Saturday, April 04, 2015

The Crime of Our Lives -- Lawrence Block

As I sat down to write this, it occurred to me that I've probably written more on this blog about Lawrence Block's work than about that of any other writer.  I've told more than once about my discovery of his novels, so I won't repeat that story yet another time.  I've also written a little bit about his nonfiction, which I first encountered in the column that he wrote for Writers Digest for a number of years.  Those columns were filled with great advice for writers, and they were collected in a book called Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, which everybody should read.  It's not just for writers.

The Crime of Our Lives is another collection of Block's nonfiction, mostly reminiscences about authors he's known and read, but also including a good bit about himself and his career and his writing.  I'd read many of these pieces before when they were published in Mystery Scene or as introductions to the work of other writers, but it's great to have them all in one place, and reading them again is just as pleasurable as reading them the first time.  

Block talks about sixteen writers here, all of them now deceased.  He gives his reasons for not talking about living writers, and they're good ones.  He also tells why he doesn't do book reviews, and there are good reasons for that, too.  

It's impossible to pick favorites from the essays here.  One day I might think it's the one on Ross Thomas, and the next I might think it's the one on Robert B. Parker.  And then it would be a different one next week.  I have to admit that one reason I'm partial to all of these is that Block's opinions often closely mirror my own.  His favorite Fredric Brown book, for example, is also my own favorite, The Wench Is Dead.  In fact, I just wrote an introduction to that book, myself, a new limited edition from Centipede Press.  One of his main points about Robert B. Parker is one I make almost every time I speak to a writing group.  And so on.  It's all great stuff.  There's even a previously unpublished essay on Joseph Conrad, and it's excellent.  Besides all this, the anecdotes about Block's time at the Scott Meredith Agency are pure gold.

So naturally The Crime of Our Lives is highly recommended.  Essential, really, if you're interested in crime fiction or the writing life.  And I can promise you one thing.  After reading this book, you're never going to feel the same way again when you see a rerun of I Love Lucy.


Jeff Meyerson said...

This one is definitely on my list. I think I've read all of Block's non fiction books as well as a heck of a lot of his fiction.


George said...

I enjoyed Lawrence Block's articles in MYSTERY SCENE (they were almost as good as your column!). Like you, I've read dozens of Lawrence Block's novels. This is a must-buy for me.