Grantland.com, largely a sports-oriented site named after the legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice, is a house containing many mansions. Just yesterday I taped an hour-long podcast with screenwriter Brian Koppelman (who wrote a lyrical tribute to the Scudder series in The Night and the Music) which will be up on grantland.com in a week or two; his podcast with Ray Liotta is running now. And today, in “Hollywood Prospectus,” a dozen or more writers share their varied media enthusiasms. The whole thing’s worth reading, even as the entire site’s worth bookmarking for regular visits, but if you scroll way down you come to the following, which not even my vaunted false modesty can keep me from reprinting in full:
Michael Weinreb: On September 19, writer/director Scott Frank will release a movie called A Walk Among the Tombstones, starring Liam Neeson as an alcoholic private detective named Matthew Scudder. This movie might be very good, or it might be very bad; I have no idea, and in a way, I only care insomuch as it boosts the legacy of the man who wrote the book on which it is based. His name is Lawrence Block, and he’s been writing since the 1950s, and his output is heroically abundant. He got his start writing paperback erotica; eventually, he began writing several different series’ worth of crime novels. He’s 76 years old, and he’s authored, I don’t know, maybe around a hundred books, including seven writing-advice books, a memoir, and a short tome called The Specialists, upon which the A-Team may or may not have been based. (A few months ago, I picked up a novel of Block’s called Random Walk; it was a trippy New Age story about a bartender who, you know, goes on a random walk. It wasn’t one of his best, but that almost wasn’t the point; even the Tony Robbins–meets–Stephen King undercurrent of the plot was tempered by Block’s utterly humanizing portrayal of his characters.)
In the crime-fiction world, Block is already viewed as an American treasure, but he, like his old friend Donald Westlake, is one of those writers who deserves to transcend his genre. All the Matthew Scudder books I’ve read have been dank and harrowing little gems, especially the ones set in New York before it became an adult theme park. (In other words, it’s possible Neeson could be perfectly cast.) Block knows New York; he’s lived in the West Village since before it became an aspirational address. (He’s admitted to struggling with alcohol himself, and he’s given to bouts of depression, which, like everything else, he discusses in his work.) But my favorite Block novels are the ones he started writing in the late 1990s; they’re about a stamp-collecting hit man who calls himself Keller, who’s continually trying to get out of the business he’s in but can’t seem to bring himself to do it. I can’t imagine there’s ever been a more likable and competent killer in modern fiction, which is a testament to Block’s abilities, and to his longevity, and to the idea that writers like Block — skillful and professional and utterly unafraid of failure — should always be a rare and treasured commodity.
Uh, wow. And thank you. I’m in Los Angeles, I just got here, I’ll be on Craig Ferguson’s show tomorrow night, and just as I was getting on my flight, the above showed up in my Twitter feed. I’ll tell you, if I hadn’t been flying on air I’d have been walking on it…