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Hit Man (John Keller #1)

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,940 Ratings  ·  315 Reviews
2 sound cassettes (ca. 3 hr.)
The Barnes & Noble Review
February 1998

Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Lawrence Block has been awarded every major mystery prize. With more than 50 published works, he is considered by many to be the ultimate voice in mystery; The Wall Street Journal calls him "one of the very best writers working the beat." Block's latest novel, H
Audio Cassette, Abridged, 0 pages
Published November 28th 1999 by Audio Literature (first published January 21st 1998)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jan 29, 2010 Kemper rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Keller's a pretty normal guy. He does crosswords, loves dogs, collects stamps and buys earrings for his girlfriend every time he travels. And he travels a lot since his job is killing people.

Block did a great job with this string of short stories about Keller that build a character study about a professional hit man who often finds himself dealing with odd circumstances despite his desire to just do the job and get out of town. Keller isn't a psycho, but he isn't exactly wracked with guilt eithe
Dan Schwent
Hitman is a collection of short stories about a professional killer named Keller. What sets this book apart from others of its kind is that it's more about what Keller does when he's not actively killing people, what makes him tick. He has fantasies about living in whatever town he's visiting for a job. He has a dog that he's quite attached to. And eventually he takes up stamp collecting as a hobby so he'll have something to do when he retires.

That's not to say there's no action. Keller dispatch
I'm completely embarrassed to say that I've read this one before, somehow, in some form. One would think I'd remember a book called Hit Man. Alas, I'm getting old. So what did I do when I discovered my little error? Keep on reading, of course, because I could only vaguely remember details and it is a fast read. What I have to say about memory is that it's very odd to read one long deja vu, and somewhat disconcerting to realize my memory had inserted another chapter. Perhaps I was channelling Blo ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
I'll say up front, I fully expected that if I got into this book I'd at best be mildly interested. It is after all a story of a "Hit Man". Personally I don't condone murder either as profession or pass time, so in rating this book a 4 I'm saying this is an interesting book.

It's odd to find yourself at least mildly sympathetic to a killer. When I first "met" Keller he put me in mind of a homicidal Walter Mitty. When he goes somewhere to "fulfill" a contract he tends to start day dreaming about ha
Dec 17, 2014 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finally getting round to reading the Keller series after having read all the Matt Scudder books last year. Had forgotten how much I enjoyed reading Lawrence Block and am really glad that I have a new series to read as was suffering Scudder withdrawal symptoms (that sounds like quite a horrible disease). It's not quite as good as the Scudder books but still a really fun read with plenty of unexpected twists. This one is written as a series of short stories but each follows on from and refers to p ...more
Leon Aldrich
Until now, I have never read any Lawrence Block. Is that a cardinal sin for an avid reader? It should be.

My penance will just have to be more Block...
Aug 01, 2014 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
This was a cool introduction to a new (to me) series by Lawrence Block. It's about, as the title suggests, a hit man named Keller.

Each chapter is an assignment for Keller, so it's like a series within a single book. This style kept it from ever becoming a bulky read.

Or listen, in this case. I found the audiobook and was pleased to try it out with this method. The actor Robert Forster did the narration and I'd have to say was pretty much perfect for this book. He really fit the style of the writi
Oct 06, 2014 Darren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hit Man is a pile of short stories pieced together as chapters in the life of John Keller. It's not a spoiler to let you know Keller's a hit man; it's right there in the title.

That's very nearly all there is to him, really. Keller has the odd girlfriend, but he's no suave son of a bitch, leaving a trail of broken hearts and tear-stained pillowcases. He's awkward and earnest by parts, and even occasionally impotent.

He's a successful, resourceful killer, but he doesn't exude violence, nor does h
Lawrence Block is a hard working pulp crime novelist, best known for his hard-boiled detective Matthew Scudder, gentleman thief Bernie Rhodenbarr and hit man John Keller. Hit Man is the first book in the Keller series, combining a collection of short stories to develop this character. This is an interesting technique and Block’s short story book One Night Stands and Lost Weekends remains one of my favourite crime collections. He manages to pack the same punch of a normal pulp novel into a stripp ...more
Perry Whitford
Jun 13, 2016 Perry Whitford rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Keller travels all across the United States, a patient, sedentary life of airport lounges, flights, hired cars and hotel stays (preferably those with HBO), casually carrying out his job of hired hit man.

As he does so he takes time out to do some idle musing on innocuous subjects, such as the various names of roofing features and just how long it would take to ride a thousand miles on a horse.

