Friday, November 26, 2010

A Drop of the Hard Stuff -- Lawrence Block

Matthew Scudder is back. That should be enough to get the attention of most readers of this blog. The book (part of the new Mulholland Books line) isn't due to be published until May 12 of next year, but I was lucky enough to find an ARC in my Bouchercon book bag.

I've been reading about Scudder for a long time. I can, in fact, remember buying the first book in the series, The Sins of the Fathers, back in 1976. In those days, Texas had a Blue Law, which meant that most stores were closed on Sunday and that ones that were open could sell only certain items. One of the few places open in Brownwood, Texas, where I lived at the time, was the local Walgreen's. I don't remember what I went there to buy, but I never walk by a paperback rack without looking over the stock. This time I was happy to see a new book by Block, whose work was already familiar to me from a lot of other books that I liked. I don't know if books were permitted items on Sundays, but I picked it up and the cashier didn't question it. I paid for my stuff and went home. I probably read the book within the next day or so. Little did I think that 34 years later I'd be reading a new book in the series.

While it's a new book, however, the case that Scudder tells about is an old one, from the first year of his sobriety. The book opens with a present-day prologue. Scudder's talking to Mick Grogan and he recalls a kid he grew up with. While Scudder joined the cops, High-Low Jack, as he came to be known, went the other way. Years later, he and Scudder meet again, and that's the story that Scudder goes on to tell Grogan (and us). Scudder, looking back as he's done before, has plenty of opportunity to remark on the changes in the city in the last thirty years. He goes to a lot of meetings, and he tries to find out who killed Jack. At first it seems as if he's reached a dead end, but as it turns out, there's more to the case. That's about all you need to know if you're a fan of Block and the Scudder series. The style is as smooth and apparently effortless as ever, the dialogue is sharp, and Block never makes a false move. (Note that apparently. Writing like Block's is never effortless.) The Mulholland imprint is off to a great start.


Mel Odom said...

Didn't know he had a new one coming out. Really looking forward to it. Thanks for the head's up!

George said...

I can't wait to read this one!

Gerard said...

Everything I know about AA I learned from Scudder.

Bob S. said...

There's no diploma from AA, and sitting here, this title "juices me just a bit." No pun intended. 7 AM Meeting!

Bob S.