Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Stories from the Grand Master

This book contains seventy-one short stories written by Lawrence Block--virtually all of the stories he had written through 1999, when the book appeared. The principal exception would be some of the Keller stories which had just been published in Hit Man.

There are several Matthew Scudder stories in the volume, all of which appear with other stories in The Night and The Music, which was released in 2011. The volume also includes a few stories featuring Chip Harrison, Bernie Rhodenbarr and Martin Ehrengraf, the dapper defense attorney whose clients are always innocent, simply by virtue of the fact that they are represented by Ehrengraf. Evan Tanner, Block's other series character apparently had not appeared in any short stories by the time this collection was published.

The bulk of the collection, though, consists of stories that do not feature any of Block's familiar characters and, like the others, they are uniformly entertaining. I particularly enjoyed "Like a Bone in the Throat," in which a man testifies against the killer who murdered his sister but then begins a correspondence with him once the killer has gone to prison. In "The Tulsa Experience," two brothers take a vacation to Oklahoma, which turns out to be more exciting than one might expect of the average Oklahoma vacation. "Like a Bug on a Windshield" will make anyone think twice before flipping off an obnoxious truck driver again.

Another of my favorites is "Three in the Side Pocket," in which a man walks into a bar and meets an attractive woman. Interesting and unexpected things follow. The same is true of virtually all of the characters and situations that Block has created in these stories. They originally appeared in a variety of places through the years and most are virtually impossible to find in the original sources. It's great to have them collected in this large volume and any fan of Lawrence Block will want to have this book in his or her collection.(

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