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Hit Parade (Keller Series #3)

Hit Parade (Keller Series #3)

3.5 19
by Lawrence Block

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Keller is friendly. Industrious. A bit lonely, sometimes. If it wasn't for the fact that he kills people for a living, he'd be just your average Joe. The inconvenient wife, the troublesome sports star, the greedy business partner, the vicious dog, he'll take care of them all, quietly and efficiently. If the price is right.

Like the rest of us, Keller's


Keller is friendly. Industrious. A bit lonely, sometimes. If it wasn't for the fact that he kills people for a living, he'd be just your average Joe. The inconvenient wife, the troublesome sports star, the greedy business partner, the vicious dog, he'll take care of them all, quietly and efficiently. If the price is right.

Like the rest of us, Keller's starting to worry about his retirement. After all, he's not getting any younger. (His victims, on the other hand, aren't getting any older.) So he contacts his "booking agent," Dot, up in White Plains, and tells her to keep the hits coming. He'll take any job, anywhere. His nest egg needs fattening up.

Of course, being less choosy means taking greater risks—and that could buy Keller some big trouble. Then again, in this game, there are plenty of opportunities for some inventive improvisation . . . and a determined self-motivator can make a killing.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
After a six-year hiatus (following 1998's Hit Man and 2000's Hit List), Lawrence Block's affable assassin John Keller is back for more highly unusual contract hits, wry social commentary, and deep existential contemplation. In Hit Parade -- a series of interconnected vignettes -- Keller's targets include a much-heralded baseball player, a jockey, a disgruntled business partner, a golf-obsessed retiree, and a killer pit bull named Fluffy.

Floyd Turnbull is an aging major league baseball player. Just shy of 400 careers home runs and 3,000 hits, the designated hitter's multimillion-dollar salary is ruining his team's chances for success. But when Keller gets the call to kill Turnbull during a team road trip, he roots for the "dead man hitting" to reach the 3,000-hit plateau before the inevitable end. A murderous pit bull is the cause of two New York City women's ire; but when Keller accepts the highly unusual case, he realizes he has unwittingly stepped into a steaming pile of something that has nothing to do with unruly dogs…

The John Keller saga brilliantly exemplifies the dark narrative mastery of the iconic Block, who was honored as a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 1994. Keller is the cold-blooded killer of dozens -- possibly hundreds -- of people, yet readers can't help but root for him and his ever-expanding stamp collection. Reminiscent of Max Allan Collins's series in the 1970s featuring hired killer Quarry, Block's quirky Keller novels are a cult favorite of crime fiction fans. Who knew contract killing could be so much fun? Paul Goat Allen
Kevin Allman
Block writes in the same terse, laconic style that his antihero employs, with rat-a-tat dialogue and a matter-of-fact attitude toward the business of death. Should Hollywood attempt to revive the sly, dark "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" anthology, Keller's adventures would be a fine blueprint. With two other classic series under his belt, Block has accomplished what few other mystery writers have: a detective trifecta.
— The Washington Post
Marilyn Stasio
… when his broker, Dot, casually refers to this consummate craftsman as a sociopath, it occasions droll bouts of soul-searching. Keller even considers retiring and becoming as dull as the rest of us. While much of this ruminating seems pro forma (Oh, come on, Mr. Paganini, couldn’t you play us one more tune?), an exceptional story called “Keller’s Adjustment” suggests a good cause for the hit man’s malaise, something just about every reader can share - even with a sociopath.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Block's latest collection of darkly funny, morally ambiguous short tales featuring the philatelist-hit man John Keller and his wisecracking "manager," Dot, is being called a novel. This disingenuous designation is clarified in the published version by separate story titles, which are missing from the otherwise unabridged audio version. The loosely linked stories are flowed like a continuous novel, but one with plot line and characters shifting without much warning. It's an unnecessary distraction from Block's brilliantly twisted tales, otherwise happily enhanced by the author's droll, surprisingly effective narration. Not only has Block created one of crime fiction's more remarkable protagonists-a hired assassin who is somehow likable without the need of redemption by penance, charm or even regret-he proves to be an excellent audio interpreter of his antihero's sometimes hilarious homicidal capers. The author's voice is reedy and a bit nasal, but he knows his characters and his timing is impeccable. The best episode (identified in the print edition as "Keller the Dogkiller") is so cleverly and wickedly convoluted, with the Keller-Dot recaps so deliriously funny, that it alone is worth the price of the package, especially with Block's distinctive voice taking us through every hairpin twist and turn with an air of sublime nonchalance. Simultaneous release with the Shaye Areheart Books hardcover (Reviews, Feb. 13). (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In Block's third novel about the introspective hit man, Keller continues to receive job assignments from his lady friend Dot in White Plains, NY, and crisscrosses the country from New York to Detroit to Scottsdale, AZ, to San Francisco killing people for hire. But in the aftermath of 9/11, the increased security makes Keller's job more difficult, and his doubts about his profession lead him to think more about retirement and spending time on his stamp collection. To raise the needed money for the retirement fund, though, Keller needs more work, which means more killing. The book's episodic plot line, focusing on one hit after another, is secondary to Block's fascinating character development of Keller, presenting a sympathetic portrait of a person willing to kill with little remorse. The section where Keller attends a stamp auction in San Francisco provides an interesting glimpse into philately. Block also provides an excellent narration; a solid addition to all audio collections.-Stephen L. Hupp, West Virginia Univ. Lib., Parkersburg Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Hit man John Keller, the pro's pro, returns in a volume that makes gestures toward being a novel but is mostly a cycle of ten stories, half of them reprints. How can a man root for the Yankees, collect stamps and worry about the fate of fictional bunnies while he's making a living killing strangers? Keller, wondering if he's a sociopath, decides at length that he's not, because the brutal implications of his profession wouldn't bother a sociopath, and it truly bothers Keller to kill a friendly acquaintance who's just made him a generous gift. Several of his current adventures concern relatively routine assignments: an aging baseball player on the brink of two big records, an amateur basketball player whose associates plan more murders than his, a jockey who threatens to upset a race. The most resonant stories mingle problems in the contracts-Keller's difficulty adjusting to 9/11, his halfhearted attempt to drum up some business on his own, his apprehensions about his legacy-with his deepening reflections on his own mortality. Most of the stories don't expand the territory mapped out in Hit Man (1998) and Hit List (2000). But one of them, in which Keller is hired to kill a dog and ends up killing four people along the way, is worth the price of admission.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Keller Series , #3
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Read an Excerpt

