Lawrence Block has been writing crime, mystery, and suspense fiction for more than half a century. He has published in excess (oh, wretched excess!) of 100 books, and no end of short stories.
Born in Buffalo, N.Y., LB attended Antioch College, but left before completing his studies; school authorities advised him that they felt he’d be happier elsewhere, and he thought this was remarkably perceptive of them.
His earliest work, published pseudonymously in the late 1950s, was mostly in the field of midcentury erotica, an apprenticeship he shared with Donald E. Westlake and Robert Silverberg. The first time Lawrence Block’s name appeared in print was when his short story “You Can’t Lose” was published in the February 1958 issue of Manhunt. The first book published under his own name was Mona (1961); it was reissued several times over the years, once as Sweet Slow Death. In 2005 it became the first offering from Hard Case Crime, and bore for the first time LB’s original title, Grifter’s Game.
LB is best known for his series characters, including cop-turned-private investigator Matthew Scudder, gentleman burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr, globe-trotting insomniac Evan Tanner, and introspective assassin Keller.
LB’s magazine appearances include American Heritage, Redbook, Playboy, Linn’s Stamp News, Cosmopolitan, GQ, and The New York Times. His monthly instructional column ran in Writer’s Digest for 14 years, and led to a string of books for writers, including the classics Telling Lies for Fun & Profit and The Liar’s Bible. He has also written episodic television (Tilt!) and the Wong Kar-wai film, My Blueberry Nights.
Several of LB’s books have been filmed. The latest, A Walk Among the Tombstones, stars Liam Neeson as Matthew Scudder and is scheduled for release in 2014.
LB is a Grand Master of Mystery Writers of America, and a past president of MWA and the Private Eye Writers of America. He has won the Edgar and Shamus awards four times each, and the Japanese Maltese Falcon award twice, as well as the Nero Wolfe and Philip Marlowe awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America, and the Diamond Dagger for Life Achievement from the Crime Writers Association (UK). He’s also been honored with the Gumshoe Lifetime Achievement Award from Mystery Ink magazine and the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer for Lifetime Achievement in the short story. In France, he has been proclaimed a Grand Maitre du Roman Noir and has twice been awarded the Societe 813 trophy. He has been a guest of honor at Bouchercon and at book fairs and mystery festivals in France, Germany, Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Spain and Taiwan. As if that were not enough, he was also presented with the key to the city of Muncie, Indiana. (But as soon as he left, they changed the locks.)
He is a modest and humble fellow, although you would never guess as much from this biographical note.
He’s not hard to contact.
And he’s social:
WHAT DOES LB LIKE TO READ?
I don’t know why anyone would care, but I get that question often enough to gather that you do. While I’ll probably continue to mumble something evasive in public, we’re private here, right? I mean, it’s the Internet, for heaven’s sake. Our privacy is guaranteed.
So let’s go. I’ll stick largely to dead authors, in order to avoid offending the unmentioned living. What follows is in no particular order. I’ve supplied links for those books that are in print, but the others shouldn’t be too hard for you to track down. I know my readers, and y’all are a resourceful lot. So:
In this article, originally published in Mystery Scene in 2010, LB talks about Charles Willeford. In the summer of 1985, Lynne and I moved from New York to Fort Myers Beach, Florida. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. After we’d been there a few months, I got a phone call from Dennis […]
Last night my Frequent Companion and I attended the annual Black Orchid Banquet of the Wolfe Pack, an international organization of Rex Stout devotees. I had the honor of presenting the annual toast to the man himself. As I mentioned on Facebook, my remarks constitute the only faintly interesting piece I’ve written in a while, […]
Here’s a review I wrote for a new release by a cherished friend: First, full disclosure: Donald E. Westlake was one of my closest friends for over fifty years. Shortly after his death, I had the good fortune to play a role in Hard Case Crime’s publication of Memory, a dark existential novel he wrote in […]
I’ve been neglecting this page lately. Other projects have been keeping me busy, and there’s also the fact that I haven’t been reading much lately. But I had dinner the other night with Dan Wakefield, whom I think of as an old friend I was meeting for the first time. We’ve had no end of friends […]
In 1957-8 I was working at a literary agency and writing short stories for magazines like Manhunt and Trapped and Guilty. I was reading widely in the field, for pleasure as well as education, and the New York Mercantile Library was a great source of out-of-print crime fiction; they never threw anything out, so for pennies a day I could […]
Jalfieri’s comment tilted me toward baseball stories. I was in the process of ePubbing “Almost Perfect” and had made these observations in the online introduction to the story: “My own favorite baseball stories are all novels. Bernard Malamud’s The Natural is a critical favorite, and justly so, but there are four other books I like even better. Three are […]
A brilliant writer who wrote too little and died too young. Much of his work is science fiction (Mockingbird, The Man Who Fell to Earth) but I’m fondest of his contemporary novels. The Queen’s Gambit is a personal favorite, and I’m about due to re-read it again. Ditto The Hustler and it’s under-appreciated sequel, The Color of Money. (The Paul Newman […]
It can’t be much of a secret that he and I were best friends for many years. I’ve written extensively about Don, and supplied introductions for three of his Richard Stark novels, http://tinyurl.com/6amscsv, Comeback and Backflash. Of course I recommend those—and Dancing Aztecs, and http://tinyurl.com/6fert59, and The Road to Ruin, and the Tucker Coe books, and everything else the […]
You’d think from this list that I was a big fan of historical novels, but mostly I’m not. They have to be terrific. Thomas Flanagan wrote three, all set in Ireland, and they’re better than terrific; they’re Literature. The Year of the French is first, and the most accessible; The Tenants of Time and The End of […]
Well, I’ve just broken my own word, because I’m happy to say that Jeff Shaara is very much alive. But how to mention The Killer Angels, his father’s wonderful novel of Gettysburg, without citing the son who bookended that work with Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure? Jeff was a coin dealer in Florida when someone suggested […]
Ross was a good friend, and I miss him. I wrote about him in a piece I did for Mystery Scene, and supplied an introduction for a reissue of http://tinyurl.com/5rbvw8n, so let me only that I find his work—under his own name and as Oliver Bleeck—wonderfully entertaining and endlessly re-readable. Everything he wrote is a […]
If I have a favorite writer, he’s it. I’ve re-read virtually everything of O’Hara’s, some books many times, and have never lost the feeling that he captures American lives better than anyone else. It’s fashionable to praise his short stories over his novels, fashionable too to claim it was all downhill after his first novel, […]
Evan was a role model for me years before I ever heard the term. That he eventually became a good friend was a source of enormous satisfaction to me. Sometimes the intimacy of friendship can keep the fiction from working, but that certainly didn’t happen here. I have never stopped being his fan. I wrote […]