Newsletter Feb 2nd 1997
(reproduced by kind permission of the author)
Bernie Rhodenbarr & Evan Tanner Series & Bibliographies
Matt Scudder Series & Bibliography
About the Author
July 12th News
I don't get it. Here it is,
Groundhog Day again. Wasn't it Arbor Day just a couple of weeks ago? What happened? Where
did the year go? And has anybody seen my shadow?
For that matter, have you seen Even the Wicked? The new Matthew Scudder novel is shipping even as I write these lines, and should be in most bookstores by the time this letter gets to you. High time, too. It's been over two years since A Long Line of Dead Men, and I just hope you haven't forgotten Matt in the meantime.
If you're reading this in the UK, there's a chance you've already read the book. If so, hang on to it. Orion's edition came out a couple of months ago, and the hardcover first printing was tiny (500 or1500, depending on whom you believe). I've heard reports of copies changing hands at ten times the cover price. You'd think the damn thing was Tickle-Me Elmo.
Morrow's first edition is in much better supply, but I should probably let you know that a conservative first printing and brisk initial sales mean the book will probably be back on press any day now. I am by no means recommending that any of you run out and buy the book as an investment. What I will suggest, gingerly, is that first editions may be fairly thin on the ground, at least for a while. Thus, if you were planning to give copies of Even the Wicked as gifts, and if it makes any difference to you or the designated recipient that the book be a first, well, you might want to buy copies now rather than two weeks from now. That's all. (More to the point, if you're a bookseller, don't just stand there. Stock up!)
This year, I'm happy to say, will be a two-book year, with The Burglar in the Library due from Dutton in July. Bernie gets out of New York in this one (to a snowed-in country house out of Agatha Christie) but rest assured he takes Carolyn and Raffles the Cat along with him. We'll be celebrating the publication of the book by dedicating Bernie's bench in Bryant Park, to which so many of you have contributed so generously, The ceremony's tentatively set for Wednesday, July 30, in the park at Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street. See the next newsletter in early July for final details of time and place, etc.
There's still room on the roll of contributors, so, if you'd like to be a part of this effort, now's your last chance. Send a modest (and tax-deductible) check to me at the above address, and make it payable to Bryant Park Restoration Committee. The party, I should emphasize, is not just for contributors but for all of Bernie's fans. If you're reading this, you're invited.
I finished The Burglar in the Library around the end of June, and ever since then I've been writing short stories. I must say I've been having a wonderful time. In an odd way, it's like being on an extended vacation without the guilt. Short stories are demanding, certainly, but writing them never amounts to the kind of trench warfare a novel entails. Instead, they're as close as writing comes to instant gratification.
Four of the new stories are about Keller, the wistful hitman I've been writing about for a few years now. There's a Keller story coming up in Murder on the Run, a collection of new stories by members of the Adams Round Table, and Playboy has a couple of Keller stories scheduled later this year. The ten Keller stories, I'm happy to say, have an overall story line and constitute a sort of episodic novel when laid end to end, and they'll appear in that form about this time next year, when William Morrow will bring out Keller's Greatest Hits.
This year's crop includes an Ehrengraf story, too, the first I've written about the criminous little lawyer in over a decade. Look for it in the March issue of Ellery Queen. There's a new Scudder short story, too, "Looking for David," coming up in Whydunnit?, a collection of new fiction by members of the Crime Writers Association of the UK. And I have non-series stories scheduled in some other anthologies, including Hot Blood #10 (a story of a badger game gone wrong) and an exciting collection to mark the 50th anniversary of Signet Books (a story of a psychic troubled by headaches and bad dreams). Till Death Do Us Part is the title of a forthcoming collection of collaborative ventures by husbands and wives, and Lynne and I teamed up to produce a Bernie Rhodenbarr locked-room caper, "The Burglar Who Smelled Smoke." And I'm finishing a story for The Plot Thickens, a Mary Higgins Clark-edited anthology in aid of literacy. And I've accepted a commission to write a short story to be read on the BBC.
Well, maybe it's not exactly like being on vacation. . .
One of the stories was written on vacation. Our September trip to Scandinavia including a twelve-day cruise on a Norwegian coastal steamer. I never write when I travel, but I generally take a yellow pad along, and a couple of days out of Bergen I got an idea for a story and holed up the following morning in the ship's library. I did that for an hour or two every day, and at the end of a week I had a Keller story written, and felt as though I'd just invented the wheel. A pen! A yellow pad! Handwriting! Who ever heard of such a thing?
I hadn't handwritten anything more ambitious than a laundry list since I taught myself to type in tenth grade, but hey, I can learn. These days I'm writing everything by hand, and I've found the whole process liberating beyond description. I just trot off to a coffee shop, whip out a pad and a pen, and go to it. I'd already planned to write the next Scudder novel in Ireland, and now I won't have to fuss with adapters and surge protectors or worry about equipment failure. (If my pen runs dry, I'll get another one.)