Hit Parade

By Lawrence Block

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Lawrence Block
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060840889

Chapter One

Keller, a beer in one hand and a hot dog in the other, walked up a flight and a half of concrete steps and found his way to his seat. In front of him, two men were discussing the ramifications of a recent trade the Tarpons had made, sending two minor -- league prospects to the Florida Marlins in return for a left -- handed reliever and a player to be named later. Keller figured he hadn't missed anything, as they'd been talking about the same subject when he left. He figured the player in question would have been long since named by the time these two were done speculating about him.

Keller took a bite of his hot dog, drew a sip of his beer. The fellow on his left said, "You didn't bring me one."

Huh? He'd told the guy he'd be back in a minute, might have mentioned he was going to the refreshment stand, but had he missed something the man had said in return?

"What didn't I bring you? A hot dog or a beer?"

"Either one," the man said.

"Was I supposed to?"

"Nope," the man said. "Hey, don't mind me. I'm just jerking your chain a little."

"Oh," Keller said.

The fellow started to say something else but broke it off after a word or two as he and everybody else in the stadium turned their attention to home plate, where the Tarpons'cleanup hitter had just dropped to the dirt to avoid getting hit by a high inside fastball. The Yankee pitcher, a burly Japanese with a herky -- jerky windup, seemed unfazed by the boos, and Keller wondered if he even knew they were for him. He caught the return throw from the catcher, set himself, and went into his pitching motion.

"Taguchi likes to pitch inside," said the man who'd been jerking Keller's chain, "and Vollmer likes to crowd the plate. So every once in a while Vollmer has to hit the dirt or take one for the team."

Keller took another bite of his hot dog, wondering if he ought to offer a bite to his new friend. That he even considered it seemed to indicate that his chain had been jerked successfully. He was glad he didn't have to share the hot dog, because he wanted every bite of it for himself. And, when it was gone, he had a feeling he might go back for another.

Which was strange, because he never ate hot dogs. A few years back he'd read a political essay on the back page of a news magazine that likened legislation to sausage. You were better off not knowing how it was made, the writer observed, and Keller, who had heretofore never cared how laws were passed or sausages produced, found himself more conscious of the whole business. The legislative aspect didn't change his life, but without making any conscious decision on the matter, he found he'd lost his taste for sausage.

