Gulliver Fairborn's novel, Nobody's Baby, changed Bernie Rhodenbarr's life. And now pretty Alice Cottrell, Fairborn's one-time paramour, wants the bookselling, book-loving burglar to break into a room in New York's teeth-achingly charming Paddington Hotel and purloin some of the writer's very personal letters before an unscrupulous agent can sell them. Here's an opportunity to use his unique talents in the service of the revered, famously reclusive author. But when Bernie gets there, the agent is dead . . . and Bernie's wanted for murder. (He really hates when that happens!)
Perhaps it's karmic payback; Bernie did help himself to a ruby necklace on his way out. (But it was lying there. And he is a burglar.) Now he's in even hotter water. And he'll need to use every trick in the book—maybe going so far as to entice the hermitic Fairborn himself out of seclusion—to bring this increasingly twisted plot to a satisfying denouement.
About 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.
Read an Excerpt
The Burglar in the Rye
The lobby was a bit the worse for wear. The large oriental carpet had seen better days, lots of them. The facing Lawson sofas sagged invitingly and, like the rest of the furniture, showed the effects of long use. They were in use now; two women sat in animated conversation, and, a few yards away, a man with a long oval face and a high forehead sat reading a copy of GQ. He wore sunglasses, which made him look dapper and sly. I don't know how they made the magazine look. Dark, I suppose.
While the lobby may have been the least bit down at the heels, the overall impression was not so much of shabbiness as of comfort. The glow of a fire in the fireplace, a welcome sight on a brisk October day, put everything in the best possible light. And, centered above the fireplace mantel, painted with such . . .The Burglar in the Rye. Copyright © by Lawrence Block. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
On Thursday, July 1st, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Lawrence Block to discuss THE BURGLAR IN THE RYE.
Moderator: Welcome, Lawrence Block! Thank you for joining us this evening to discuss your new book, THE BURGLAR IN THE RYE. How are you this evening?
Lawrence Block: I'm great, and eager to talk. I head off on a book tour tomorrow, and I'm champing at the bit.
Mercury from San Francisco: Who was the inspiration for your character Bernie Rhodenbarr? Does he resemble you or a friend?
Lawrence Block: Bernie's the burglar I would have been if writing hadn't worked out.
Kate from West Tisbury: It is hard not to draw parallels between your reclusive character Gulliver Fairborn and J. D. Salinger. What are your thoughts on Joyce Maynard's sale of their personal correspondence? Were you outraged? What do you feel are the privacy rights of an individual? What did you draw from the Salinger/Maynard conflict for your book?
Lawrence Block: I wouldn't say outraged. If anything, I suppose I was delighted at the way life imitates art. My book was already rolling off the press when Joyce put the letters up for auction. She's got the right, you know. Letters belong to the recipient, and the copyright belongs to the author. It's all pretty clear-cut.
Robyn Elliott from Modesto, California: Mr. Block, will you ever visit the Modesto, California, Barnes & Noble for a book signing?
Lawrence Block: Well, not this trip. But this month I'm coming to B&N stores in Redding, Chico, and Fresno, all in California.
James Wagner from Richmond, VA: When did you know when you wanted to be an author? What event(s) were involved in this? How long did it take for you to write your first book? Did you think you could do it?
Lawrence Block: I knew when I was 15 or so, started selling stories a few years later, and was 19 or 20 when I sold my first novel.
Gerald So from Old Westbury, NY: Hello, Mr. Block. You've written in many voices over the years (Chip Harrison, Tanner, Scudder, Bernie). What do you do to get into each character's voice? How do you manage to juggle the voices in your head, and at the same time, keep each one consistent? Thank you.
Lawrence Block: Hi, Gerald. Actually, that part comes easy to me. When I wrote TANNER ON ICE, I was writing a character I'd last written 25 years before, and I wondered if I could get into the voice. I sat down and picked up a pen and there Tanner was, as if he'd just stepped out for a cup of coffee. It was that easy.
Peter from Delaware: I hear you are driving across country and doing a big book tour. How many cities? Are you excited to get back on the road?
Lawrence Block: Something like 60 cities, and I can't wait.
John from East Village: Hi Mr. Block -- I love your novels, especially the Matt Scudder ones, and particularly with regard to your attention to detail. As I read them, I often imagine you wandering around the city to get the scenes just right. Is this how you work? Or do you do it from memory?
Lawrence Block: I walk the city a lot, but not usually during the writing of the book. By the time I sit down and get to work, I go from what I've already soaked up. Unless I have to go check something.
Bruce from Michigan: What does the title refer to?
Lawrence Block: Rye is Gulliver Fairborn's drink of choice, and Bernie drinks a lot of it in this book. I mean, what else could it refer to?
Steven from Chicago: Would you consider writing screenplays for your books?
Lawrence Block: Nope. Not interested in it.