I'll be scribbling away over there from mid-April until the end of May, when it'll be time for Writers' Week in Listowel, Co. Kerry. (I'm to be a vice-president of the festival this year, an office my friend John B. Keane assures me is purely honorary. It better be.) Lynne will join me for Writers' Week, and then we're off to England, where I'm to be a guest at Shots on the Page, the noir festival in Nottingham. Then back home in time to dedicate Bernie's bench and tour for The Burglar in the Library.
Meanwhile, some unrelated items of possible interest, numbered to create an illusion of continuity:
(1) For those of you who like small presses and limited editions, I have a few things on the horizon. Jim Seels is bringing out Threesome, an erotic novel "by Jill Emerson" that seems to be genuinely unobtainable in its original paperback edition. (I had book scouts searching for it for a year without success until I located a warehoused copy of my own.) Seels previously published Ronald Rabbit and Ehrengraf for the Defense. For info, call him at (714) 455.1319. . . .Another fine small press is the work of James Cahill, who has an edition of The Specialists ready to roll, with other early titles set to follow. Call him at (714) 831.5060. . . .Over in the UK, No Exit Press has been doing a splendid job of publishing the Burglar books, and now they've licensed a signed-and-limited edition of The Burglar in the Library, to be published by Scorpion Press. Info from Michael Johnson. Phone/fax is (44) 1594.510.575, or e-mail him at Scorpion@globalnet.co.uk
(2) In the September newsletter I offered some books for sale, and my apologies herewith to those of you whose checks I had to return. Toples Tulip sold out overnight, and Ariel and Burglar in the Closet didn't last much longer. I have some of the other titles in stock, but I'm not going to be able to fill orders this season. The next newsletter, coming your way sometime in July, will have a full list of whats available.
(3) The one out-of-print Scudder novel is When the Sacred Ginmill Closes. (It's also a favorite of mine, and not a bad starting point for readers new to the series.) It looks as though Avon's edition will be out (finally!) in the summer or early fall. . . .Signet's edition of the first Chip Harrison novel, No Score, was very well received, and thus Chip Harrison Scores Again will be out in April, with Chips #3 and #4 to follow at six month intervals. And, when the Chips have fallen where they may, it'll be Tanner's turn. Signet will be reissuing all seven Tanner books, with The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep starting things off in the fall of 1998.
(4) Meanwhile, The Burglar in the Closet is just out in paperback from Signet. The Penguin AudioBook of Closet, read by some joker with a faint but persistent Buffalo accent, won a Listen Up award from Publishers Weekly as one of the best audio books of 1996. I'll be narrating the audio of Library, too; look for it when the book come out in July. . . .Available in paperback after a long absence, too, is Ariel, an atypical book for me, more a novel of psychological suspense than a mystery. Carroll & Graf's the publisher.
(5) I had hoped to have a new book for writers available, an updated version really of Write For Your Life, which grew out of a seminar I developed in the 80s. But I, uh, didn't get around to it. My intention now is to do the work in the fall for publication in mid-98.
TRAVELING LIGHT. . .This past year was a peripatetic one for me; France, Ireland and the UK in the spring, Scandinavia in September, Toronto in October, Vienna (for the Intl Association of Crime Writers meeting) in November, and over Christmas Lynne and I scooted to Burma (or Myanmar, as you prefer). I mentioned last fall that my career seemed to be getting increasingly global, and that's continued. I'm going to be published for the first time in Greece, Turkey, and Israel, A Walk Among the Tombstones is scheduled for dramatization on German radio, A Long Line of Dead Men is riding the bestseller list in Brazil, and all in all it's a rare day when the mail doesn't contain at least one letter with a foreign stamp on it. Jet lag aside, I'm enjoying this.
At the same time, I haven't been travelling as much here in the States for book promotion, and won't do any touring to speak of for Even the Wicked. (We decided to concentrate on media advertising instead. And, if you're going to stay home, February's the right month for it.) Here's my schedule for the next little while:
This summer and fall
should be busy. I'll be touring for The Burglar in the Library, speaking in
mid-July at a writer's conference in Georgia, and attending the IACW meeting in Benidorm,
Spain in October, as well as Magna Cum Murder in Muncie and Bouchercon in Monterey.
Details of all of this in the next newsletter, sometime in late June or early July.
Meanwhile, endure the winter, enjoy the spring, and carry on!
REMEMBER: This now-and-then newsletter, free and worth every penny, is available to anyone who wants it. Send your address to Lawrence Block, 299 WEst 12th #12-D, New York NY 10014 fax: 212.675.4341 or email Lawrence Block