One of the things I enjoy most about Twitter is the sense of camaraderie I get with writers whose work I enjoy. While Lawrence Block had made his email address public some time ago, sending an email is more daunting than firing off a tweet, so I never took advantage of it. I’m the shy sort. Really!
So shy that when joining Twitter, I took the handle @TommySalami (which I still possess, though I’ve moved to the slightly more professional, though no less jokey name @thomaspluck). One of the first writers I followed was @LawrenceBlock, who tweeted prolifically and amiably with his readers. We chatted about his creations Bernie Rhodenbarr and Matt Scudder, and I subscribed to Mystery Scene to read his column of memoirs of his early writing days, which helped me keep my nose to the grindstone in the writing department.
I’ve never asked LB for a blurb–though I cherish the now-lost, encouraging comment he made at Beat to a Pulp, on my hardboiled fighter tale “A Glutton for Punishment”–I learned that it’s his policy not to give blurbs, or review books by living authors. And I think that is good advice for a writer. Now, I’m breaking that rule here, aren’t I? My own rule is different, I think it’s best not to say anything about a book unless I have something good to say. (If I have nothing to say, I either haven’t read it, or didn’t like it). Which works for me, because few give a damn what I have to say about someone else’s book anyway. LB, however, is another matter. He’s a master of the mystery form, a Grand one, and he’s known many others like him.
Now, he comes along with THE CRIMES OF OUR LIVES, collecting his writings on crime fiction. From Edgar Allan Poe (who he did not know) to Donald Westlake, whom he knew quite well. There are introductions, eulogies, memoirs, remembrances, and at least one salacious, if unproven anecdote, which will change the way you hear the theme to “I Love Lucy” forever. To steal from LB’s chapter on Robert B. Parker, I could listen to LB read (or write, rather) the phone book; he has a distinctive voice, and a way with words. A little chummy, but sharp-edged as well. With sentences that flow as smooth and sweet as the nectar from God’s own tit.
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. TCOOL is a damn good read for anyone who loves a good crime tale; I learned something new about writers whom I’ve read every word of, and was introduced to a few whose work I’m eager to become acquainted with. What are you waiting for? Get a copy.