“Borderline” introduces its main characters in the first few dozen pages, none of them being very likeable, I hasten to add. There is Marty Granger, a professional gambler; Meg Rector, 26 and only hours past her divorce after four years of marriage and bored; Lily Daniels, 17, from Denver and, more recently, San Francisco; and Michael Weaver, who had left Tulsa after beating a 13-year-old girl to death. They each gravitate, for their own reasons, back and forth over the border between El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico, where, of course, their paths cross. These people just cannot seem to get enough [kinky] sex, drugs, booze, and violence. And for the most part they are of what used to be called “loose morals,” both the women and the men pretty horny, pretty much all the time, with a mantra that seems to be “you had to live for the thrills.”
This is an era when parking meters cost a nickel; a good breakfast cost a dollar, to which a quarter was added for the tip; and one could get a hotel room for $2 a day and a bottle of beer for 12 cents. There is, of course, much of the author’s trademark humor, and his wonderful descriptions of his characters, e.g., a woman who “tossed her head so that her bleached blonde mane rippled like a wheat field in the wind,” very much of that era as well. Lovers of noir will be delighted by this book, which contains the title story, as well as three short novels, all originally published half a century ago. The raunchiness was more than I had remembered in noir novels, much of the main story falling more into the category of erotica. The last tale,“Stag Party Girl,” longer than either of the very brief short stories included, was more like my favorite Lawrence Block novels. In this one, a private detective is hired as a bodyguard to a man who was about to get married, and had been threatened with murder. The p.i;.’s job was to get him to the church on time, and alive. The author, perhaps best known for his wonderful Matt Scudder series, began his writing life as an author of pulp fiction. Candor above all, I must admit that on the whole I was actually disappointed this time around.