Megan from New York: What is the worst job you've ever held? Can you imagine yourself doing anything other than writing?
Lawrence Block: Well, I don't have much of a job history. I've really been writing ever since school.
Pam from Hanover: Are you planning on writing another Tanner novel?
Lawrence Block: Hope so. I just got back from a month in Australia, and I wouldn't be surprised if the next one in the series is TANNER DOWN UNDER.
Kate from Austin, TX: What is the most challenging part of being a writer? Staying self-motivated?
Lawrence Block: Well, writing. Getting it down and getting it right. And it doesn't ever get any easier.
Jan from Smithfield: I am wondering if you know the endings to books when you start writing. Are all the twists carefully planned through outlines?
Lawrence Block: I make it up as I go along. Never use written outlines.
Lenny from Albany, NY: Is the Paddington Hotel a real place? Is it based on a particular hotel in New York City?
Lawrence Block: I wish. No, it has elements of the Gramercy and the Chelsea, among others.
David from Oakland, CA: Mr. Block, how did you choose to start a series of books written from a burglar's perspective?
Lawrence Block: Well, I didn't know it would turn out to be a series. And I'd been half-thinking about burglary as a career, and I wondered what would happen if something went wrong, and, well, that turned into BURGLARS CAN'T BE CHOOSERS.
Phyl O. from Westfield. MA: My favorite Burglar book is [the one about] the baseball collection theft. Are you a collector?
Lawrence Block: Not of baseball cards. Stamps, poker chips, Indian fetish carvings...
Ollie from Philadelphia: I know that you are extremely prolific. How do you keep up your writing pace? What is your daily schedule?
Lawrence Block: I don't have a daily schedule, but when I'm working on a book I prioritize it. Maybe I get a lot done because I'm easily satisfied...
David from Kalamazoo: Your books are impossible to put down -- I read them in one or two days. What tips would you give to aspiring writers for creating books that hook and hold the reader's attention?
Lawrence Block: Thanks, David. Hard to answer. I just try to write books that I would like to read. Elmore Leonard says he tries to leave out the parts that people skip -- I think that's a good way to put it.
Dawn from Bristol, CT: I read in your newsletter that you're now a TV star. When's it going to be on? I'm looking forward to seeing it and meeting you in CT.
Lawrence Block: I'm hosting the Zodiac Killer episode on "Case Reopened," a new show on the Learning Channel. I believe the air date is October 10th.
Pam from California: What's your favorite part about living in NYC? Were you born and raised there?
Lawrence Block: I grew up in Buffalo but have lived most of my so-called adult life in NYC. And I just love it -- it's exciting and stimulating and I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.
Bill Wisnewski from Old Bridge, NJ: Welcome to my favorite author! I have followed Matt Scudder from his days in the gin mill to EVERYBODY DIES and loved every one. Do you plan to continue the series more frequently or concentrate on Bernie Rhodenbarr who, while enjoyable, is not nearly as compelling as Scudder?
Lawrence Block: Thanks, Bill. Hard to say. I never really know what I'm going to do next. I want to continue all the series, and I don't want to write more than a book a year, so where does that leave us? One of each every few years, I guess. Unless something else comes up...
Leon from Georgia: Do you think that aspiring writers should pursue an MFA? Are writers born or made?
Lawrence Block: Well, I can't say I think much of MFA programs. They turn out some good writers, but I don't know that the programs can take credit for it.
Gerry from Oakland: Hi, Mr. Block. I really enjoy the Burglar series. Can you tell me if Bernie from that series is ever going to get married?
Lawrence Block: Bernie? Married? I don't think so.
Kate from Palm Beach: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Lawrence Block: I don't know. I'm always fondest of the most recent book, but that's not quite what you asked. My wife and I have been to 70 towns and cities named Buffalo -- now there's an accomplishment...
B George from Franklin: What writing techniques do you rely on the most in cooking up a good mystery? Not to say writers have formulas...
Lawrence Block: I don't really think in those terms. I just get into a mess and sort of write my way out of it.
Missy from Williamstown, MA: What is your favorite series to write? Any plans for a new series?
Lawrence Block: Well, I tend to love them all. The Burglar books, curiously, are the most difficult to write, although people tell me they seem effortless. But the plotting is difficult.
Elise from New York: Any plans for a summer vacation?
Lawrence Block: No, I'm on a book tour for the whole summer. And nobody's likely to mistake it for a vacation.
C. D. Jaraway from Baltimore: What is your favorite aspect of the writing life?
Lawrence Block: The writing itself, really. After that, the freedom to travel.
Pam from New York: Where do you get most of your ideas from? Newspaper stories? I notice that the Salinger/Maynard auction was an inspiration for this book.
Lawrence Block: The book was already in print before she put the letters up for auction. The inspiration was two-fold -- Maynard announced that she had written a biography, and Candida Donadio, a literary agent, announced that she was selling letters Thomas Pynchon had written her.