Keller kills anyone for a fee, regardless of who or why. He even kills the wrong people by accident, as w
Jane Stewart
I do not enjoy watching murder of good/normal people, but it kept my interest.

The only reason I gave this 3 stars instead of 2 was because I did not feel I wanted it to be over. It kept my interest because I was waiting for something more. But by the end, more never came. The character does not change. And there is no overall plot. It is a series of short stories written for a magazine.

It’s a different take on the work and life of a hit man. Some readers will find this humorous, but I did not. I
Ivonne Rovira
Jul 08, 2015 Ivonne Rovira rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
How does Lawrence Block do it? He's the author of the comic Evan Tanner series about an ultra-insomniac CIA agent. He's written the dark and suspenseful Matthew Scudder series. Then he's got the uproariously funny and New York-hip series about Bernie Rhodenbarr, the world's suavest burglar. You'd never think that these three series were penned by the same author.

Now Block does it again with the incredibly inventive Hit Man, a debut novel about a philosophical murderer for hire. You'd expect such
Aug 19, 2013 Maddy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2001-reads

You know how you take those tests in high school that help you determine what profession is best suited to you? Well, there was never a match for John Paul Keller. It was only when he became an adult that he found out what he was destined to be. His career, at which he excels, is that of a hit man. At various times, he receives a call from Dot in White Plains, contacts his travel agent and jets off to wherever the dirty deed needs to be done. He carries out the hit, no fuss, no bother
Dec 31, 2013 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, crime
Even though I had read a few reviews I still wasn't prepared for the curve ball that Block throws here.

Keller is the hit man of the title and this collection of shorts is all about him as a person; with very little focus on the detail of how he earns his living.

He isn't a stone killer - he's a guy who drifted into a job and has built a routine that fills the gaps between work; without ever creating real roots or connections.

How he seems to long for those roots and connections - yet when he actua
Feb 01, 2014 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible, murder
A philosophical gun for hire who thinks of himself as whimsical. Because of his profession any chance of friends or a relationship is unlikely which, of course, leaves him a bit lonely. This is told from his thoughts, how he perceives his profession and the people who pass through his life. He does have a twisted version of a moral compass and does not take himself too seriously. All in a days work, so to speak. It was interesting how easy the author made it to become attached to a ruthless kill ...more
Oct 11, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hit Man is a clever and entertaining series of interconnected short stories about an aging hit man, who is considering leaving his very specialized career. Keller is a hit man with morals -- every killer has to draw the line somewhere -- and many of the stories have Keller struggling with what is right or wrong about that particular hit.

Each story (or hit) deals with the varieties of jobs one might encounter in this career; and each story ties together with the previous stories perfectly. Hit M
Albert Riehle
Solid. Solid writing. Solid storytelling. Solid all around.

First things, first, if you're not familiar with the series, this isn't a typical novel format. It reads like a collection of short stories about the same central character, told in linear order. And it's a character study, really. Each story builds upon what we know about the central character, Keller, who makes his living as a hit man. But the "hits" are just background for the author to tell the story of the man who makes his living
Stephen Arnott
Aug 31, 2015 Stephen Arnott rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
This reads more like a series of short stories than a novel per se, each chapter being another increment in the life of Keller, our hit man protagonist, as he deals with the knocking off (or not) of a new victim.

There is no over-arching plot or significant character development (though we do see Keller trying out new interests), but the tales are loosely bound by the declining mental state of Keller's employer 'The Old Man' and his changing relationship with Dot, the old man's secretary.

Andrew Smith
Feb 01, 2013 Andrew Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another Block series I've read in a random order. This book, the first, I've read last. I thought I'd get all the tales under my belt before the latest - and maybe the last - book in the series comes out in a couple of weeks. The stories of Keller, the philatelic assassin, are a real joy. Loosely linked, these stories could stand alone as shorts. There is a chronological flow but the stories share the beauty of all good short stories: they grip, they have a strong plot line and a twist or two.
Dec 26, 2015 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nice introduction to the character of Keller and the glimpses into his psyche and methods were interesting details that didn't change the fact he is a hired killer, but added nuance to the process and the man
Mar 29, 2016 Gina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Described in newspaper reviews as "weirdly delightful" or "both haunting and perversely entertaining" it is clear this isn't a standard crime/assassin plot. John Paul Keller, just Keller to most or some fictitious name to those who hire him or become victims, is a hit man at a crossroads. As we learn from his thoughts in the book, killing people was once something he'd done. Then, it became who he is. It isn't that he wants to do anything else. He just isn't sure it is all he wants to be. So, he ...more
Luci Lytle
Aug 14, 2009 Luci Lytle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this one over and over. Keller is a contract killer and he travels for work, a lot. He often finds himself in a town or city thinking "I could live here" as do Justina and I. We don't do the killing part (to bad art doesn't pay that well) but we could live anywhere - and sometimes have found ourselves living in places we never thought about living, like Fresno or San Diego. We've even considered changing our last name to Keller. He's a nice guy whom we like to hang out with from time to t ...more
May 09, 2016 Ed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
#1 in the Keller series. This volume stitches Keller short stories, some previously published, into the semblance of a novel. Author Block's Keller joins Loren Estleman's Peter Macklin and Max Allan Collins' Quarry in a select fraternity of literary hit men.

