The Barnes & Noble Review
Weighing in at nearly 900 pages and containing 83 mystery stories and novellas written over a 45-year period, this doorstop of a book is a remarkable monument to Lawrence Block's equally remarkable career.
The earliest story in the collection, "You Can't Lose," first appeared in 1958. It's an energetic, unabashed piece of pulp that shows just a hint of Block's evolving narrative facility. Also included are the complete contents of three earlier collections (Sometimes They Bite, Like a Lamb to Slaughter, and Some Days You Get the Bear), plus self-contained excerpts from the episodic Keller novels Hit Man and Hit List, as well as many classic tales featuring Block's recurring characters Chip Harrison, Martin Ehrengraf, Bernie Rhodenbarr, and Matthew Scudder.
The 23 more recent, previously uncollected stories that appear here are fresh, funny, and readable. Between the old material and the new, there are so many good pieces that it's impossible to review this collection in detail. Highlights include "Keller's Designated Hitter," in which the amateur philatelist and professional hit man leaves his mark on the national pastime; "Sometimes They Bite," which concerns the lethal encounter between two fishermen who meet and converse along a lonely stretch of river; and "A Thousand Dollars a Word," a heartfelt vignette about the economic predicament of the nickel-a-word pulp writer. Two of the nine Matthew Scudder stories reprinted here have won major awards and become minor classics: "By the Dawn's Early Light," which became the novel When the Sacred Gin Mill Closes, and the superb "A Candle for the Bag Lady," in which Scudder solves the murder of a homeless woman who has left him an unexpected legacy.
For Block's admirers, this massive retrospective is essential reading. For the uninitiated, it provides a vigorous, varied introduction to one of the most prolific -- and significant -- figures in contemporary popular fiction. Bill Sheehan
A month before the mass market edition of his bestseller Hope to Die hits shelves, whodunit Grand Master Lawrence Block will come out with Enough Rope"in Blocks words, a huge doorstop of a thing "a collection of 83 stories spanning a career that began nearly five decades ago. With early tales (1957s You Cant Lose ) and recent ones (Terrible Tommy Terhune ), not to mention plenty featuring series heroes Martin Ehrengraf, Matthew Scudder and Keller, this compendium of sharply written short fiction will delight Blocks many fans, and likely earn him new ones. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Block's (Hope To Die) latest is a fun but daunting doorstop collection of short stories. At almost 900 pages, it contains every short story Block ever wrote. Opening the book are the stand-alone stories, which are alphabetically arranged; the character stories, which feature the likes of Matthew Scudder and Bernie Rhodenbarr, then appear in chronological order. The collection ends with 12 stories 11 new tales and the very first story Block ever published. Most of the pieces are enjoyable but should not be read straight through; they tend to depend on similar themes and plot devices, which creates a sense of monotony by the end. The tales not about Block's regular set of characters are clearly the best, and a good portion of them would have made terrific episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Librarians should beware that only the final stories are new to this collection, which first appeared in 1999 under the title The Collected Mystery Stories. Recommended only for collections lacking the previous edition. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/02.] Jeff Ayers, Seattle P.L. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Most authors who'd just published a 754-page Collected Mystery Stories two years ago would still be catching their breath. Not Block, who here collects 83 crime tales in a package as bulky as a pair of bricks. In addition to all the stories in his 2000 retrospective-everything from the collections Sometimes They Bite (1983), Like a Lamb to the Slaughter (1984), and Some Days You Get the Bear (1993), and a brace of stories featuring ebullient burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr, alcoholic sometime lawyer Matthew Scudder, courtroom-averse lawyer Martin Ehrengraf, Archie Goodwin wannabe Chip Harrison, and hit man John Keller-Block adds a dozen previously uncollected items: not quite as many as his Introduction would suggest, but still a substantial bunch. The newcomers include two Keller stories (one excerpted from the novel Hit List, 2000), two cases from Scudder's distant past, a typically lightweight Ehrengraf entry, half a dozen new stories-none of them remarkable, but all with the professional snap of Block's best work-and the author's very first story, showing that if in 1957 he hadn't mastered the ironic reversals that would become a hallmark of his short fiction, he was already well on his way to mastering the laconic, offhand voice that would make the dozen standouts here, from "Keller's Therapy" to "In for a Penny," so witty and so dark. Do all the folks who bought the Collected Mystery Stories need to refresh their libraries with this update? Probably not. But true-blue mystery fans would be crazy to pass it up-except for those determined to hold out for a future collection that tops a thousand pages.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Block’s wit and propensity for jaunty protagonists are on full display here.”