Moderator: Recommend three of your favorite summer reads.
Lawrence Block: John Sandford's CERTAIN PREY, Martin Cruz Smith's HAVANA BAY, and Thomas Harris's HANNIBAL.
Elke from bn.com: How do you plan on celebrating New Year's Eve 1999?
Lawrence Block: Quietly.
Katie from Richmond: What's next for you, Mr. Block? Future books in the works?
Lawrence Block: Next one -- it's about half done now -- is a sequel to HIT MAN.
Gero from New York: Can you think of any mystery books that translated well onto the big screen?
Lawrence Block: Yeah, THE MALTESE FALCON.
Burt from New York: Do you think the current publishing world encourages or discourages aspiring writers to be published? How can one increase their odds of getting published?
Lawrence Block: It's difficult, but it seems to me it's always been difficult. I suspect that's how it ought to be in the arts. All you can do is keep at it.
Cindy from Atlanta: Will you ever retire from the writing life?
Lawrence Block: Not if I can help it
Larry Sheedy from Berkshires: Hi, Mr. Block. I just finished HIT MAN and found it to be wonderful. Any plans on continuing with the remaining characters? Did you go to all of the cities mentioned? Thanks.
Lawrence Block: I've been to most of the places Keller has gone, but found different things to do there. And yes, I'm working on another book about Keller.
Tom from Kansas: Do you have a favorite among your books -- besides THE BURGLAR IN THE RYE?
Lawrence Block: I should be ashamed to admit it, but I flat-out love them all.
Mick from Daytona: What genre do you read in your spare time? Mystery?
Lawrence Block: Some. I read a lot less than I used to.
Clyde from DC: What do you think it takes to be a good writer today? Perseverance, talent, etc.
Lawrence Block: Luck and a trust fund.
John from East Village: Who is your favorite living writer? Favorite dead writer?
Lawrence Block: Gosh, John, I'm my favorite living writer. John O'Hara's my favorite non-living writer.
Moderator: Thank you, Mr. Block. It was an honor to have you on this evening. Do you have any closing comments for your online audience?
Lawrence Block: Sure -- buy THE BURGLAR IN THE RYE!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
the author keeps fans guessing to the end with his rollicking Bernie Rhodenbarr mysteries.
I enjoyed reading this book. Mr.Block has a wonderful writing talent and his characters are compelling. I recommend this and all of his books.
I don't know what it is, but I love the way this guy writes. I love the dialogue, the descriptions and the characters. This book is not about any great crime or mystery (there is a crime, in fact more than one), but the characters, conversations and the banter are far more interesting. I suppose it's not really fair to the author to describe the book this way. I can't help it. I loved the inter-play between the characters
An enjoyable Bernie Rhodenbarr mystery. The former agent of a reclusive author, based on J. D. Salinger, is selling his letters to her. But she is killed, and the letters and a ruby necklace disappear. Bernie is right in the middle of it, and clears everything up at a meeting in the Paddington Hotel. I preferred "The Burglar in the Closet" because it had more suspense, but this one was still quite funny.
Lawrence Block is one of my favorite authors. This book is OK, but not his best. The story is complex, convoluted and not too much fun to read. Too bad!
Pretty much the same as the other Burglar book. Bernie is trapped, this time in the bathroom, when the woman returns to her room with a date. Everyone knows that Bernie is just a thief and not a murderer.
This one didn¿t disappoint. I love these books. They are light and fun, and a mystery to the end. Usually surprised, he keeps me guessing all the way through. These are self contained, and wrapped up at the end. It has a continuity `series¿ aspect, where a base cast of characters and settings carry through, but it¿s not necessary to know all the history to follow it through. I read The Catcher in the Rye first, thinking it might give me insight. This as well, not necessary. In fact, I noticed more references to Salinger, which I knew about from his recent death, then the book itself. Very cute catchy title though. The one bad thing I can say about this book, is I¿ll never be able to read it again for the first time.
Plot's good, pacing good, characters are interesting. Love the biblio references. But what is it about Block's dialogue? It seems so unnatural--just never seems like how real people talk. Everyone says the other characters' names over and over again... small potatoes, perhaps, but nags at me nonetheless.
A perfectly innocuous diversion, perfect for reading on the subway. By this point, Block appears to be phoning it in, but this is still an enjoyable - if predictable - book. Good fun that won't strain your brain unduly.
NYC, humor, mystery, law-enforcement, burglar, murder Another fun murder mystery with Bernie Rhodenbarr stuck in the middle. This one is as twisty as the rest, and still manages to have a red herring or two. Carolyn is his best friend and foil as usual, and Det. Ray Kirschman's mangling of names will truly make you spew your caffeine! The rest of the characters really are that as well. This is a reread for me as I wanted to read them in order for once.