," I kept saying, in English. "No, thank you. I am not interested. No, thanks all the same, but no."

    "Maybe you like better to watch," one thoughtful young man suggested, leaning forward and gripping the side of my water taxi. "Two girls together? Boy and girl? Two boys?"

    "No, thank you, but--"

    "Girl and a dog together. Very popular show, all the tourists like very much. Japanese businessmen, very wealthy, they all love this show."

    "Good for them," I said.

    "Oh, yes," he said. "Is very good for them. Is good for you, too. Girl is seven, eight years old, has never been with a man."

    "Just with dogs."

    "You like, after show is over, you can have the girl."

    "Suppose I'd rather have the dog?"

    "Girl, dog, whatever you want. Both, if you want."

    In Thai I said, "All I want is for you to fuck off and leave me alone."

    His eyes widened. My Thai is reasonably fluent, although I have a little trouble with the written language, which comes with an alphabet that makes my eyes cross. Thais never expect you to speak their language. (Nobody does, really, except the French, who expect you to speak it badly.) More to the point, they don't expect you to understand their language, and I have often acquired useful information as a result. I've thus learned to keep my linguistic ability a secret, and here I'd gone and tipped my hand to a floating pimp.

    No harm in that, I decided. Who was he going to tell? He drifted off to plague someone else, and an old woman selling horoscopes and teak carvings took his place, and I defended myself once more in English. "No," I said. "Not today. I don't want any. Thank you. No."

*

    The teahouse was where it was supposed to be, just across the street from the Swan Hotel and a stone's throw from the Grand Palace. There was a skanky-looking tobbo shop to its right, a store overflowing with electronic gear to its left.

    I walked into the teahouse, and at first I thought it was empty save for the tired waitress leaning against the counter. Then my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, and I saw the sole customer seated at a table against the back wall. He was smoking a cigarette and drinking a Kloster beer, and he raised his eyes at my approach but kept his seat.

    I said, "Mr. Sukhumvit?"

    "Yes?"

    In Thai I said, "Today the Chao Phraya swarms with crocodiles."

    In Thai he replied, "Elephants on the highway, crocodiles in the river."

    We both smiled, and he got to his feet. He was on the tall side for a Thai, around five-nine, and lean as a sapling. He wore black pants and a shortsleeve khaki shirt, and his forearms were wiry and muscular. He had a mustache and goatee, the latter consisting of a half-inch band running down the center of his chin.

    "Tanner," he said. "Welcome to Bangkok." We shook hands. "Recognition signals are ridiculous, aren't they? Crocodiles and elephants. Schoolboy nonsense."

    "My sentiments exactly."

    "And inadequate in the bargain. Suppose you show me your passport so that I can be confident you are truly yourself."

    I went to the men's room, retrieved the passport from my money belt. When I got back to Sukhumvit's table there were two fresh bottles of beer on it, and a bowl of peanuts. I gave him my passport and poured myself some beer while he squinted at it, looking at my photo and at me, reading everything the passport had to say about me. Then, with a quick smile, he folded it and handed it back to me.

    "You are enjoying Bangkok, Tanner?"

    "I just got here."

    "You speak the language well."

    "Thank you," I said. "I'm pretty good with languages."

    "How's your Burmese?"

    "Not as good as my Thai."

    "You've been to Burma?"

    "No."

    "Fascinating country. Cut off from the world all these years. You'll find Rangoon very different from Bangkok."

    "I can imagine."

    "Of course, it's Yangon now. And the whole country is Myanmar. But no one outside the government calls it that."

    "So I understand."

    He helped himself to a handful of peanuts, chewed thoughtfully, drank beer. He said, "You've been to Bangkok before."

    "Not recently."

    "No, not since that passport was issued. Do you find it changed much?"

    "A lot of new construction, from the looks of things."

    "Yes."

    "And it seems to me the traffic is worse."

    "It is worse each year than the year before."

    "And there was a war going on the last time I was here," I said, "and that's over with."

