Kit Toliver spends her days picking up men and promptly murdering them afterwards. While her behavior could likely be traced back to a traumatic event in her childhood, she certainly doesn’t hide the fact that she enjoys what she’s doing. One day, when thinking back to all of the men she’s disposed of, she’s reminded of the five that escaped with their lives. She decides to put things right in her mind and go after the ones that got away.
Lawrence Block and Hard Case Crime weren’t kidding when they labeled GETTING OFF “a novel of sex and violence”. In the 1960s and 70s, Block had penned a handful of sexually charged novels under the pseudonym Jill Emmerson. Following a brief hiatus in 2010, Hard Case Crime was looking to relaunch in a big way. What better way than reaching out to Block and having him resurrect an old pen name and style that fits perfectly within the publisher’s wheelhouse?
GETTING OFF is without a doubt one of the most violent and sexually explicit novels I’ve ever read. I’d like to consider myself fairly well-read when it comes to Hard Case Crime’s catalog, but I can’t recall anything quite as dark, brutal or sexual from them as this one from Block. That isn’t meant to be a knock, so don’t take it that way. I definitely knew what I was getting into when I had read a few reviews beforehand. That said, I continued to be shocked on occasion throughout the story as Block seemingly refused to hold anything back when it came to Kit’s adventurous side either in the bedroom or on the other end of a knife.
Even though Kit is reprehensible in her actions, she’s an easy character to get behind (pun intended) as she’s equipped with razor sharp wit leading to a level of charm that’s quite infectious. The relationship she develops with Rita, a woman she rents a room from midway through the novel, is an integral part of the story that allows Kit to grow and develop as a character rather than just a mindless killing machine.
Although Kit’s trauma is probably far worse than many of us will experience in our lives, it’s still something that, throughout the novel, she is constantly coming to terms with. GETTING OFF, while at its core is a story meant to affect the reader in a certain way, is more of a nuanced look at how life molds and shapes us, how we’re sometimes powerless to change our behavior despite knowing that it can often be detrimental to our lives. GETTING OFF is proof that genre fiction has much more to say than just what appears at surface level and it’s why Hard Case Crime is one of the best places for those voices.