Lawrence Block Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Lawrence Block is a storyteller who experiments with several genres, including espionage, detective, and comedy caper fiction. Regardless of the genre, he delivers a protagonist with whom his readers can empathize, identify, and even secretly wish to accompany on the different adventures. Block’s tone ranges from the serious and downbeat in the Matt Scudder novels to the lighthearted and comical found in the works featuring Bernie Rhodenbarr and Chip Harrison. His characters are outsiders to conventional society, and Block captures their true essence through their first-person vernaculars. Furthermore, his vivid and realistic descriptions of the deadbeats, the bag ladies, the pimps, the police officers—both good and bad—and those hoping for something better portray New York City as a place devoid of glitter and elegance. Writer Stephen King has called Block the only “writer of mystery and detective fiction who comes close to replacing the irreplaceable John D. MacDonald.”

Several of Block’s novels were (rather poorly) adapted to film. These include Nightmare Honeymoon (1973), the 1983 Shamus Award-winning Eight Million Ways to Die (1986), and The Burglar in the Closet (as Burglar, 1987, starring Whoopi Goldberg).


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Baker, Robert A., and Michael T. Nietzel. Private Eyes: One Hundred and One Knights—A Survey of American Detective Fiction, 1922-1984. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1985.

Block, Lawrence. Lawrence Block. The author’s own Web site offers updates on Block’s new and upcoming titles. Block comments on many of his own works and provides much information on his career. Includes informative links to Web interviews.

“Block, Lawrence.” In Mystery and Suspense Writers: The Literature of Crime, Detection, and Espionage, edited by Robin W. Winks and Maureen Corrigan. New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1998.

Block, Lawrence, and Ernie Bulow. After Hours: Conversations with Lawrence Block. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995. An interview with the grand master by a scholar and critic of the mystery genre. This work is full of historical insights into the pulp industry and the methods of one of the leading mystery writers of the twentieth century.

Block, Lawrence, and Tom Callahan. “Lawrence Block, Master of Mystery.” Writer 116, no. 7 (July, 2003): 22. This lengthy and interesting interview with Block coincided with the release of Small Town. Block discusses his writing methods and, in particular, beginning a half-finished novel set in Manhattan from scratch after the destruction of the World Trade Center.

Geherin, David. The American Private Eye: The Image in Fiction. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1985.

King, Stephen. “No Cats: An Appreciation of Lawrence Block and Matt Scudder.” In The Sins of the Fathers, by Lawrence Block. Arlington Heights, Ill.: Dark Harvest, 1992. This long and admiring critical essay by the best-selling horror novelist serves as the introduction to the hardcover reissue of the first Matt Scudder mystery.

McAleer, John. Afterword to AKA Chip Harrison. Woodstock, Vt.: Countryman, 1983.

Meyer, Adam. “Still Out on the Cutting Edge: An Interview with the Mystery Man: Lawrence Block.” Pirate Writings 7 (Summer, 1995).

Priestman, Martin. The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. An excellent, all-around trove of information for the reader. Priestman discusses hit men, including Keller, who frequently lead rather ordinary lives outside their profession, and contrasts them with the more literary assassins who possess a psychologically explicated criminal brain.

Pronzini, Bill, and Marcia Muller, eds. 1001 Midnights: The Aficionado’s Guide to Mystery and Detective Fiction. New York: Arbor House, 1986.

Scott, Art. “Lawrence Block.” In Twentieth-Century Crime and Mystery Writers, edited by John M. Reilly. 2d ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985.