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From Barnes & NobleThe 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