Step by Step: A Pedestrian Memoir


From the revered New York Times bestselling author comes a touching, insightful, and humorous memoir of an unlikely racewalker and world traveler

Before Lawrence Block was the author of bestselling novels featuring unforgettable characters such as the hit man Keller, private investigator Matthew Scudder, burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr, and time traveler Evan Tanner, he was a walker.

As a child, he walked home ...

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Step by Step: A Pedestrian Memoir

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From the revered New York Times bestselling author comes a touching, insightful, and humorous memoir of an unlikely racewalker and world traveler

Before Lawrence Block was the author of bestselling novels featuring unforgettable characters such as the hit man Keller, private investigator Matthew Scudder, burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr, and time traveler Evan Tanner, he was a walker.

As a child, he walked home from school (mostly because he couldn't ride a bike). As a col-lege student, he walked until he was able to buy his first car (a deep blue 1950 Chevrolet coupe named Pamela, after the Samuel Richardson novel). As an adult, he ran marathons until he discovered what would become a lifelong obsession—never mind if some people didn't think it was a real sport—racewalking.

By that time Block had already spent plenty of time walking through the city of New York. But racewalking ended up taking him all over the country, from New Orleans to Anchorage, from marathons in the punishing heat to marathons in the pouring rain. And along the way, as he began to pen the books that would make him a household name among suspense fans all over the world, he found that in life, as in writing, you just need to take one step after the other.

Through the lens of his adventures while walking—in twenty-four-hour races, on a pilgrimage through Spain, and just about everywhere you can imagine—Lawrence Block shares his heartwarming personal story about life's trials and tribulations, discomforts and successes, which truly lets readers walk a mile in the master of mystery's shoes.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Block has been writing for more than 50 years and walking slightly longer, according to this memoir notable for frequent flashes of the author's keen wit. In the introduction, he accurately and honestly advises the reader that the book is as "every bit as self-indulgent as it wanted to be." Block goes on to provide lengthy details of his various forms of ambulation, from long solo walks as a seventh grader to a walk across Spain to Santiago de Campostela. Mostly he recounts his experiences as a runner and a racewalker in races ranging from 5Ks to marathons and 24-hour races. Runners or walkers will enjoy Block's accounts of his trials and triumphs, including a strange hiatus of more than 22 years. (Block was in his 40s when he stopped racing and in his 60s when he resumed walking marathons.) Mystery fans, unless they're Block completists or running enthusiasts themselves, may want to take a pass.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
The prolific crime novelist (Hit and Run, 2008, etc.) writes about his adventures as a racewalker. The author's focus at first seems puzzling. Block chooses not to tell the story of his writing life-a project he began but abandoned after weeks of feverish writing-or his personal life ("if you wanted to know something about me, well, too bad"). Instead, the memoir focuses almost entirely on his distance walking. Generally these walks are competitive-marathons and 24-hour walks in which the globetrotting Block consistently ignores both the scenery (he leaves his glasses at home) and the other runners and concentrates on beating his shortest time and longest distance. When he's not entering formal events-from which he took a hiatus for more than 20 years-he and his wife are driving across America in search of all the towns named Buffalo or traversing Spain on foot. Block occasionally goes off on amusing tangents. He writes briefly on the question of why even nonobservant Jews like himself don't eat pork, the nature of his interfaith (make that interagnostic) marriage and his preference for trees over Porta-Potties. On the whole, though, this is an account of the author's entering event after event, wondering why he keeps walking despite blisters and backaches. It's telling that the only two books whose gestation he describes in any detail are his novel Random Walk (1988) and the present volume. Fans of Block's fiction may be interested, but they should be prepared to skim the particulars of times and distances that the author assiduously records. A peripatetic but never pedestrian memoir. Author appearances in Des Moines, Iowa, Los Angeles, New York
Buffalo News
“Block’s memoir is a worthy addition to his impressive list of accomplishments.”
“Block knows that character and ambience are the heart and soul of crime fiction, but unlike so many of his brethren, he also maintaines a healthy respect for plot.”
Mystery Scene
“Unpretentiously serious, offhandedly funny, and unfailingly entertaining.”
New York Daily News
“Block has never been better.”
Kansas City Star
“One of the most accomplished writers of mystery and suspense fiction in America.”
The Wall Street Journal
“One of the best writers now working the beat, Lawrence Block has done something new and remarkable with the private eye novel.”
San Antonio Express-News
“A superior storyteller. . . . Block has an awareness of the pain and pleasure of living. It is a gift not all authors have.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061721816
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/19/2009
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 1,004,025
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Lawrence Block is one of the most widely recognized names in the mystery genre. He has been named a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America and is a four-time winner of the prestigious Edgar and Shamus Awards, as well as a recipient of prizes in France, Germany, and Japan. He received the Diamond Dagger from the British Crime Writers' Association—only the third American to be given this award. He is a prolific author, having written more than fifty books and numerous short stories, and is a devoted New Yorker and an enthusiastic global traveler.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2009

    A highly interesting book for Lawrence Block fans who want to know more about him, as a person rather than just as an author.

    I am a great fan of Lawrence Block, and have read all of his books, so I was happy for the chance to learn more about him as a person, rather than just as an author. On that point, I enjoyed the book very much. But I am not a marathon runner or walker, and so I must admit that parts of the book gave me quite a bit more information about each specific race than I really needed to know, and I found myself speedreading through many sections.

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  • Posted May 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer


    This is an odd memoir that focuses on the crime writer's enjoyment in participating in distance walking races. Mr. Block makes a point of racing against himself rather than other competitors; as his goal is not so much to win the race though that would be okay if he beat his best time or distance; the ultimate golden goal is to achieve both. In other words he races against himself. The author also discusses traveling with his wife across America or overseas on quests that targets specific offbeat goals like shuffling off to all the Buffalos. The best sections are the personal ones when Mr. Block turns introspective for instance why a non practicing Jew like him refuses to eat pork. These are far apart as much of the bio centers on the walkathons including containing an overwhelming marathon of score keeping that sports statisticians will relish. Not for everyone, fans of the author will want to take a walk with Mr. Block, but keep in mind STEP BY STEP has little to do with his novels and even with this pedestrian drill he provides quite a pace.--

    Harriet Klausner

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