E-Book: After the First Death by Lawrence Block, 1969, ebook version is some other year.
Once again I am left wondering if Larry Block has ever written a bad book. He might think so but how many readers would agree? I suppose he may - may - have turned out dreck during his drinking days but even that is probably pretty good. That's 50+ years of work.
Recently released convict Alex Penn went on a drinking bender and wokeup in a flophouse hotel room. His brutal hangover keeps Alex from moving for several hours. Once Alex gets up from bed he steps in a puddle of blood and sees the murdered prostitute on the floor. "Uh-oh," Alex thinks, "Not again."
Alex was convicted about five years ago of killing a prostitute during a booze blackout. Recent court decisions won him a release and he returned to New York. Alex has stayed off the booze but one night started drinking again, picked up a working girl, and woke in his current state.
Alex cleans himself up best he can but his clothes are soaked in blood. He steals a set of clothes and hits the bricks. He knows the cops are after him and he refuses to go back into the can. He starts to remember things and recalls someone else in the hotel room that night. He figures he has been set-up for the murder. But only someone from his previous pre-prison life could be so motivated. "Hey! that means I must not have killed the first girl!" thinks Alex.
Alex starts sleuthing. Getting by on what little cash he has on hand Alex tries to figure out who hated him so much to kill a second woman on put Alex on the hook. He starts trying to track down men who could have slept with his ex-wife. Former colleagues itching for advancement over Alex. So on. So forth.
Of course, not everything is as it seems and we follow Alex's amateur adventures with Block during his usual skillful sketches of Alex and the other characters. I assume this was written for a mass market paperback publisher that harped on the sensational and sexy. Block gives plenty of that with drug use, vomit, blackouts, heroin, prostitutes, pimps, and blood. Block also has all those things make sense for the character and setting. The heroin addicted prostitute is not a ful-on scuzzy junkie or a hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold angel. Alex is a blackout drunk.
1. Once again I feel like I am sucking up to Block.
2. Oh, Master Block, you are so knowing and powerful. From your keyboard sprouts the wisdom of the ages and the insights of Solomon. Men bow to your feet and women bow to your waist. Editors weep as they read your work. Junior Editors must be chained to their desks to stop them from flinging themselves from high office windows.