An MWA Grand Master tells it straight: Fredric Brown: "When I read Murder Can Be Fun, I had a bottle of bourbon on the table and every time Brown's hero took a drink, I had a snort myself. This is a hazardous undertaking when in the company of Brown's characters, and, I've been given to understand, would have been just as dangerous around the author himself. By the time the book was finished, so was I."
Raymond Chandler: "You have to wonder how he got it so right. He spent a lot of time in the house—working, reading, writing letters. He saw to his wife, who required a lot of attention in her later years. And when he did get out, you wouldn't find him walking the mean streets. La Jolla, it must be noted, was never much for mean streets."
Evan Hunter: "In his mid-seventies, after a couple of heart attacks, an aneurysm, and a siege of cancer that had led to the removal of his larynx, Evan wrote Alice in Jeopardy. And went to work right away on Becca in Jeopardy, with every intention of working his way through the alphabet. Don't you love it? Here's a man with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel, and he's perfectly comfortable launching a twenty-six book series."
Donald E. Westlake's Memory: "Here's the point: Don's manuscript arrived, and we had dinner and put the kid to bed, and I started reading. And my wife went to bed, and I stayed up reading, and after a while I forgot I was having a heart attack, and just kept reading until I finished the book around dawn. And somewhere along the way I became aware that my friend Don, who'd written a couple of mysteries and some science fiction and his fair share of soft-core erotica, had just produced a great novel."
Charles Willeford: "Can a self-diagnosed sociopath be at the same time an intensely moral person? Can one be a sociopath, virtually unaware of socially prescribed morality, and yet be consumed with the desire to do the right thing? That strikes me as a spot-on description of just about every character Willeford ever wrote. How could he come up with characters like that? My God, how could he help it?"
An MWA Grand Master and a multiple winner of the Edgar, Shamus, and Maltese Falcon awards, Lawrence Block's reflections and observations come from over a half century as a writer of bestselling crime fiction. Several of his novels have been filmed, most recently A Walk Among the Tombstones, starring Liam Neeson. While he's best known for his novels and short fiction, along with his books on the craft of writing, that's not all he's written. THE CRIME OF OUR LIVES collects his observations and personal reminiscences of the crime fiction field and some of its leading practitioners. He has a lot to say, and he says it here in convincing and entertaining fashion.
Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster, multiple winner of the Shamus, Edgar, and Maltese Falcon Awards, international bestseller Lawrence Block has forgotten more about writing than I've ever learned. He discusses the careers of writers in this volume, and fills each page with how-to tidbits hidden in the fascinating stories of other people's lives. You'll learn about genre, yes, but mostly, you'll learn the ups and downs of the writing profession, while discovering novels you'll want to read. – Kristine Kathryn Rusch
"This is one of the most incisive and fascinating collections about living it out as a full time professional writer I've ever read."– Ed Gorman, Mystery Scene
"You won't find a better collection about mystery fiction and the people who write it. This one gets my highest recommendation."– James Reasoner, Rough Edges
"As a writer and a reader, this collection has have been amusing, illuminating, and soothing. As much as things have changed in the writing biz, some things remain the same, and those whose work we love–they busted their ass the same as the rest of us. And some of them are as mysterious as characters in their own novels."– Thomas Pluck
"This was a really enjoyable and interesting read. I liked the stories and the anecdotes and the snippets of gossip that permeate every page and the hat-tips towards a few author and books that may have escaped my attention thus far. 5 out of 5"– CrimeSpace
"If Block were a serial killer instead of one of the best storytellers of our time, we'd be in real trouble."– Publisher's Weekly
Before We Begin . . .
For over half a century—and, indeed, it's closer to sixty years than fifty—I've been spending much of my time and earning most of my sustenance writing crime fiction. Over the years I've had occasion to write some nonfiction as well, and a fair amount of it has been about the genre—about my experiences in it, and, rather more interestingly, about some of my fellow crime writers.
For the most part, I've avoided writing book reviews. In the early 1980s I did occasional reviewing for Washington Post Book World, and that was congenial enough (if spectacularly unremunerative) as long as the books sent to me were ones I liked. Two books that came my way, Thomas Perry's Metzger's Dog and William Murray's Tip on a Dead Crab, were just wonderful, and it was a pleasure to share my enthusiasm with the world, or at least that part of it exposed to the Washington Post.
But I found it agonizing when presented with something that didn't work for me. I knew very well what it takes to write a book, and didn't see it as a proper calling for me to fling mud at someone else's work. I remember trying to read one book, hating it, and realizing that that fault was not necessarily the author's. The right reader would very likely love the book, but I was not that reader, and it seemed only fair to return the book and let someone else review it.
Shortly thereafter I made it a policy to turn down reviewing assignments. I don't want to be in a position that compels me to either hide my feelings or say something uncomplimentary about a living writer.
When they're dead it's different. De mortuis nihil nisi bonum?No, screw that. The dead can stand a little criticism. One has to assume they're past caring. And if there is an afterlife, and some sensitive souls spend it paying attention to what's said about them back on earth? Well, you know what? They can go to hell.