Sunday, August 07, 2011

Afterthoughts -- Lawrence Block

One evening in 1966, Judy and I were out and about in Austin, Texas, for reasons that are no longer clear to me. We stopped at a little convenience store to pick up something or other (Dr Pepper? A Snickers bar? I can't remember.) In those days, there were no gas pumps in front of convenience stores, but inside nearly every one of them there was a spinner rack of paperback books. Now there are gas pumps but no spinner racks, a sorry trade-off if you ask me, but then no one did. No one ever does. Where was I? Oh, yes, the spinner rack. I could never walk past a spinner rack without spinning it and looking at every paperback on it. On this one there was a book called The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep by someone named Lawrence Block. I didn't know who Lawrence Block was, but this was a Gold Medal book, and that was good enough for me. I got whatever it was I'd gone into the store for, put the book with it, paid, and left. When I got home, I started reading the book. By the time I'd finished it, I knew that I'd be picking up every book I saw by this Block fellow, and I've pretty much followed that rule ever since.

Here's an example. Some years later I was looking through one of those remainder catalogs that used to appear in my mail with considerable regularity, and I saw a listing for a book called Ronald Rabbit is a Dirty Old Man. The listing was in pretty small print, and they apparently didn't have space for the author's whole name, which was listed only as "L. Block." Could it be? I wondered. Well, the book was only a buck, so I figured it was worth the risk. I ordered it, and sure enough, it was by the right guy. Read it, loved it, still have it. I think it's a collectible item these days. I should've bought more copies.

I could go on in this vein, but I won't. I'm supposed to be writing about Afterthoughts, so I guess I'd better get to it. This is a collection of the various afterwords that Block has been writing for the e-book reissues of many of his novels. Since I always read the afterword first when I read anybody's book, I'm the exact target audience for this one. I'm always curious about the life and times of writers I admire and whose work I enjoy, and in these afterwords Block talks a lot about his life and the circumstances of the writing of each book. Again, I'm the target audience. I enjoyed every minute I spent reading Afterwords, and if you're anything like me, you will, too. In addition to the afterwords, there's also a brief biographical chapter and a number of photographs.

Plus, it's only 99 cents, a penny less than I paid for Ronald Rabbit all those years ago. Two of the best bargains I ever ran across.


George said...

I'm buying AFTERTHOUGHTS. I think my first Lawrence Block was CANCELED CZECH so I had to go back and read THE THIEF WHO COULDN'T SLEEP. And, like you, I continued to buy and read all the Lawrence Block books I could find.

James Reasoner said...

My review of this book will be going live a little later today, but to sum it up: I loved it. Great stuff all around. I bought a bunch of Block books off spinner racks, too.

Anonymous said...

That is a definite must buy too, if I ever get a Kindle. I loved RONALD RABBIT too. I read it back to back with Westlake's ADIOS SCHEHEREZADE (that looks wrong, somehow) in February of 1980.

The first Blocks I read were the two Chip Harrison mysteries, MAKE OUT WITH MURDER and THE TOPLESS TULIP CAPER. Then it was the three Matt Scudder paperback originals (partly set in Brooklyn!) and "Paul Kavanagh"'s SUCH MEN ARE DANGEROUS, recommended by Dilys Winn at Murder Ink when I asked her for "something different."

At the time I don't think I knew Kavanagh was Block.