    "Not a war in Thailand."

    "No, of course not."

    "In Vietnam, you must mean."

    "Yes."

    He frowned. "But how can that be? It says on your passport that you were born in 1958. Americans were not drafted until the age of eighteen, is that not so? And the last American troops left Vietnam well before your eighteenth birthday."

    "I lied about my age," I said.

    "Ah. And volunteered for service."

    "Yes."

    "And fought boys younger than yourself," he said. "In the Vietcong, an eighteen-year-old was a grizzled veteran. If he was still alive. And in the hill tribes of Burma, the children fight alongside their parents. The Shan, the Kachins. The Kareni."

    "Yes."

    "But childhood itself is a Western invention, don't you think? Childhood as a time of innocence. Only the fortunate get to have such a childhood in this part of the world. The rest are not so innocent." He lit a cigarette, pursed his lips, blew smoke at the ceiling. "You know how a Thai girl celebrates her eighteenth birthday?"

    "How?"

    "She puts her daughter on the street."

    I drank some more beer. I'd had Thai beer in New York, a brand called Singha, but I'd never even heard of Kloster, which tasted like a German beer--Beck's, say--but lighter. It wasn't bad.

    I said, "On the river I was offered the opportunity to watch a seven-year-old girl have sex with a dog."

    "And you passed it up, eh?"

    "So that I could meet with you."

    "I am honored," he said. "But it is upsetting to many people, this business of child prostitution. For myself, I would not want a partner of such an age. I prefer a woman who knows what to do. Although some of these children learn quickly."

    "I imagine they do."

    "But for most of their customers they are best advised to appear ignorant and inexperienced. We get whole planeloads of men on organized sex tours, you know. Americans and Europeans and Japanese. Some want boys and some want girls and some don't seem to care. It is curious, isn't it?"

    "Yes."

    "Of course, the U.N. wants to put a stop to it. And now I suppose the SPCA will stick its nose in as well, saying it is cruel to the dogs. You want another beer?"

    "Not just now."

    "You go to Rangoon first thing in the morning, don't you? Do you have a hotel yet?"

    I didn't have one because I wouldn't need one, but he didn't have to know that. "Out at the airport," I said.

    "The Amari? A good choice. Will you want to have an early night? Bangkok's twelve hours different from New York, so I don't know how you stand on let lag."

    "I'm all right."

    "You were able to sleep on the plane?"

    "Off and on," I said.

    He stroked his vertical stripe of a beard. "Forgive me for saying so," he said, "but you look a little peaked."

    "Probably jet lag."

    "You feel all right?"

    "Well, I'm a little chilled," I said, "but other than that--"

    "Chilled?"

    "A little, but--"

    "But it's a hot afternoon. The temperature is well over thirty degrees. That would make it close to ninety degrees Fahrenheit."

    "That sounds about right."

    "As a matter of fact," he said, "you're perspiring. So how can you be feeling a chill?"

    "I'm sure it's part of the jet lag," I said. "And you're right, it does feel warm in here, and I am perspiring. It's more an internal sort of a chill."

    "Internal."

    "And it's no big deal," I said. "I can live with it."

    "What you need," he said, "is spicy food. That is exactly what you need."

    "You're probably right."

    "We will go to a place I know," he said, "and we will drink beer and eat dog. How does that sound?"

    "Uh," I said.

    "And then we will drink whiskey," he said, "and then we will have some girls. But not children!"

    "Certainly not," I said.

    "I know just the place," he said. "The girls are twelve years old, possibly as much as fourteen. We won't be robbing the cradle, and we won't have the U.N. on our backs."

    "What about the SPCA?"

    He laughed, got to his feet, left some baht on the table to cover the bill. "An inner chill," he said. "My friend, after a plate of dog, a glass of scotch, and an hour with a pretty girl, you'll be as warm inside as out."

    I wouldn't bet on it.

