Newsletter 26th January 1998
(reproduced by kind permission of the author)
Bernie Rhodenbarr & Evan Tanner Series & Bibliographies
Matt Scudder Series & Bibliography
About the Author
July 1997 Newsletter
February 1997 Newsletter
kidding, were they? Time really does fly, whether you're having fun or not. Groundhog Day
is not far off, but first I see by the old calendar on the wall that I'm just in time to
wish you and yours a Happy Australia Day.
And how better to celebrate than with a copy of Hit Man, which should be finding its way onto bookstore shelves just as this letter reaches your mailbox? Keller, the book's eponymous assassin, is a sort of Urban Lonely Guy of our time, with only his profession to set him apart from all those other wistful unattached dudes who work out at the gym, do the Times crossword puzzle, walk the dog, and wonder if Prozac might just be the answer. The book's an episodic novel---one of its chapters, "Keller's Therapy", won an Edgar for best short story a few years ago---and I'd originally planned on calling it Keller's Greatest Hits.
Maybe I should have. Another book called Hit Man has been very much in the news lately, and it's not a novel at all. As a matter of fact it's an instruction manual for (gulp!) hit men, and its publisher is currently being sued; it seems some dimwit bought the book, followed the instructions step by step, and killed a couple of people. They caught him, of course---evidently the book doesn't tell you how to get away with it---but, at the risk of pounding home the obvious, let me assure you that my Hit Man, published by William Morrow, is emphatically not a how-to book. It's a novel, and as such I trust you will find it exciting and amusing and richly entertaining, and instructive only in the moral sense. But---pay attention now, kids---don't try this at home!
Hit Man, I'm delighted to report, has been optioned for filming by Richard Rubinstein and Mitchell Galin of New Amsterdam Entertainment. A TV movie seems the most likely vehicle, but that's not set yet; Keller might wind up in a mini-series, or might even appear soon In A Theater Near You. I'll keep you posted. . .
Will there be more adventures for Keller? Hey, you're asking me? If there's one thing I've learned, it's that I can't ever rule out a character's reappearance. Bernie Rhodenbarr, retired 1983-94, is back in a big way; The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza was reissued in hardcover last month by Dutton, and The Burglar in the Library will be an Onyx paperback in July. And, also in July, Dutton will publish Tanner On Ice, the first new appearance of Evan Tanner in 28 years. It's the eighth adventure of that insouciant insomniac, and, if you missed his earlier appearances, take heart; Signet will be bringing out The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep in paperback in September, with the others to follow at six-month intervals.
So will there be more new Tanners? I hope so, as I had a lot of fun with Tanner On Ice, and am happy with the way it turned out. We'll have to see what the future holds. It might, for all I know, hold a Chip Harrison novel. I wrote a new Chip Harrison-Leo Haig short story, "As Dark As Christmas Gets", and found myself thinking I might want to try a novel one of these days. (The story was privately published as a Mysterious Bookshop Christmas card, and may appear eventually in a magazine or collection.) Meanwhile, the fourth (and so far the last, and I think the best) Chip Harrison novel, The Topless Tulip Caper, is due from Signet in April.
And what about Matthew Scudder? Well, first of all, Even The Wicked is just out in paperback from Avon, after having been named a Notable Book of 1997 by the New York Times Book Review. If you missed the hardcover, run right out and buy it. (If you own the hardcover, buy it anyway. Give it to a friend.)
I generally get a little nervous when the latest book in a series comes out in paperback and the next book hasn't yet been written. I'd be nervous now. . .but for the happy fact that I completed Scudder #14 just last month. The title is Everybody Dies, and I'm enormously high on the book. It's been in the planning stages for several years now, and I started working on it this summer, then wrapped it up November-December at Ragdale, the writers colony in Lake Forest, Illinois. (My first stint there in almost four years, and it was good to get back.)
Everybody Dies is a dark book---darker than dark, really---as the title might possibly imply. It's also more richly supplied with action and suspense than usual. I tend to think highly of my books immediately after I've finished them, but I'm particularly keen on this one, and can't wait for it to hit the stores, even as I trust you can't wait to get your hands on a copy. Well, we're both in luck. Morrow, equally keen, has the book slotted for publication in October. And yes, that makes three new books in '98, plus the hardcover reissue of The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian in December. I'll tell you, sometimes I wonder at the morality of it all. Could it be that I've reached that stage in life where the decent thing to do is not to write the book but to spare the tree?
Writing Everybody Dies was as exhausting an experience as I can recall. I'm surprised time and time again by how tiring a task writing can be, and that's especially true when I take myself off somewhere and immerse myself totally in the work. That's a method that has always worked very well for me---the work seems to profit from the degree of concentration I'm able to attain when there's nothing else to do and no one else to do it with ---but it comes at a price, and the price is flat-line exhaustion. That's okay, but what really bugs me is that something so utterly enervating doesn't burn calories. If I'm going to come home feeling as though I just ran back-to-back marathons, I'd like to have dropped a few pounds while I was at it.
Dream on. Ever since I got back from Ragdale, I wake up in the morning, drag myself from the bed to the couch, and lie there until it's time to go back to bed. Now and then I switch to a chair and watch World War Two on the History Channel---it's always World War Two on the History Channel.
