In 1958 the well known crime writer and Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America (1993) released his first novel. Though at this point, he was writing lesbian pulp novels under the pseudonym Lesley Evans. Numerous pen names followed including Sheldon Lord, Andrew Shaw and Jill Emerson.
Over 50 years later, he’s chosen to return to his roots and resurrect the name Jill Emerson. Teaming up with Hard Case Crime and Titan books, his comeback novel is bluntly titled, Getting Off. And with a tagline of ‘a novel of sex and violence,’ it pretends to be nothing apart from the crime pulp it is.
Getting Off is based around a young lady called Katherine, although hardly anyone knows her by this name as she jumps from city to city and name to name as quickly as she jumps from one bed to another. After being groomed and sexually abused by her father at an early age, her outlook of sex is unsurprisingly jaded. After she beds a man, she kills him, robs him and then moves onto the next one in a mental cleansing routine. Problem is, for one reason or another, there were five men who escaped with their lives and this she needs to change. The novel follows her as she hunts, beds and kills the men on her list. But what happens if she can’t wipe the slate clean and can she really stop the killing if she does?
This book is everything you would probably expect by simply looking at the cover. Sex, drugs, murder, lust, lesbians and even a drop of necrophilia as the icing on the cake. The writing is enjoyable and the pacing is well structured to keep you engrossed. Saying that, the main story does seem to end ¾ of the way in, then the last quarter is just pure lesbian sex. But that’s point, right! If you’re a fan of literary prize winners and indepth other world fantasy, this will not be for you but that’s not surprising as it’s not aimed at that kind of person. There is a huge market for these vintage, 50’s style pulp novels and Block does tick all the boxes that I imagine anyone would want from this style of book. It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s pulp!
Along with being able to review this title, Lawrence Block was also kind enough to take a moment out of his busy schedule to answer a few quick questions for us.
Starburst: What inspired you to bring back your old pseudonym Jill Emerson after all this time?
Lawrence Block: I felt that an open pen name, "Lawrence Block writing as Jill Emerson," would help to indicate that Getting Off is categorically different than most of what I've been writing in recent years.
Have any of your previous female characters or characters in any other fiction you have enjoyed, influenced your female lead in Getting Off?
Influenced? I wouldn't think so. But Kit Tolliver might feel a kinship with Susan Pomerance of Small Town.
Were you ever tempted to tone down the sexual nature of the book to become more mainstream?
No, I knew I liked it just the way it was. And I was encouraged throughout by my editor, Charles Ardai of Hard Case Crime, who didn't seem in any way deterred by the book's sexual intensity.
Are you going to be continuing to write as Jill Emerson and if so, where are you going from here?
I really don't know. But the keen reception Getting Off's had is gratifying, as are the strong eBook sales of Jill's seven-volume backlist.
After becoming such a well known and prolific writer, are you still influenced by or admire any other specific writers?
Too many to name!
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers trying to get into a similar field of work?
Well, I've written half a dozen instructional books for writers, so I evidently do. But I think the most important piece of advice I can offer is this: Write to please yourself.