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Interviews & Essays

On July 8, 1998, barnesandnoble.com on AOL was pleased to welcome Lawrence Block to our Authors@aol series. Block has written close to 50 books, including the forthcoming TANNER'S TWELVE SINGERS. A Mystery Writers of America Grand Master, Block has received nearly every major mystery-fiction award in existence. His latest novel is TANNER ON ICE.



LeightonBN: Mr. Block, welcome to the Globe. We're pleased to have you with us tonight.

Lawrence Block: Good to be here.


LeightonBN: If you're all set to start, shall we turn it over to the audience?

Lawrence Block: Why not?


Question: Hi. Love your books. What's the schedule for another Matt Scudder book?

Lawrence Block: The next one is EVERYBODY DIES, coming from Morrow in October.


Question: Are you friends with James Patterson, and will you be working with him?

Lawrence Block: No, don't know the man.


Question: Larry, is Matt Scudder licensed or unlicensed? The back cover of EVEN THE WICKED says he has a license; if true, I must have missed a book.

Lawrence Block: He's licensed now, as is explained in EVEN THE WICKED.


Question: Which of your books sell better, the serious ones, like the grim slice-of-life Matthew Scudder novels, or the light, amusing ones, like the Bernie Rhodenbarr series?

Lawrence Block: Hard to say. Each book seems to outsell the last.


Question: Is there any way to get a complete list of all the books that you have written? Every time I go to the bookstore I seem to find another book that was originally published years ago.

Lawrence Block: In the new hardcovers -- TANNER ON ICE, HIT MAN -- there's a full list next to the title page.


Question: Do you see a Keller novel anywhere in the future?

Lawrence Block: Very likely.


Question: Have you been to Burma? What was your experience?

Lawrence Block: Yes. We went to Burma about a year and a half ago. Very interesting place.


Question: Larry, where did you draw on Matt's drinking experience?

Lawrence Block: I've got a hell of an imagination.


Question: Mr. Block, what was your first book and what motivated you to write it?

Lawrence Block: It was so long ago, it's hard to remember. It was called MONA, and it's still in print (or in print again, or whatever).


Question: Besides writing, what other interests do you have?

Lawrence Block: Travel is a major one


Question: Where do you write? Do you use a computer? What inspired you for this new book?

Lawrence Block: I sometimes write at home, sometimes go away to do it. This new one, TANNER ON ICE, was written in Ireland. And it takes place in Burma. Go figure.


Question: Who was your greatest influence?

Lawrence Block: I dunno.


Question: Do you think any of your books will become movies?

Lawrence Block: Well, HIT MAN has been optioned, and I think a movie will be made. And A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES has also been optioned.


Question: Hi. After so many novels, what is the one piece of advice you could give a beginning novelist?

Lawrence Block: Quit your day job.


Question: According to your publisher, would they rather you concentrate on just Scudder and forgo any other writing?

Lawrence Block: Who knows? And who cares? I think they know I have to write what I want or it won't work.


Question: Have you always lived in New York?

Lawrence Block: No, but mostly.


Question: Do you think the U.S. is doing everything it can to oppose SLORC?

Lawrence Block: No idea. I don't really get much into politics. You'd have to ask Tanner.


Question: When will you be coming back to Buffalo for a signing?

Lawrence Block: Good question. Buffalo's rarely a spot on a publisher's tour list, but I get there from time to time on my own, and maybe we'll work in a signing next time.


Question: From your public statements, apparently you think of Rhodenbarr as fluff and Scudder as"significant," but frankly, I have no time for the "serious" Scudder books and I love the fluff. Why do you disown all but the revenue from your best work?

Lawrence Block: I think you miss the point. I think of the Burglar books as light and the Scudder books as more serious, because they are. That doesn't mean one's better or worse than the other.


Question: Any advice for would-be middle-aged mystery writers?

Lawrence Block: Start young.


Question: Have you ever been to any of the church basements that Scudder visits? You must have, it's too real.

Lawrence Block: Scudder's been there.


