Lawrence Block: Well, where to begin? Let me say I understand you have a book coming out in September, and—
Jill Emerson: We.
LB: I beg your pardon?
JE: We have a book coming out in September. Getting Off, published by Hard Case Crime. By Lawrence Block writing as Jill Emerson. That’s what it says, right there on the cover.
LB: Yes, of course.
JE: Your name’s bigger.
LB: Uh. . .
JE: Lots bigger. My name’s in small type, the same size as the subtitle. You remember the subtitle?
LB: I believe it’s “A Novel of Sex & Violence.”
JE: There you go. Lawrence Block, big as a house, and then Jill Emerson and Sex and Violence, all in teensy weensy letters.
LB: You seem the slightest bit resentful.
JE: Oh, does it show?
LB: It was the publisher’s idea. In fact I had to fight to get your name on the cover at all.
JE: What’s the problem? Your publisher doesn’t like girls?
LB: Look, it’s a purely commercial consideration. I wasn’t going to bring this up, but you haven’t been very active lately.
JE: I’ve published seven novels. I started in 1965 with Warm & Willing and Enough of Sorrow, two sensitive fictional treatments of the lesbian experience. Then came Thirty and Threesome and A Madwoman’s Diary, three works of literary experimentation in the field of innovative erotica. Next I wrote The Trouble With Eden—
LB: A road-company Peyton Place set in Bucks County.
JE: It had its moments. And I followed it with A Week as Andrea Benstock, a literary mainstream novel that got serialized in Redbook. Not bad, huh?
LB: That was in 1975. What have you done since then?
JE: Okay, I’ve kept a low profile. But whose fault is that? “Lawrence Block writing as Jill Emerson.” But after 1975, you never put my name on anything. I mean, this interview is cute and all, but when you come right down to it, what am I?
LB: You tell me.
JE: An aspect of self, wouldn’t you say?
LB: You think?
JE: What else?
LB: (musing) An aspect of myself. My inner lesbian.
LB: Bye? What’s that about? Where are you going? Was it something I said?
JE: Bi, you idiot. As in sexual.
LB: What, suddenly you’re into guys?
JE: Sometimes. (beat) Well, one guy. And no, I’m not telling.
LB: I bet I can guess.
JE: Can’t you just pulleeze leave it alone?
LB: John Warren Wells.
JE: You think you’re smart, don’t you? So fucking smart.
LB: If you wanted to keep it a secret why did you dedicate a book to him? A Madwoman’s Diary. “To John Warren Wells, a Jack of all trades and master of me.”
JE: Why do you have to be so cruel?
LB: It’s a guy thing, you wouldn’t understand.
JE: He’d dedicated books to me, you know. He wrote a book about bisexuality.
LB: Women Who Swing Both Ways. Real classy title.
JE: He wanted to call it Versatile Ladies.
LB: Actually, that’s not so bad.
JE: “This is for Jill Emerson, unquestionably versatile and every inch a lady.”
LB: Sweet. And that wasn’t the only book he dedicated to you, either. So I guess you owed him one.
JE: This one in particular. You know the kind of books he wrote. Psychosexual case histories, groups of cases on one theme or another.
LB: He made them up.
JE: I suppose you can believe that if you want to. But in one book there was a chapter about this woman, and she’s involved in this therapy group, and she has a pretty active sex life and a really interesting inner life, and I thought, hell, she could be the subject of a novel. So I more or less stole her story, and what I wrote turned out to be A Madwoman’s Diary. Some halfwit at Berkley changed the title to Sensuous, but screw that. It’s A Madwoman’s Diary again.
LB: Thanks to the Open Road eBook. But you just swiped the story and turned it into a novel?
JE: You think I should have been afraid of a libel suit?
LB: I guess not, if it was one of Wells’s case histories. He made it up out of the whole cloth, and then you fictionalized it, if you want to call it that.
JE: Novelized it. Better?
LB: A little. Let me get this straight, Jill. You’re an aspect of self. My inner lesbian or inner bi woman or—
JE: Your inner hot number, Larry. Is it okay to call you Larry?
LB: If you feel you must. And John Warren Wells is—
JE: Another aspect of self. What else could he be?
LB: And you two aspects of me are—
JE: Enjoying each other’s company, and what’s so bad about that? It’s not as if Sybil went and sat on the Three Faces of Eve. But we are so totally off point here. You said I haven’t done anything since 1975, and that’s crap. I’ve been writing. I’ve just had to do it anonymously.
JE: You’re a great one at grabbing the credit, you know. Ronald Rabbit is a Dirty Old Man was supposed to be my book. You were writing it for Berkley, and all your friends liked it so much you yanked it away from me and published it in hardcover with Bernie Geis.
LB: Well, it was written from a male viewpoint, and—
JE: So fucking what? You can be a girl and I can’t be a guy? You just wanted the glory. Anyway, I wrote other things, even if you stuck your name on them.
JE: Like your big New York novel, Small Town. Oh, not all the post-9/11 urban terrorist stuff, you get the credit for that part, but where do you think Susan Pomerance came from? With her pierced nipples and her Brazilian landscaping? When she ducked under the table in the fancy restaurant and had her lawyer for dessert—
LB: All right, point taken.
JE: That was pure Jill Emerson. And when she got the two Wall Street suits to do each other—
LB: Drop it, will you?
JE: What choice do I have? You get to decide what I do or don’t say. Are you going to let Jack Wells back into print? He wrote 21 books. Don’t you figure the eWorld’s ready for him?
LB: I’ve been thinking about it.
JE: You know what your problem is, Larry? You’ve got this yearning to be respectable. I say give it up and get real. Lawrence Block writing as John Warren Wells.
LB: Maybe. We’ll see. But about Getting Off. You like the book, don’t you?
JE: What’s not to like?
LB: And the cover? Except for the fact that your name’s not as big as mine.
JE: Now you’re making me sound like a size queen. I fucking LOVE the cover, okay? I love the cover model, too. I’d like to do her until the knife blade melts.
LB: God, you’re naughty.
JE: I can’t help it. Can we write some more books like this? Not right away I know you’ve got other things to do, but, well, fairly soon?
LB: I hope so.
JE: Me too. And let our readers have a chance to check out JWW. Some of those books are dedicated to me, Larry Boy. People ought to be able to read them. It’s only fair.