At the very beginning of his career, Lawrence Block was barely making a living writing surprisingly readable paperbacks for sleaze paperback publishing houses. His 1958 meal ticket was originally published by Nightstand Books under the title $20 Lust under the pseudonym Andrew Shaw. Later, Nightstand recycled the novel as Cinderella Sims, a title that stuck for a handful of reprints under Block’s own name. The book remains available today as a reprint title released on Block’s own publishing imprint for his historical oddities.
Former police reporter Ted Linsdsay is a recovering drunk from Louisville, Kentucky whose wife left him for another man and died in a car accident soon thereafter. Ted left his old life behind and moved to New York City in search of a new start, a reset. He lands a job slinging hash on the graveyard shift of an all-night diner and falls into a predictable, if dull, pattern of life. All that changes one day when Ted sees a stacked babe living in the apartment house across the street. He is immediately smitten and stalks her to learn that her name is Cinderella “Cindy” Sims.
It takes awhile for much of anything to happen in this paperback. Fortunately, Ted is an interesting enough character and Block is a talented enough writer that reading the novel’s first third wasn’t too much of a chore. Once things get rolling, you have an honest-to -goodness crime story to read and enjoy. Without spoiling too much, it involves a crew of con artists, a casino gambling scam, and a satchel full of cash. With those ingredients and Lawrence Block driving the narrative, you’re in good hands.
It really was a different world back in 1958, and some of the scenes in Cinderella Sims really drive that home. Marital rape and unprovoked violence against women are shrugged off and the plot never pauses to consider what just occurred. In another scene, the narrator describes the gays of Greenwich Village in terms that we don’t use today in polite company. I actually like these elements of vintage fiction, not because of some anti-PC crusade, but because they place a work of fiction in a particular time an underscore how far we’ve traveled in the culture today. It’s also interesting to consider what societal norms we exhibit today that will be seen as jaw-dropping and inappropriate 60 years from now.
Because Cinderella Sims is a Nightstand Book, the promise of several erotic sex scenes are fulfilled, but it’s nothing terribly graphic. This is a sexy femme fatale crime novel rather than a porno book with a crime story pretext. If you read enough of these, you can tell the difference. There’s also a compelling plot and lots of bone-crunching violence as the paperback veers toward its satisfying conclusion.
In short, there’s nothing not to like about Cinderella Sims. It’s an outstanding little crime novel with a boatload of titillation and thrilling action. Lawrence Block was smart to rescue this one from obscurity and make it available today. It’s a real winner.
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