The Blank Page by KC Constantine
Mario Balzic is the Police Chief of Rocksburg, a town in Pennsylvania where the mills have closed and the mines shut down. In this 1974 novel, as in other novels in the series, the Chief lives with his wife Ruth, their two daughters, and Balzic’s elderly mother.
It had taken years for the hedges to grow as thick as they had, but it had only been in the last few years that Balzic felt he could loaf in peace without hearing later on from God knew who about how he stood around with his hands in his pockets when he should have been out rounding up the beasties and nasties and things that went bump.
The neighbours, Balzic snorted thoughtfully. He had to ask himsdelf what their names were. He couldn’t think of it. Yurkowski, Yurhoska, something like that. Good solid squares, scared shitless of niggers, dope heads, commies, rabid dogs, girls who went without brassieres, and people who made love with the lights on. His mother told him that about them. They were always complaining to his mother, and every once in a while, when she couldn’t think up something new to put them off, she came to him and complained about them. The last time, a couple of months ago, he’d told his mother. ‘Ma, if I lock up everybody they’re scared of, who’s left? I’d have to lock up the world’ To which his mother had replied impishly, ‘You big man, you no can do that?’
He turned away from the window and was startled to see his mother standing in the doorway of the kitchen. She was in her flannel gown, barefoot, her swollen ankles showing under the hem, her fingers over her mouth. She looked like she’d been standing there for some moments.
‘Hey, kiddo, you still up. You sick?’ Her voice was husky with sleep.
‘I’m okay,’ he said. ‘What’re you doing up?’
‘I ask you first.’
‘I said I’m okay. Just didn’t feel like sleeping. What about you?’
‘Aah, same thing. Ankles hurt like crazy. Back, too. I think I sleep on floor from now on. You want light?’
‘Yeah. Go ahead, turn it on.’
She flipped the switch by her shoulder and the overhead flourescent hummed and then slowly filled the room with its bluish light. His mother sat at the kitchen table and rubbed one ankle with the other.
Constantine has been quoted as saying: I hope nobody reads The Blank Page because I screwed up large in that one. Otherwise, I’m proud of the other books I’ve written, even the ones that I haven’t published.
But when a book by KC Constantine comes my way I snap it up, whatever he or anyone else has to say about it. I don’t read many crime fiction novels, but I know what I like and they don’t come much better than from an author of this calibre.
Janet Pisula is found strangled with her brassiere next to her bed, dressed only in her underpants. She has been there for about a week. There is a blank sheet of paper lying on her stomach.
She was painfully shy, apparently, didn’t speak much, and although she has been out of action for seven days or more nobody seems to have missed her.
This is a short novel, only 150 pages, and it’s not the best in the series. But it kept me turning the pages and long after I’d finished, it was dancing around in my mind.