Tuesday, March 15, 2016

When good authors forget some things about how the world really works

Larry Block is one of the great mystery writers of our time.  He writes so well that sometimes it's easy to overlook some glaring gaps in the world of his stories.  I ran into one of these in his novella Resume Speed, which is available only as an ebook.  Briefly, Bill Thompson is taking a bus out of town, headed ostensibly to Spokane.  He gets off in a small Montana town, gets a job as a fry cook, meets a lovely librarian.  Agrees to buy the restaurant from its current owner.  Remembers some things from his past and googles himself (under a different name), finding nothing.  Gets drunk, wakes up with blood on his shirt.  Leaves town.  Fine, so far as it goes.  Except...

That job.  Unless the owner is completely ignoring the tax system, "Bill Thompson" would need a Social Security number so his SS contributions could be made and his taxes withheld.  When "Bill" buys the diner, he will have even greater tax complications to deal with.  "Bill" gets a car, and has no trouble titling it.  Which seems odd.  None of that would raise an eyebrow if the story were set in the 1920s, pre-Social Security and in a time when the individual income tax would not have hit someone in "Thompson's" income range.  When auto titles were not necessarily a common feature of our lives. 

But the story is obviously present-day--google exists.  But somehow, the other complications of 21st century life seem to be ignored.

Oh, I enjoyed the story.  And the problems didn't intrude until I was finished.  Now, however...well, it's difficult.

4 comments:

  1. Ha. I didn't think of any of that. Obviously I don't live in the real world a lot of the time.

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    1. Different day jobs...when we had day jobs...

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  2. Hi Don--I once worked with a woman who had two SS#s, under different names. I never asked her how she did that, but I think it's possible. Still, I'm looking forward to reading this new story by Mr. Block. Thanks for the review!

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    1. Actually, she was violating federal law and could get in real trouble if they caught up with her. With the possible exception of someone in te witness protection program.

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