Officially, this happened when the Mystery Writers of America declared it so in 1993, but unofficially, this was obvious the first time he picked up a pen. The author of over sixty novels, hundreds of short stories and at least five notable series, Mr. Block is one of the greatest writers in his field. He confesses that he's made a "dog's dinner of his own retirement" with six new books out in 2011, as well as the (long overdue) eBook release of his backlist.
One of his 2011 releases, the sexy-sinister Getting Off, was with Hard Case Crime, who have been diligently bringing some of the best of Mr. Block's books (new and old) to readers.
We had the opportunity to ask Mr. Block a few quick questions.
Pornokitsch: Getting Off is the triumphant return of Jill Emerson, one of your earliest pen names. Ms. Emerson is perhaps best known for her work on steamy Midwood Press titles. What prompted you to bring her out of retirement?
Lawrence Block: It was all her idea. While I was writing Getting Off, she pointed out that it was very much her kind of thing. “Put my name on it,” she said. “Play fair, dammit.”
PK: Portions of Getting Off first appeared as short stories in various anthologies. When did you decide that Kit Tolliver’s adventures should be collected (and extended) as a single volume?
LB: Three or four episodes in, I realized I was doing what I’d done a few times before — unwittingly writing a novel on the installment plan.
PK: Kit is a terrifyingly amoral protagonist in a terrifyingly amoral world. How do you (or Jill) get into the head of such a frightening person?
LB: (I’ll let Jill take this one.) “You really think so? Gee, she just seems like a fun-loving young woman to me.”
PK: Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Kit’s character is her self-awareness. Why did you make the decision to craft Kit in a way that she knows she’s bonkers?
LB: My writing’s more intuitive than intellectual. If I made any decisions I did so unconsciously. I just let Kit be Kit, as it were. (And she’d probably tell you: “I may be crazy but I’m not stupid.”)
PK: Killing Castro (2009) was one of our favorite reads last year. Originally published during the Cuban Missile Crisis, will fresh readers interpret the book in a different way?
LB: I’m delighted people are reading the book, after all these years, and have no idea how they’ll interpret it. I wrote an afterword to the eBook, to be found in Afterthoughts, and in it recall the circumstances of the book’s creation.
PK: Although you famously write a wide range of character styles as Lawrence Block, you also have novels under a variety of pseudonyms. What prompts you to write eponymously and when do you feel a pseudonym is best? Are there any of your other pen names you’d like to bring back?
LB: Getting Off is the first book in over thirty-five years with a pen name on it. I’ve reissued a lot of those eary pseudonymous efforts lately, with open pen names: “Lawrence Block writing as…” I’m fine with that, but doubt I’ll do any new work under pen names.
PK: Grifter’s Game holds a position of pride as “HCC-001” - the first book released by Hard Case Crime. 5 books later (7, as of May!), how have you enjoyed the experience?
LB: Charles has always been a pleasure to work with, and I’ve always been pleased to be associated with Hard Case Crime. Indeed, when Charles wanted to publish Evan Hunter’s Matt Cordell stories as The Gutter and the Grave, Evan called to ask what I thought of Charles, and did I think those stories should be reissued. I gave Charles high marks and said I recalled Matt Cordell fondly, and the book wound up doing very well for HCC.
LB: Don’t read much these days, but I do enjoy Christa Faust.
PK: Gregory Manchess’ cover art for Getting Off is breathtaking, but you’ve also had gorgeous covers from Chuck Pyle (Grifter’s Game, A Diet of Treacle), Sharif Tarabay (Killing Castro) and the legendary Robert McGinnis (The Girl with the Long Green Heart, 69 Barrow Street/Strange Embrace). This is a cruel thing to ask, but which is your favorite?
LB: I think they’re all outstanding. But my favorite would have to be Getting Off. Somebody suggested shelf cards for bookstores: “If you lick it, you buy it!”
PK: Thank you very much. It was an honor getting to chat with you.
LB: My pleasure!
Lawrence Block's bibliography is too long to summarise, but his recent work includes A Drop of the Hard Stuff (Mulholland) and his 'collaboration' with Jill Emerson, Getting Off (Hard Case Crime). If you need further convincing, our reviews of both Getting Off and Killing Castro are still lurking around our archives. Mr. Block blogs at LawrenceBlock.com and tweets as @LawrenceBlock.