Monday, August 10, 2009

Lawrence Block's Compelling Reluctant Detectives

Lawrence Block is probably my favorite mystery writer. He has five or six different series. The main ones feature Matt Scudder and Bernie Rhodenbarr. Rhodenbarr is a burgler/bookstore owner who has a habit of stumbling into crime scenes in the course of his moonlighting activities. He usually has to solve the crimes to throw suspicion off himself. He has an uneasy alliance with Ray Kirshmann, local corrupt cop, who sometimes helps, sometimes hinders Bernie.

Matt Scudder is a tortured soul. He is an alcoholic and a former cop who has never quite forgiven himself for the death of a young girl who was caught in his crossfire. He solves crimes as penance and tithes his earnings by dropping his percentage into the poor box of one of the many NYC churches he comes across, most often in search of an AA meeting.

Block has been writing since the fifties. I didn't discover him until the eighties, but I soom became a voracious fan. I was tickled when I moved to Buffalo in 1994 and found that he was a native son. Surprising, since his novels are steeped in NYC, but he spent pretty much all of his adult life there.

He is also generous with fellow writers, with a handful of books on writing and frequent speaking engagements.

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