RARA-AVIS: Block Report

Bill Hagen (billha@ionet.net)
Mon, 6 Sep 1999 21:53:38 -0500 (CDT)

Caught Lawrence Block on the road, as he promoted his latest Bernie Rhodenbarr book, The Burglar in the Rye. As several have previously noted, Larry Block is a very personable author, with his newsletter and online updates, and sure enough some folks who just "stopped by" to hear him read--B & N placed him in the main aisle--ended up buying. He looked quite alert, not travel weary at all, amazing since he's traveling by auto from point to point--this week is Mississippi and Alabama; next is Florida.

I gather that he and his wife travel quite a bit. There is a rather unusual dedication to Burglar in the Rye, in which Block expresses gratitude to the "crew and passengers of the clipper ship Star Flyer" for letting him finish most of the book between Phuket and Athens. (!)

The Scudder series, which I'm currently reading through, is sufficiently hard boiled for readers of this list. From the beginning, I really liked the mix of personal problems, professional fixing, and unprofessional or personal involvement with some of the characters. As the series goes on, some of the personal problems (alcohol, for one) are resolved, and I asked Block whether he didn't reach some kind of creative crisis at that point--which basically occurs with 8 Million Ways to Die. He responded that, indeed, he was in some doubt as to whether the series would continue. When the Sacred Ginmill Closes was set in the past. What Scudder's been able "to do," in my opinion, is develop new interests that are personal, new relationships, without the incapacitating hangovers. Although I liked the sense of a personal edge that Scudder's addiction brought into the character, it might have become too formulaic--or not a dynamic part of character development. (Those who have read the early Scudders should look up his After the First Death, about an alcoholic who may have killed someone; it strikes me as a variation on the theme.)

My wife and I bought a couple of books and got six others signed, in keeping with Block's rules. He had a bunch of copies of The Specialists, shrink wrapped, a reprint from a publisher who went insolvent and sent him his payment in copies. It apparently is an "A-Team" sort of book, Vietnam vets who do jobs. His publisher originally wanted a series, but he had lost interest, so there was never a second. Anyone read it?

Bill Hagen

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