Question: Where did the plot idea in LONG LINE OF DEAD MEN come from? It's quite an interesting concept!

Lawrence Block: I read an article ages ago about a club like that, and it stayed in my mind. When I got the idea for the book, I couldn't figure out where I'd read about it (it was at least 30 years before I wrote the book).


Question: Did you ever think that any of your series would take off as well as they did?

Lawrence Block: And why not? They're terrific. He said modestly....


Question: Are there any plans for a stand-alone novel? Or is all your time spoken for by the series characters?

Lawrence Block: I really never know what I'm going to do next.


Question: Any plans to write another instructional writing book?

Lawrence Block: There's one that's out of print that I might revise, but I don't seem to be getting around to it. TELLING LIES FOR FUN AND PROFIT continues to sell well, which is nice.


Question: Have you been planning on writing another Tanner novel the entire 25 years he's been absent?

Lawrence Block: No, thought I was done with him forever.


Question: Why did you publish THE BURGLAR IN THE LIBRARY first in the UK? Because it was set in England? Or because the Brits eat Bernie up?

Lawrence Block: It just happened that way. It was only a month or so before the U.S. publication.


Question: Did you start out as a writer or did you have another occupation?

Lawrence Block: The only other thing I ever did was deliver prescriptions for a drugstore afternoons after high school.


Question: What prompted you to bring back Tanner?

Lawrence Block: I was rereading some of the earlier books and remembered how much fun they'd been to write.


Question: Did you do any research for this novel? What did it entail?

Lawrence Block: Well, I went to Burma, but that wasn't intentional research. I went there before I got the idea for the book.


Question: How much do critics' opinions matter to you?

Lawrence Block: Not a great deal. If I were to believe them when they tell me how great I am, I'd have to believe them when they say I suck.


Question: Why were there so many years between the Burglar books?

Lawrence Block: Because time flies.


Question: Larry, what do you think of the people who try to re-create stories of dead authors (e.g., Rex Stout, Ian Fleming)?

Lawrence Block: It's not something I'd want to be involved with.


Question: Who do you see as playing Matt Scudder?

Lawrence Block: Oh, a lot of people could do it. I dunno. Nick Nolte would be interesting....


Question: How much of the travel aspect ties to the tax question? I'm serious, not trying to give you a hard time. Many authors seem to set their novels conveniently in exotic locations, never the same one twice.

Lawrence Block: I can't honestly imagine writing a whole book in order to write off a trip. Doesn't make much sense....


Question: Sue Grafton says she has to write each day, no matter what. Are you as disciplined?

Lawrence Block: God no.


Question: Do you still just write two hours a day? And if not, what is your new schedule?

Lawrence Block: It changes with every book.


Question: Would you rather see one of your books made into a big-budget action extravaganza, or several of your books made into more intimate character study-type movies?

Lawrence Block: Both.


Question: Tanner, Scudder, and Bernie have been around for a while. If you had to create a new series character for the '90s, what would he look like?

Lawrence Block: Well, he might look like Keller.


Question: Do you visit Murder Ink, and if so, what writers do you buy?

Lawrence Block: I was there this afternoon, but I didn't buy anything. Signed some stock.


Question: Do you like book-signing events?

Lawrence Block: Yes.


Question: Do you find that living in New York City keeps you in touch with the streets you write about?

Lawrence Block: Yes, I think so. And I walk and take subways, and that's good, too. It's also the only sensible way to get around this town.


LeightonBN: This will be our last question this evening.

Question: Do you have an "Elaine" in your life? Kids?

Lawrence Block: I have a wife, though her résumé is different from Elaine's. And I have three daughters from a previous marriage.


LeightonBN: Thanks a lot for your time, Mr. Block. Besides the technical problems, I'd say it was a lot of fun.

Lawrence Block: I enjoyed it. Sorry we can't go longer....


LeightonBN: Please come again.

Lawrence Block: Any time.


LeightonBN: Goodnight.

Lawrence Block: Night, everybody.


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