Re: RARA-AVIS: Burglar/Scudder

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 13 Aug 2001

Carrie asked:

"Thanks for the tip. Is there a big advantage to reading the series in order, or should I skip straight to "Eight Million"? I'm not a read-in-order fanatic, and some of these are hard to find."

I can be kind of anal about reading series in order, but I don't think it's really necessary for the Scudder series. There is some character development, but nothing that can't be easily picked up. As a matter of fact, Block messes with the chronology, himself. Although written after Eight Million, Sacred Ginmill is a flashback book, happening years earlier.

Someone asked about Block's feeling about that book. I read that Block felt he had worked himself into a corner after Eight Million, didn't know where to go until he thought of the "This happened years ago . . " beginning.

The series breaks into periods. I've always though the pre-Eight Million books were kinda generic. As I already stated, I think he reached a new plane with that book (that's the one I usually recommend to introduce people to Block), which continued through several more. The series took another turn when Scudder got domestic with Elaine. As many have noted they got a bit softer; there is some debate over how soft. Of course, his dealings with Mick Ballou are anything but soft. Soft or not, they're still quite good.

"Forgot to mention Jeremiah Healy/Cuddy as one I've read and liked recently."

I agree with you there.

"Though I'm enjoying Westlake's lighter books so far, which of the
"dark" ones would you recommend?"

Most of Westlake's "dark" books were written under pseudonyms. The Parker books, written by Richard Stark, are great caper books -- The first, The Hunter (AKA Point Blank, AKA Payback -- don't let the terrible movie put you off), is probably the best - one of the best hardboiled books, period, in my mind -- but if it appeals to you, they all will.

His Tucker Coe books are also good, and have a fair amount in common with the Scudder novels, about a disgraced ex-cop who occasionally, reluctantly gets involved in other people's problems.

Under his own name is The Ax, about an unemployed mid-level executive who takes a hands-on apporach to thinning the competition.

I also liked his early books, The Mercenaries and Killing Time (which owes more than a little to Hammett's Red Harvest).

"I've really never been able to do Leonard at all - again probably starting with the wrong books. I tried "Cat Chaser" and "Get Shorty," and though I appreciated the quality of writing in both, neither story held my interest."

I liked Cat Chaser, but Get Shorty is definitely of a different ilk than Leonard's harder crime novels. I suggest his Detroit novels (Swag, Split Images, City Primeval, etc.) or his early Florida ones. I liked Touch a lot, but it is very different from anything else he wrote.


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