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Lawrence Block has been writing award-winning mystery and suspense fiction for half a century. His most recent novels are The Burglar Who Counted The Spoons, featuring Bernie Rhodenbarr; Hit Me, featuring philatelist and assassin Keller; and A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF, featuring Matthew Scudder, brilliantly embodied by Liam Neeson in the new film, A Walk Among The Tombstones. Several of his other books have also been filmed, although not terribly well. He's well known for his books for writers, including the classic Telling Lies For Fun & Profit, and The Liar's Bible. In addition to prose works, he has written episodic television (Tilt!) and the Wong Kar-wai film, My Blueberry Nights. He is a modest and humble fellow, although you would never guess as much from this biographical note.

The Night and the Music by Lawrence Block

Lawrence Block's 17 Matthew Scudder novels have won the hearts of readers throughout the world—along with a bevy of awards including the Edgar, the Shamus, the Philip Marlowe (Germany), and the Maltese Falcon (Japan).. But Scudder has starred in short fiction as well, and it's all here, from a pair of late-70s novelettes (Out the Window and A Candle for the Bag Lady) through By the Dawn's Early Light (Edgar) and The Merciful Angel of Death (Shamus), all the way to One Last Night at Grogan's, a moving and elegiac story never before published. It was short fiction that kept the series alive on the several occasions when the flow of novels was interrupted, and short stories that took Scudder down different paths and showed us unmapped portions of his world.

Some of these stories appeared in such magazines as Alfred Hitchcock, Ellery Queen, and Playboy. The title vignette, The Night and the Music, was written for a NYC jazz festival program; another, Mick Ballou Looks at the Blank Screen, has appeared only as the text of a limited-edition broadside. And the final story, putting Matt and Elaine at a table with Mick and Kristin Ballou in a shuttered Hell's Kitchen saloon, has its first appearance in this volume. Several stories look back from the time of their writing, with Scudder recounting events from his former life as a cop, first as a patrolman partnered with the legendary Vince Mahaffey, then as an NYPD detective leading a double life. In Looking for David, Matt and Elaine are on vacation in Florence, where they encounter a man Matt arrested decades earlier; now Matt finally learns the motive behind a brutal homicide.

Along with the eleven stories and novelettes, The Night and The Music includes a list of the seventeen novels in chronological order, and an author's note detailing the origin and bibliographical details of each of the stories. Brian Koppelman, the prominent screenwriter and director (Solitary Man, Ocean's Thirteen, Rounders) and a major Matt Scudder fan, has sweetened the pot with an introduction.

CURATOR'S NOTE

I have loved Lawrence Block's work for decades. Literally. I read my first Lawrence Block novel in the 1970s, and I've read many of them since. I won't say I've read all of them, because he has written a lot of books under pen names and some books are just starting to come back into print.

He writes a number of series characters. They appear in both short stories and novels. He's a master of the short story form, someone I'm still stealing —oops, I mean learning— from. I've found that his short work provides the perfect introduction to one of his series character.

He contributed one of his best known characters to this bundle, Matthew Scudder. Scudder has appeared on the big screen twice that I know of, first portrayed by Jeff Bridges in Eight Million Ways to Die, and just last year by Liam Neeson in a Walk Among The Tombstones.

The Scudder books have hit bestseller lists and graced award ballots. The Scudder short stories have received award attention as well. This collection not only lets you sample Scudder stories, it also contains a list of all the Scudder books in order.

I'm going to assume that, if you've never read Larry's work, you've just started your mystery reading habit. If you've read Larry's work but somehow missed Scudder, you're in for a treat.

In fact you're all in for a treat. Because once you read the short stories, you'll move to the novels. I guarantee it. – Kristine Kathryn Rusch

 

REVIEWS

  • "I love the Matthew Scudder series, and I love short stories—and this is the complete collection of Scudder stories. One of the greats of all time is the Edgar-winning "By the Dawn's Early Light."

    – Otto Penzler, Los Angeles Times, Ten Most Wanted Books of 2011
  • "Indeed, the title story is a brilliantly told mood piece that will deeply satisfy those who have followed Scudder on his journey through life. It is a rare moment of pure humanity in Scudder's world and serves to give the impression that Scudder is a lot more than just a PI, that his story doesn't stop when we're not reading about him."

    – Russel McLean, Crime Scene Scotland
  • "It's easy to imagine yourself sitting on the couch in Scudder's home, sipping iced tea while jazz music plays softly in the background...You are always guaranteed a good time."

    – John Neal, The Celebrity Café
  • "My favorite, I think, is the title story, "The Night and the Music", which finds Matt and his wife Elaine talking and listening to music in various places around their part of New York. This story is so elegant and evocative that it reminds me very much of some of Irwin Shaw's stories...Also in that vein is the final story in the book, the recently written and fittingly titled "One Last Night at Grogan's", again not a mystery or a crime story. I don't know if Block plans to write any more about Matt Scudder, and he may not know, either, but "One Last Night at Grogan's" has a beautifully elegiac feel to it, and if it does turn out to be the series' farewell, it's a good one."

    – James Reasoner, Rough Edges
 

BOOK PREVIEW

Excerpt

We left halfway through the curtain calls, threading our way up the aisle and across the lobby. Inside it had been winter in Paris, with La Bohéme's lovers shivering and starving; outside it was New York, with spring turning into summer.

We held hands and walked across the great courtyard, past the fountain shimmering under the lights, past Avery Fisher Hall. Our apartment is in the Parc Vendôme, at 57th and Ninth, and we headed in that direction and walked a block or so in silence.

Then Elaine said, "I don't want to go home."

"All right."

"I want to hear music. Can we do that?"

"We just did that."

"Different music. Not another opera."

"Good," I said, "because one a night is my limit."

"You old bear. One a night is one over your limit."

I shrugged. "I'm learning to like it."

"Well, one a night's my limit. You know something? I'm in a mood."

"Somehow I sensed as much."

"She always dies," she said.

"Mimi."

"Uh-huh. How many times do you suppose I've seen La Bohéme? Six, seven times?"

"If you say so."

"At least. You know what? I could see it a hundred times and it's not going to change. She'll die every fucking time."

"Odds are."

"So I want to hear something different," she said, "before we call it a night."

"Something happy," I suggested.

"No, sad is fine. I don't mind sad. As a matter of fact I prefer it."

"But you want them all alive at the end."

"That's it," she said. "Sad as can be, so long as nobody dies."