Evan Michael Tanner hasn't slept in more than a decade—not since a small piece of battlefield shrapnel invaded his skull and obliterated his brain's sleep center. Still, he's managed to find numerous inventive ways to occupy his waking hours.
Tanner is a card-carrying member of hundreds of international organizations, from the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Order to the Flat Earth Society—not because he believes in their myriad lost causes, he's simply a joiner by nature. Besides, it gives him something to do.
The Russians think Tanner is a CIA operative on a covert mission. The CIA is certain he's a Soviet agent. Actually, he's in Turkey pursuing a fortune in hidden Armenian gold. But Tanner's up for anything, including a little spycraft, if it helps him reach his big payday. And if need be, he'll even start a small revolution . . .
About 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.
Read an Excerpt
The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep
By Lawrence Block
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Lawrence Block
All right reserved.
The Turks have dreary jails. Or is that conjecture? The plural might be inaccurate, for all I truly knew, there might be but one jail in all of Turkey. Or there could be others, but they need not be dreary places at all. I sketched them mentally, a bevy of Turkish Delights bedecked with minarets, their floors and walls sparkling with embedded rubies, their dazzling halls patrolled by undraped Turkish maidens, and even the bars on the windows lovingly polished to a glowing sheen.
But, whatever the case, there was at least one dreary jail in Turkey. It was in Istanbul, it was dank and dirty and desolate, and I was in it. The floor of my cell could have been covered by a nine-by-twelve rug, but that would have hidden the decades of filth that had left their stamp upon the wooden floor. There was one small barred window, too small to let very much air in or out, too high to afford more than a glimpse of the sky. When the window turned dark, it was presumably night; when it grew blue again, I guessed that morning had come. But, of course, I could not be certain that the window even opened to the outside. For all I knew, some idiot Turk alternately lit and extinguished a lamp outside that window to provide me with this illusion.
A single twenty-five-watt bulb hung from the ceiling and kept my cell the same shade of gray day and night. I'd beenprovided with a sagging army cot and a folding cardtable chair. There was a chamber pot in one corner of my chamber. The cell door was a simple affair of vertical bars, through which I could see a bank of empty cells opposite. I never saw another prisoner, never heard a human sound except for the Turkish guard who seemed to be assigned to me. He came morning, noon, and night with food. Breakfast was always a slab of cold black toast and a cup of thick black coffee. Lunch and dinner were always the samea tin plate piled with a suspicious pilaff, mostly rice with occasional bits of lamb and shreds of vegetable matter of indeterminate origin. Incredibly enough, the pilaff was delicious. I lived in constant fear that misguided humanitarian impulses might lead my captors to vary my monotonous diet, substituting something inedible for the blessed pilaff. But twice a day my guard brought pilaff, and twice a day I wolfed it down.
It was the boredom that was stifling. I had been arrested on a Tuesday. I'd flown to Istanbul from Athens, arriving around ten in the morning, and I knew something had gone wrong when the customs officer took far too much time pawing through my suitcase. When he sighed at last and closed the bag, I said, "Are you quite through?"
"Yes. You are Evan Tanner?"
"Evan Michael Tanner?"
"You flew from New York to London, from London to Athens, and from Athens to Istanbul?"
"You have business in Istanbul?"
He smiled. "You are under arrest," he said.
"I am sorry," he said, "but I am not at liberty to say."
My crime seemed destined to remain a secret forever. Three uniformed Turks drove me to jail in a jeep. A clerk took my watch, my belt, my passport, my suitcase, my necktie, my shoelaces, my pocket comb and my wallet. He wanted my ring, but it wouldn't leave my finger, so he let me keep it. My uniformed bodyguard led me down a flight of stairs, through a catacombic maze of corridors, and ushered me into a cell.
There was nothing much to do in that cell. I don't sleep, have not slept in sixteen yearsmore of that laterso I had the special joy of being bored, not sixteen hours a day, like the normal prisoner, but a full twenty-four. I ached for something to read, anything at all. Wednesday night I asked my guard if he could bring me some books or magazines.
"I don't speak English," he said in Turkish.
I do speak Turkish, but I thought it might be worthwhile to keep this a secret. "Just a book or a magazine," I said in English. "Even an old newspaper."
In Turkish he said, "Your mother loves to perform fellatio upon syphilitic dogs."
I took the proffered plate of pilaff. "Your fly is open," I said in English.
He looked down immediately. His fly was not open, and his eyes focused reproachfully on me. "I don't speak English," he said again in Turkish. "Your mother spreads herself for camels."
Dogs, camels. He went away, and I ate the pilaff and wondered what had led them to arrest me, and precisely why they were holding me, and if they would ever let me go. My guard pretended he could not speak English, and I feigned ignorance of Turkish. The high window turned alternately blue and black, the guard brought toast and pilaff and pilaff, toast and pilaff and pilaff, toast and pilaff and pilaff. The chamber pot began to approach capacity, and I amused myself by calculating just when it would overflow and by trying to imagine how I might bring this to the attention of a guard who refused to admit to a knowledge of English. Would either of us lose face if we talked in French?
The pattern changed, finally, on my ninth day in jail, a Wednesday. I thought it was TuesdayI'd lost a day somewherebut it turned out that I was wrong. I had my usual breakfast, paid my usual tribute to my chamber pot, and performed a brief regimen of setting-up exercises. An hour or so after breakfast I heard footsteps in the hallway. My guard unlocked my door, and two uniformed men came into my cell. One was very tall, very thin, very much the officer. The other was shorter, fatter, sweaty, and . . .
Excerpted from The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep by Lawrence Block Copyright © 2007 by Lawrence Block. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The book took weird twists and turns, wasn't interesting at all, was weird, and didn't make much sense.
The original book in Block's Evan Tanner series, this is funny and timeless -- and introduces us not only to Tanner, but to a view of world history that is beautiful in its resistance to all that we take for granted.
Pretty much exactly what a paperback should be: magnificently stupid fun.
Only he is a english lawyer so who came first?
This first book in the series is, perhaps, necessary to read for background but, certainly not the best from this author. But, soldier on, as he and his books get really good, later