I suppose I'll feel like writing something again sometime, but not for a while. Next month I'll have a nice change of pace; instead of writing I'll be reading. I'm set to record the audio book of Eight Million Ways to Die for Chivers North America. I enjoy doing this---I've narrated six of the Burglar books, most recently Spinoza, for Penguin Audio---and my pleasure in being the Voice of Bernie Rhodenbarr is dimmed only by my own objection to the whole idea of abridgements. When an 85,000-word book is cut to 25,000 words, I like to think something just might be lost along the way (In the abridged audio of The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart, for example, there's no indication that Carolyn is a lesbian. Duh.) Now I get to be the voice of Matt Scudder, and this version is to be unabridged, so I'll get to read every imperishable word. I've read from the Scudder books no end of times at public appearances, but this will be my first effort on tape, and I'm looking forward to it. It's a very different matter, reading in a studio, demanding more than I'd have guessed in the way of energy and concentration, but any time I can get paid for something that doesn't involve writing anything, I figure it's money for old rope.
Not too much money but a whole lot of old rope is involved in a couple of small-press offerings that some of you may find of interest. Jim Seels of ASAP Press is bringing out an early pseudonymous erotic novel called Threesome, by Jill Emerson; call him at 714-455.1319 for information. . . .And Crippen & Landru, who've been doing great work bringing out collections of short fiction, will soon be publishing One Night Stands, a collection of my hitherto uncollected early efforts, published in the digest magazines in the late fifties and early sixties. I don't know that these stories were much good. I got a cent and a half a word for most of them, and was probably lucky to get it. Still, I've been assured that devout Blockheads will snap them up. There'll be a signed limited hardcover and a trade paperback; for information call Doug Greene at 757-623.3453 or try e-mailing him at CrippenL@Norfolk.Infi.Net. . . .Collecting these uncollected stories is tricky, and perhaps one of you can help. I'm missing the first two pages of "Professional Killer," which appeared in the April 1959 issue of Trapped. If some pack rat out there can supply a Xerox of the missing pages, it'll earn you a copy of the book, along with my undying thanks.
BENCH REPORT. . .Back in July, a couple hundred of you partied with us in Bryant Park to celebrate the dedication of a bench for Bernie Rhodenbarr, purchased for him by his loyal fans. We had a marvelous evening, and Bernie's bench was fitted with a gleaming brass plaque, bearing an appropriate quotation from The Burglar in the Library. Bernie and Matthew Scudder (whose bench is adjacent) have the distinction of being the only fictional characters with park benches of their own, with the possible exception of Yoko Ono. If you're visiting New York and want to sit on Bernie's bench, look for it in the southwestern section of the park, near Sixth Avenue and 40th Street. If you can't find it, that's because they haven't replaced it yet. Alas, some swine, some lowlife, some utter scoundrel, seems to have stolen the plaque. You say it's poetic justice? You think of it as what the French call an homage? Well, homage mon derriere. I call it a damned outrage.
1997 was an unusually peripatetic year for us, with visits to Burma, Iceland, Ireland and the UK in the first half of the year. Then we spent September in Europe, hopping on and off trains and getting in and out of a dozen countries in five weeks. We hooked up with some AIEP friends en route---Jaroslav Kopic in Prague, Helga Anderle in Vienna, Andreu Martin in Barcelona. (AIEP is the International Association of Crime Writers; the acronym is Spanish.) A month after our return I went back to Spain, to Zaragoza this time, for the AIEP board meeting. I came home, more than ever convinced of the organization's value, and shortly thereafter resigned the presidency of the North American branch, having realized that I just don't have the time to do the job as it ought to be done. My heart's still very much with AIEP (or IACW, if you prefer) and I'm happy to be editing Death Cruise, the forthcoming anthology of work by AIEP members, but I'm done being an officer of anything.
Here's how the next few months shape up:
As you can see, I'm not touring
for Hit Man, but it looks as though I'll get out and about in July for Tanner on Ice, and
perhaps in October for Everybody Dies. I'll let you know. I had thought I
might walk across Spain in August and September---Lynne and I did so in '91, and I've been
wanting to try it again solo, but I'm not sure this is the year for it. There is no end of
places we want to go and things we want to do. I've been itching to take a long cruise on
a freighter, writing a book in its course. And I do want to get to Australia, and to,
well, every place I haven't been yet. See, I want to join the Traveler's Century Club, and
in order to qualify you have to visit 100 countries, and I've got something like 47 to go.
That's it for now. I've got to go somewhere, or write something. Or maybe I'll just stretch out and see how the Second World War is coming along. But don't spoil it for me by telling me how it ends. . .
REMEMBER: This now-and-then newsletter, free and worth every penny, is available to anyone who wants it. Just keep me up to date on address changes and it's yours forever. IT'S A SNAIL-MAIL NEWSLETTER, SO I'LL NEED YOUR NAME AND POSTAL MAILING ADDRESS! Send your address to Lawrence Block, 299 WEst 12th #12-D, New York NY 10014 fax: 212.675.4341 or Send via e-mail to LawBloc@aol.com. NB Don't e-mail Block from April 1 to June 8; he'll be away, and during extended absences mail spills out of his aol mailbox and is lost forever.