Written by Lawrence Block, as Jill Emerson
Published by Titan Books
Getting Off: A Novel of Sex & Violence, the latest from mystery legend Lawrence Block (writing as Jill Emerson), is smut. No, really. Pure-D, 100% USDA Prime smut. The only reason I don’t call it porn is that it does have a story; it’s not there explicitly for the purpose of titillation. But boy, oh howdy, is it smutty.
Smut isn’t our usual forte here at Dread Central, but Getting Off is what might happen if Thomas Harris wrote the next Hannibal Lecter novel in a grimy peep show booth, featuring the sexcapades of America’s favorite serial killer.
The heroine of Getting Off is a woman who has long since shed her real name and identity. Her career, as it were, is traveling from city to city, eventually meeting the right guy, then bedding him and killing him. Taking his money and anything else usable and not-too-traceable, she moves on to another identity and another city.
The tale is told from her perspective, and while that makes her a biased storyteller, she’s brutally honest with herself and the reader. All of this stems from being the “other woman” with her father from an early age, until she grew too old to appeal to his pedophile mind and he abandoned her. She didn’t take that well, and the life-long killing spree began.
Getting Off swerves from one tryst and kill to another, until one day it strikes our heroine that there are only five men who have escaped her after experiencing her sexually. Somewhere in that reverie, she decides she can reset the clock and her “number” back to a virtual virginity by tracking down and murdering those five men.
And that’s where the story really begins.
How is this smut? Because Block goes into every tryst our heroine makes in extremely graphic detail. She enjoys sex; you could even guess she’s sexually compulsive as it isn’t just a means to a (deadly) end. She seduces men, enjoys graphic sex with them, then murders them in creative ways before getting away with it. The main killings, those of the men she’s hunting down, almost seem like boss battles in a video game: They each require a great deal more time and care in both the hunting and the method of death.
In the midst of one of these hunts, she meets someone who sparks a change in her. Can she enjoy a relationship with this person without murdering them after? Can she even attempt it before her quest is complete and her number is reset?
In between the explicit set pieces, Block gives us what becomes a compelling story. Despite the despicable nature of the heroine, there’s a reason I call her that: We come to like her. Hell, I was nearly cheering her on before it was over. Yes, she’s a heartless, perverted killer (and even a rapist), but damn if Block doesn’t make you enjoy spending time with her.
This comes from her refreshing honesty, even as the thoroughly biased perspective for the story. She admits blaming all of her crimes on her father’s abuse is nonsense. She enjoys killing, she enjoys sex, she likes what she does, and her father didn’t instill any of that in her. She likes the lifestyle as well as the perverted pleasure in getting physical control over men she’s attracted to and taking her pleasure from them…with or without their consent.
Getting Off is definitely not a contender for high literary awards, but it’s a terribly fun, pulpy adventure into extremely twisted sexual territory with a heavy dose of gory, brutal violence thrown in for good measure. I admit I had fun with it, and I think you will, too, as long as you’re up to the content.
4 out of 5
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