Read an Excerpt
A Bad Night for Burglars
The burglar, a slender and clean-cut chap just past thirty, was rifling a drawer in the bedside table when Archer Trebizond slipped into the bedroom. Trebizond's approach was as catfooted as if he himself were the burglar, a situation which was manifestly not the case. The burglar never did hear Trebizond, absorbed as he was in his perusal of the drawer's contents, and at length he sensed the other man's presence as a jungle beast senses the presence of a predator.The analogy, let it be said, is scarcely accidental.
When the burglar turned his eyes on Archer Trebizond his heart fluttered and fluttered again, first at the mere fact of discovery, then at his own discovery of the gleaming revolver in Trebizond's hand. The revolver was pointed in his direction, and this the burglar found upsetting.
“Darn it all,” said the burglar, approximately. “I could have sworn there was nobody home. I phoned, I rang the bell--”
“I just got here,” Trebizond said.
“Just my luck. The whole week's been like that. I dented a fender on Tuesday afternoon, overturned my fish tank the night before last. An unbelievable mess all over the carpet, and I lost a mated pair of African mouthbreeders so rare they don't have a Latin name yet. I'd hate to tell you what I paid for them.”
“Hard luck,” Trebizond said.
“And just yesterday I was putting away a plate of fettucine and I bit the inside of my mouth. You ever done that? It's murder, and the worst part is you feel sostupid about it. And then you keep biting it over and over again because it sticks out while it's healing. At least I do.” The burglar gulped a breath and ran a moist hand over a moister forehead. “And now this,” he said.
“This could turn out to be worse than fenders and fish tanks,” Trebizond said.
“Don't I know it. You know what I should have done? I should have spent the entire week in bed. I happen to know a safecracker who consults an astrologer before each and every job he pulls. If Jupiter's in the wrong place or Mars is squared with Uranus or something he won't go in. It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? And yet it's eight years now since anybody put a handcuff on that man. Now who do you know who's gone eight years without getting arrested?”
“I've never been arrested,” Trebizond said.
“Well, you're not a crook.”
“I'm a businessman.”
The burglar thought of something but let it pass. “I'm going to get the name of his astrologer,” he said. “That's just what I'm going to do. Just as soon as I get out of here.”
“If you get out of here,” Trebizond said. “Alive,” Trebizond said.
The burglar's jaw trembled just the slightest bit. Trebizond smiled, and from the burglar's point of view Trebizond's smile seemed to enlarge the black hole in the muzzle of the revolver.
“I wish you'd point that thing somewhere else,” he said nervously.
“There's nothing else I want to shoot.”
“You don't want to shoot me.”
“You don't even want to call the cops,” the burglar went on. “It's really not necessary. I'm sure we can work things out between us, two civilized men coming to a civilized agreement. I've some money on me. I'm an openhanded sort and would be pleased to make a small contribution to your favorite charity, whatever it might be. We don't need policemen to intrude into the private affairs of gentlemen.”
The burglar studied Trebizond carefully. This little speech had always gone over rather well in the past, especially with men of substance. It was hard to tell how it was going over now, or if it was going over at all. “In any event,” he ended somewhat lamely, “you certainly don't want to shoot me.”
“Oh, blood on the carpet, for a starter. Messy, wouldn't you say? Your wife would be upset. Just ask her and she'll tell you shooting me would be a ghastly idea.”
“She's not at home. She'll be out for the next hour or so.”
“All the same, you might consider her point of view. And shooting me would be illegal, you know. Not to mention immoral.”
“Not illegal,” Trebizond remarked.
“I beg your pardon?”
“You're a burglar,” Trebizond reminded him. “An unlawful intruder on my property. You have broken and entered. You have invaded the sanctity of my home. I can shoot you where you stand and not get so much as a parking ticket for my trouble.”
“Of course you can shoot me in self-defense--”
“Are we on Candid Camera?”
“Is Allen Funt lurking in the shadows?”
“No, but I--”
“In your back pocket. That metal thing. What is it?”
“Just a pry bar.”
“Take it out,” Trebizond said. “Hand it over. Indeed. A weapon if I ever saw one. I'd state that you attacked me with it and I fired in self-defense. It would be my word against yours, and yours would remain unvoiced since you would be dead. Whom do you suppose the police would believe?”
The burglar said nothing. Trebizond smiled a satisfied smile and put the pry bar in his own pocket. It was a piece of nicely shaped steel and it had a nice heft to it. Trebizond rather liked it.
“Why would you want to kill me?”
“Perhaps I've never killed anyone. Perhaps I'd like to satisfy my curiosity. Or perhaps I got to enjoy killing in the war and have been yearning for another crack at it. There are endless possibilities.”
“The point is,” said Trebizond, “you might be useful to...”Enough Rope. Copyright © by Lawrence Block. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.