Sep 092014
 

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…

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 Posted by at 11:41 pm
Aug 252014
 

As LB mentioned in the previous post, Empire Magazine, the premier film magazine in the UK, loves A Walk Among the Tombstones! Here is Dan Jolin’s review in its entirety:

 

Liam Neeson has said that when he first read the scene in A Walk Among the Tombstones where grizzled gumshoe Matthew Scudder threatens his quarry (a kidnapper) down the phone, his instinct was to walk away from the tombstones. Thankfully, he read on and realised that, despite superficial similarities, Scott Frank’s take on Lawrence Block’s novels was a different breed of thriller to Taken.

In many ways, it’s the anti-Taken. Scudder has little personal investment in the case. He doesn’t pack heat. Although he throws a mean punch, violence is something he avoids if possible, preferring to talk his way out of tricky situations. His particular set of skills involves wheedling information out of people (without resorting to torture), pounding pavements and having “a strong bladder.” He’s an old-school shamus, suspicious of cellphones and computers (interestingly, Frank sets his entire mystery amid the pre-millennial tension of the Y2K scare; as one of the killers observes, “People are afraid of all the wrong things”). Frank has unapologetically served up something talky, complex, grown-up.

Rain-drenched, grey-toned and located in a dilapidated, graffiti-daubed Hell’s Kitchen, this is a dour affair. Tombstones has a thick vicious streak, which while not gratuitous involves the kinds of atrocity you’d expect from a full-on serial-killer thriller. Yet it’s far from one-note. Like Connery, Neeson may never nail the Yank accent, but he sparkles as Scudder, a man tussling with demons but gifted with a wry sense of humour that makes him deeply likable throughout. And, especially in the scenes between Scudder and his unwanted streetkid sidekick TJ (Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley, fresh from American X Factor), Frank imbues his script with a light and knowing regard for the genre, as if to say the private-eye movie, like Scudder himself, might well seem outmoded, but goddammit, it still gets the job done.  DAN JOLIN

 

VERDICT
Like a good butcher’s cleaver, it’s weighty, solid and sharp—an effective matching of director and star in what is hopefully the first of a new film series.
 black_star_icon_by_midnight_flame-d4oxfl5 black_star_icon_by_midnight_flame-d4oxfl5 black_star_icon_by_midnight_flame-d4oxfl5 black_star_icon_by_midnight_flame-d4oxfl5

 

 

Aug 192014
 
Like many other writers I was shocked to learn Jeremiah Healy passed away recently. I loved his work, having picked up the first John Francis Cuddy books because I had read most Spenser books and was looking for something similar. Of course, besides the Boston PI thing there's little they really had in common. The Cuddy books had their own style and Cuddy wasn't the superman Spenser was.
So sad that now both Robert B. Parker and Jeremiah Healy have passed away.
I will always be grateful for the blurb he provided for my Noah Milano books:
 "J. Vandersteen takes us back to the glory days of pulp fiction. And I mean the genre, NOT the movie. His Noah Milano character rings completely true as a tough, lone-wolf private."

That goes to show you what a wonderful man he was and how friendly he was to his fellow writers, always ready to help them along.


He will be missed by readers, writer and family.
Aug 062014
 

Beginning of May I spent a few hours with Neda Ulaby of National Public Radio, and the resultant profile will air on NPR’s Morning Edition Thursday, August 7th. (That’s tomorrow as I post this, but may be today or yesterday by the time you get around to reading it.) Air time will vary with individual stations, but if you are unable to catch it live, you’ll be able to listen to it on line. I’ll post a link in a day or two.

LB

 Posted by at 5:48 pm
Jul 162014
 
BOLO Books: Did you and/or your publisher have any trepidation about centering your latest novel around a school shooting—with it being such a grim and hot-button topic of discussion these days?
Marcia Clark: People want to talk about this subject. They need to talk about it. We can’t push this under the rug and pretend that’ll make it all go away. We have to get out ahead of the problem and we can’t do that unless we to learn as much as we can, talk about it and find ways to spot these killers before they can act. That is, ultimately, our best protection. But it’s a difficult subject, to say the least. So putting it into a fictional setting creates somewhat of a remove, a safer forum to learn about it and think about it. I’ve been very glad and relieved to see all the positive reviews and reactions, and all the discussions the book has sparked.
Jul 072014
 

Stolen, without shame or apology, from a Yahoo newsgroup—

Senior trying to set a password:

WINDOWS: Please enter your new password.
USER: cabbage

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password must be more than 8 characters
USER: boiled cabbage

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password must contain 1 numerical character
USER: 1 boiled cabbage

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password cannot have blank spaces.
USER: 50bloodyboiledcabbages

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password must contain at least one upper case
character.
USER: 50BLOODYboiledcabbages

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password cannot use more than one upper case
character consecutively.
USER: 50BloodyBoiledCabbagesShovedUpYourAssIfYouDon’tGiveMeAccessNow!

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password cannot contain punctuation.
USER:
ReallyPissedOff50BloodyBoiledCabbagesShovedUpYourAssIfYouDontGiveMeAccessNow

WINDOWS: Sorry, that password is already in use.

 Posted by at 1:10 pm
Jul 062014
 

Many of my books have been translated into various languages and published around the globe. But many have not, and there’s a new web-based business that brings writers and translators together on a shared-royalty basis. Will it work? I’ve no idea, but it seems worth a try, and I’ve posted two of my titles, The Specialists and Such Men Are Dangerous. The site is babelcube.com, and if any of y’all are eager to translate one of ‘em into Spanish or Turkish or Finnish or Hungarian or…well, pretty much anything this side of Basque, visit their site and see what you think of the operation.

 Posted by at 2:03 am