Block was (and perhaps still is) at his best when writing in the first-person, whether his narrators are criminals, lost young men, con artists, burglars, hit men or private eyes.
Such is the case with Passion Alley, the story of Jack Edwards’ downward spiral after being kicked out of college (it’s also interesting to read a “sex” book from 1962, after Block started to come into his own, publishing under his own name at Gold Medal, like with Mona and others).
Jack is a little older than your usual undergrad, 23, having served in Korea and hitching onto the G.I. Bill. Block adds an interesting aside about how the college campuses of the U.S. changed after Korea, when all these battle-hard young men began to mix in with the soft rich kids and intellectuals who were worlds apart from the battlefield. Jack is also in an upper-crust fraternity, only because he’s a good football player, and the football team is important to the college. A teammate gets killed one game, and Jack punches out the other player at a frat dance party, which causes a scandal and gets Jack the boot.
Before leaving for New York, Jack talks his girl into giving him her virginity, promising to marry her, and leaving her in the morning a ruined girl, his final act of defiance against the conservative social and political environment that has always treated him like a slug, a guy without a rich family, a grunt on the G.I. Bill.
He heads to New York because he has a notion–like a number of Block’s male characters, such as in Shame Dame–of becoming a writer. New York is the place to go, right?