A Diet of Treacle (2007)

Lawrence Block
Hard Case Crime
(Originally published as Pads are for Passion by Sheldon Lord  -1961)

For those still harboring disgust over the navel-gazing entitlement of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love, here's a worthy antidote.  Anita is a nice girl, going to school and engaged to a decent enough guy.  But rather than go on a carbo binge in Italy to find herself, she instead takes the subway down to the Village where when she meets Joe, a Korean war vet and college drop-out.  Soon she's shacking up with Joe and his pot-dealing roommate, Shank, who eventually drags all three of them into the deadend life of crime and claustrophobic despair that befalls so many pulp protagonists of the era.  Happily, Anita's slide into the dark mysteries of the village is not treated as a morality tale nor as an indictment of Eisenhower anomie (despite the title) --it's just something that happens because, you know, life sucks and fate is a bitch.   Similar in tone to the doomed dramaturgy of David Goodis from this period.  Best of all, no one is saved through gelatto and meditation.

Should be of interest to all pulp readers, of course, but also those just fascinated by how central the mythos of the Village has been in crime fiction over the past 50 years.  I still have about about a half-dozen of these titles on my shelf unread, in addition to The Case of Village Tramp from a post last year.  And this mythos hasn't changed much even with the gentrification of the area.  Back when NYPD Blue was still on the air, Sipowitz and his rotating partners often ended up in the Village to bust upscale addicts and "perverts."  Same crimes as the early '60s basically, but perpetrated by people with more money and "weirder" tastes.  It was one of their favorite plots, right next to murdered NYU professors found in some type of cross-dressing bondage predicament.

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