Eric_W's Reviews > The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep

The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep by Lawrence Block
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Nov 14, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: mysteries-and-thrillers, humor
Read in January, 1999

One can see the origins of Bernie Rhodenbarr in this delightful early work of Block. Evan Michael Tanner is an advocate of lost causes. He also can’t sleep. In the Korean War, his “sleep center” was destroyed by a piece of shrapnel. Now on disability, he tells people he earns extra money by being a “stentaphator,” which he defines as someone who takes tests and writes papers for students who would rather not. He compensates for their personal inadequacies. “Stentaphators are subsidiary scholars concerned with suasion and ambidexterity.” At least that’s what he tells the Turkish authorities who arrest him at the border. He belongs to too many weird organizations, including the Flat Earth Society of Middlesex, England. When asked why he is in Turkey – the authorities assume he is a spy working for the CIA, especially after the CIA denies that he does – he replies that he is there to purchase counterfeit coins. It is not illegal in Turkey to create counterfeit coins of other nationalities, only Turkish, and Tanner wants to have a counterfeiter make fake Armenian coins and then sell them in the U.S. as genuine. Of course, his real reason for being in Turkey was to steal $3,000,000 in gold.
Now if you think that’s bizarre. . . . Block, who has written more novels than he has kept track of, somewhere over fifty, embarked a few years ago on a trip to visit every town named Buffalo in the country. So far he and his wife have been to more than seventy places by that name.
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