Lawrence Block

Secrets, gambits, and engrossing capers.

Lawrence Block is one of contemporary crime fiction’s definitive voices, an author whose characters have gone from plotting on pay phones to scheming on cellphones–without becoming phony. Since he was introduced in 1978’s The Sins of the Fathers, Block’s signature character, alcoholic ex-cop turned private eye Mike Scudder, takes a snub-nosed approach to problem solving and his battles with personal demons. His 17th appearance, in A Drop of the Hard Stuff, connects an old case to a fresh murder. This week Lawrence Block points us to three thrilling fictions, including the work of an old friend.

Books by Lawrence Block

Ten North Frederick

By John O’Hara

“In his day, O’Hara (1905-70) was a serious literary novelist with a huge popular following. Nowadays he’s largely forgotten; the conventional wisdom seems to be that his novels peaked with his first (Appointment in Samarra) and are inferior to his short stories. Ten North Frederick is one of his big books, and I re-read it regularly; to my mind, it and From the Terrace embody the American experience like the work of no other writer. And he wrote so well he made it look easy.”

The Queen’s Gambit

By Walter Tevis

“Tevis (1928-84) ranged widely in his small body of work, from The Hustler and The Color of Money to Mockingbird and The Man Who Fell to Earth. The Queen’s Gambit is the story of a female chess prodigy, but you don’t have to know a pawn from a pawnbroker to find it incredibly gripping. It’s in no sense a mystery, yet the book has a big following among crime fiction fans, who evidently appreciate a good story well told. I’ve read this three or four times, and I’m about ready to read it again.”

Butcher’s Moon

By Richard Stark

“Donald E. Westlake (1933-2008) was my very close friend for half a century. He was also a favorite author, and to my mind the books he wrote as Richard Stark, about a thoroughgoing thief named Parker, are his finest work. They’re all superb, and infinitely rereadable, but if I had to pick one out of the series, it would be Butcher’s Moon. (Full disclosure: I wrote the intro for the new edition from University of Chicago Press.)”