Book clubbing with Larry Block

So let’s start out right away with saying I’m a giant Lawrence Block fan.  I even said so in the blog post titled Lawrence Block, I’m your super-fan.  I’ve read pretty much everything he’s written, including several “how-to” writing books.

I’m “friends” with the author on Facebook, in that I-wouldn’t-recognize-you-if you-slapped-me-but-you-buy-my-books-way that makes me feel like I have an occasional brush with greatness and probably doesn’t do anything for Mr. Block at all.

Anyway, Larry was kind enough to post on FB that he was going to be speaking to a mystery readers book club at the Salamagundi Club in New York City on the one night that Broadway-vacationer me did not have show tickets.  It was a free event and located convenient to the 14th Street/Union Square subway stop.  Sold.

It was an interesting event.  There were about 30 pleasant, well-read people there, including me, and I believe I was by far the youngest.  The group had selected Block’s The Burglar in the Library (the 8th Bernie Rhodenbarr book) for reading, and questions centered on the book itself, the characters, the writing process, movies of books, and then of course, the publishing world, the Internet and e-books.  I was taking notes on my iPad at the time, and actually owned three books that were available in hard copy for sale at the event – right there, bought from Amazon, and living an electronic life of bits and bytes.  People weren’t eyeing me nervously, but there certainly was a clear lack of interest in this topic.

So here are some things I learned tonight about Lawrence Block:

He wears hearing aids and is gracious about asking you to speak up.  The books he writes are so witty and physical, and Matthew Scudder in particular is so vital, although aging, that it was a bit of a shock to realize that Larry Block is older than my dad.  So I guess my little crush has been inappropriate all along.  Please don’t tell me how old Calvin Trillin is.  I don’t want to know.

There have been three movies based on Larry’s books.  When forced to name one, he points out Burglar, which starred Whoopi Goldberg as Bernice Rhodenbarr, and is not surprisingly, not stellar. You can read more about other Lawrence Block books in development here.  His website mentions A Walk Among the Tombstones in a 2003 development deal, but as recently as 2011, it was on the docket from a production company that included Danny DeVito.  I’d buy a ticket.

He doesn’t show a book in progress to anyone until it’s done, having realized that he only wants to get others’ opinions in order to reinforce his own thought that he should abandon a particular project.  So, no advice, no abandonment.

Writing short stories are as close as you can get to instant gratification, he says.  Novels take longer.  But whatever he’s writing is his favorite, when it’s going well.

He told a funny story about Robert B. Parker (Spenser series) – when asked whether he gets the plot or the characters first, Parker said, “Neither.  The contract comes first.”  Ha!

I asked him what he is working on now – the answer, “Between books right now, but the next one out is Hit Me.”  Hit Me features Keller, Block’s hit man protagonist, in February 2013.

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