Being at a ballpark somehow made it different. He had a hunch the hot dogs they sold here at Tarpon Stadium were if anything more dubious in their composition than your average supermarket frankfurter, but that seemed to be beside the point. A ballpark hot dog was just part of the baseball experience, along with listening to some flannel -- mouthed fan shouting instructions to a ballplayer dozens of yards away who couldn't possibly hear him, or booing a pitcher who couldn't care less, or having one's chain jerked by a total stranger. All part of the Great American Pastime.

He took a bite, chewed, sipped his beer. Taguchi went to three -- and -- two on Vollmer, who fouled off four pitches before he got one he liked. He drove it to the 396 -- foot mark in left center field, where Bernie Williams hauled it in. There had been runners on first and second, and they trotted back to their respective bases when the ball was caught.

"One out," said Keller's new friend, the chain jerker.

Keller ate his hot dog, sipped his beer. The next batter swung furiously and topped a roller that dribbled out toward the mound. Taguchi pounced on it, but his only play was to first, and the runners advanced. Men on second and third, two out.

The Tarpon third baseman was next, and the crowd booed lustily when the Yankees elected to walk him intentionally. "They always do that," Keller said.

"Always," the man said. "It's strategy, and nobody minds when their own team does it. But when your guy's up and the other side won't pitch to him, you tend to see it as a sign of cowardice."

"Seems like a smart move, though."

"Unless Turnbull shows 'em up with a grand slam, and God knows he's hit a few of 'em in the past."

"I saw one of them," Keller recalled. "In Wrigley Field, before they had the lights. He was with the Cubs. I forget who they were playing."

"That would have had to be before the lights came in, if he was with the Cubs. Been all around, hasn't he? But he's been slumping lately, and you got to go with the percentages. Walk him and you put on a .320 hitter to get at a .280 hitter, plus you got a force play at any base."

"It's a game of percentages," Keller said.

"A game of inches, a game of percentages, a game of woulda-couldashoulda," the man said, and Keller was suddenly more than ordinarily grateful that he was an American. He'd never been to a soccer match, but somehow he doubted they ever supplied you with a conversation like this one.

"Batting seventh for the Tarpons," the stadium announcer intoned.

"Number seventeen, the designated hitter, Floyd Turnbull."


Excerpted from Hit Parade by Lawrence Block Copyright © 2006 by Lawrence Block. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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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Hit Parade 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was boring and redundant in places. I enjoyed the Burglar books and have heard rave reviews for other books he has written. I had higher expectations for this book and sadly they didn't pan out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To me this book was just ok. It was kind of like ground hog day with the same theme playing over and over again. The main character was kind of flat and two dimensional which seems hard to do for a hit man.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The consummate professional HIT MAN John Keller always gets the job done though at times there is collateral damage. He ponders whether making a living by assassinating people makes him a sociopath lunatic, but assumes not because when an innocent gets killed or in some cases his target dies he feels remorse. Still he rationalizes his efforts by claiming to be a problem solver. His Westchester agent Dot assigns him his latest Hit List to include a womanizing veteran major league baseball star, a jockey fixing a horse race, a basketball player, a friend who gives him a present, and a neighbor's dog, etc.------------------------- Keller is in top form in this loosely defined novel that feels more like an interconnected anthology especially when he and Dot discuss make a business killing in a purely Wall St. like way as the bottom line is based on meeting the dead line. The tales are fun as Lawrence Block uses dark dry humor to defuse the gory details and somehow ensures his audience will want Keller to succeed though in many case sympathy towards the victim (especially the canine) also occurs. HIT PARADE is a fine addition to the Keller legacy.----------------- Harriet Klausner
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Kaiser-Soze More than 1 year ago
After having thoroughly enjoyed the Scudder mysteries and his Burglar series, I eagerly looked forward to another great character in Keller. The book jacket may describe this killer philatelist as affable, but I didn't get that sense at all. Keller was robotic, only responding to others when necessary, had zero personality and I couldn't get myself to root or care for him much at all. Block is great with dialogue and believable plots, but the main character left me nonplussed. I was hoping for much more. Sorry!
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RLoughran More than 1 year ago
When in doubt pick up a book by Lawrence Block. Thoroughly enjoyable. Funny, and as insightful, as any "literary novel" where the main character contemplates suicide for 500 pages before he decides to live, live, live... Thank you, Mister Block.
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