Interview: crime book legend Lawrence Block

A name synonymous with crime fiction, Lawrence Block has been writing novels for over 50 years. Known for his Matthew Scudder, Keller, and Bernie Rhodenbarr series, Block is a multi award winning writer, read the world over. His new novel sees him return to a persona not seen in a while. Getting Off is Block writing as his ‘inner lesbian’ Jill Emerson, and was released in the UK this month. A review of the book will appear here very soon but first, I had the exciting honour of asking a few questions of the man himself.

What can our readers expect from Getting Off?
Getting Off is the story of an attractive and personable young woman who takes great delight in picking up men, going home with them, having greatly enjoyable sex with them, and then killing them. She realises that over the years five men have enjoyed her favors and lived to tell the tale. So she has a mission – to track them down and take them off the board.

Getting Off’ sees a return to your pseudonym Jill Emerson, whom you’ve called your inner lesbian.  What made you go back to writing in this persona?
Well, this is my first venture under a pen name in 35 years, and it’s an open one: “Lawrence Block writing as Jill Emerson.”  There are marketing reasons for it, I wanted to make it clear that the book is something rather different than I’ve been writing in recent years, but there’s probably more to it than that. Jill Emerson is an aspect of self, not just a pen name. Back in September I did some dialogues with her, and if you go to Jill Emerson’s Page on my blog and scroll down to September 2011, well, more will become clear.

It is the first hardcover print from Hard Case Crime, itself an imprint of Titan. This far into your career, do you still enjoy big publishing moments like this?
I do seem to enjoy it whenever a new book comes out. And Getting Off was so much fun to write, and the cover’s so great – well, what’s not to enjoy?

You talked in a guest blog for Guilty Conscience about your attempt and subsequent failure to retire. Have you banished any thoughts of retiring now?
You know, I wound up publishing a total of seven new books in the past year. The bulk of those were composed of previously written material never before collected in book form, but A Drop of the Hard Stuff and Getting Off were wholly new novels, and The Night & the Music  included a brand new story, and almost all of the afterwords in Afterthoughts were appearing for the first time, so, as I’ve said, I really seem to have made a dog’s breakfast of retirement. And there’s a new novel written, a fifth Keller book, to be published in early 2013.  With all that said, I nevertheless suspect I’ll be writing far fewer books in years to come. As somebody remarked about tobacco, sooner or later everybody quits smoking; the trick is to be alive when it happens.

You’ve recently got into the whole eBook and self-publishing revolution also. How has that been?
Hugely interesting, even exciting. I don’t know where it’s all headed – which gives me something in common with everybody else in the world. I love the fact that essentially my entire body of work is now available and accessible, and I’ve got into the spirit of things by acknowledging and republishing a lot of pseudonymous early work. And will it wind up like the music business, with everything available and nobody making a living at it? Well, that’s possible, too. But for now I’m having a good time.

Do you still read reviews, and if so do you, as some other writers do, insert the bad reviewers into your novels?
I enjoy and disseminate the good reviews, and delete the others.

What’s coming up in the future?
Well, a double volume, Strange Enbrace/69 Barrow Streetis coming in May as a joint venture of Hard Case Crime and Subterranean Press. And Hit Me – Keller number five – in February 2013. Beyond that I haven’t got a clue.

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  1. Ronald McKinney Reply

    My email pen pal in Australia must be a huge fan of Lawrence Block; he’s a noire addict and not a bad writer himself. His link to this website was frankly the first time I heard your name, although I may have read something you’ve written under a pseudonym.

    I’m impressed by your blog and may some day buy one of your books; the reviews are terrific and those mock interviews with your “inner lesbian” are funny.

    But hey, I’m an old man already. Pulp fiction was something I hid under the mattress as a kid. And even those Gold Medal paperback originals of Mickey Spillane, which came to us on the line in Korea as part of our “P.X. Rations” were kept in the cargo pockets of our camouflage dungarees and read surreptitiously. I don’t know that I’d like reading about sex if it’s more explicit than Spillane’s.

    Recently I’ve enjoyed John Shannon’s “Jack Liffy” tales, so I might also enjoy reading some of your stuff.

    1. Ron McKinney Reply

      Sorry but I forgot to mention why Matthew Asprey of Sidney linked me to your blog; we’ve been discussing the publish on demand and ebook business. He was favorably impressed by your self promotion here.

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