Hitman John Keller series - SS - Keller, the protagonist of this smoothly integrated story collection, is a gun for hire. Every so often a mystery man in White Plains, N.Y., calls him through an amiably efficient assistant, Dot, and arranges
Aug 04, 2015 CD rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, suspense, action

The first of the Keller books. This is a second(or third?) reading of this and it entertains again. Now I'm going to work through the series in sequence!

(read again August 2015 for Book Club)
Somewhat different from what I was expecting. Essentially, a series of short stories about Keller, the hit man. The paid assassin. Each story is about a different element in Keller's live and is work. All in all, a good collection, too.

As I say, not what I was expecting, but, not disappointing, either. Each story, while separate, did include things from previous stories in the collection. Giving the impression that we were being told the story of a man's life and work. Which, of course, we were.
Keller is a hit man, a paid assassin. He likes his work and he is good at it. Sometimes, he wonders what it would be like to be normal and have a conscience. So he tries, he asks himself moral questions, but he doesn't always find the proper answers, he just doesn't get the hang of it. Anyway, the pay is good and he likes to travel, so why over complicate things?

You kinda like him at times cause he kinda makes you laugh, but then you feel guilty, so you say to yourself, what's the point? But the
Sep 04, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This series has been on my to-read list for a while, and I thoroughly enjoyed the first installment. It wasn't exactly what I expected, and that added to the enjoyment. Keller is hired killer who carries out assignments around the country with efficiency. He's hired though a broker, and the client is anonymous. The target of course is known only briefly. The book is set up as series of assignments, one per chapter, but the interesting part is the human element Block brings to Keller's character. ...more
May 30, 2011 Eric_W rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a collection of stories featuring Block’s stamp-loving hitman, Keller. If you are looking for a thrill-a-minute with car chases and leaving off tall buildings, keep on going. On the other hand, if you want a well-crafted collection of stories that slowly but painstakingly reveal a man’s character through the most mundane of details, you will find a lot to satisfy your cravings.

Keller is portrayed as a normal businessman suffering often from the ennui common to travelers, making minor com
Iowa City Public Library
Lawrence Block is a very prolific writer. Most of his stories are set in New York City and feature an array of series characters. I am most familiar with Matthew Scudder, the alcoholic private investigator and Bernie Rhodenbarr, a bookseller by day and a burglar by night. Block’s latest work features low key hitman, John Keller, who has appeared in three previous outings. In the opening of Hit and Run, the latest effort, Keller is in (you’ll like this one!) Des Moines doing one last job before r ...more
The Nate Gatsby
Entertainment value: 6/20

I found the majority of this book either confusing or boring. There are long stretches of the book where nothing important happens and even about 20 pages in which the main character takes up stamp collecting.

Readability: 8/20

This book was a challenge to read. Not only was the main character, Keller, changing his name a lot because he was a hit man, but also he was in new places and meeting new people every 20 pages or so. It made it very hard to remember who was who an
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Assassin/Hitman Fiction 1 21 Sep 10, 2013 03:42PM  
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Received the Shamus Award, "The Eye" (Lifetime achievment award) in 2002.

From his web site:

I'm told every good author website needs a bio, so here's mine:

"Lawrence Block's novels range from the urban noir of Matthew Scudder (A Drop of the Hard Stuff) to the urbane effervescence of Bernie Rhodenbarr (The Burglar on the Prowl), while other characters include the globe-trotting insomniac Evan Tanne
More about Lawrence Block...

Other Books in the Series

John Keller (5 books)
  • Hit List (Keller, #2)
  • Hit Parade (Keller, #3)
  • Hit and Run (Keller, #4)
  • Hit Me (Keller, #5)

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