Lawrence Block Interview teaser

This is an excerpt from Crimespree 54’s cover story with Lawrence Block.

The issue is out now.


BlockSpoons_CoverRuth Jordan : What made you come back to Bernie?

Lawrence Block: I’d always hoped to. I’ve always enjoyed writing in his voice and seeing the world through his eyes. But wanting to isn’t enough to make it happen. I’m spoiled, and have been for some time; i.e., I can’t write something unless it’s working for me. And the several attempts I made at an eleventh Burglar book just didn’t work. Even when the scenes and dialogue worked, the book just didn’t go anywhere. I had far too many false starts, and it became evident to me that I couldn’t make it work.

And, see, I’d much rather stop writing than write a bad book.

So I thought it was entirely possible that I was done writing novels. And, you know, that’s okay. I’ve written more books than most people have read, for God’s sake, and I figure I’m old enough to stop. I’m not worried that I owe the world more books. A friend once said that he and I had reached the point where the higher moral act was not to write the book but to spare the tree. (And he made that observation many books ago.)

But I wanted to write another book. I just wanted to, and shall I tell you why? It’s a secret, but you won’t tell anybody, will you?

Of course you won’t.

I wanted the adventure of self-publishing. Really. I’d done this and that, reissuing old work in eBook form, even publishing the eleven Matthew Scudder stories as an original eBook and POD trade paperback (The Night and the Music). But what I wanted to do was to take an A-list novel and publish it myself, and I couldn’t do that unless I had such a book, and the only way to get one was to write it.

And I had a lot of story elements, and if I could put them all together I ought to have a book.

So I gave myself ideal conditions. I’ve always preferred to go away to write, and I figured a ship would be even better than a hotel or a writers colony. I booked passage on a North Atlantic cruise, leaving from and returning to Boston (because I’d prefer to manage my life so as to visit airports as infrequently as possible). And, all by myself, I rode to Boston and boarded the ship July 13, and the following morning I booted up my computer and opened a new document and typed THE BURGLAR WHO COUNTED THE SPOONS.

Five weeks later we were back in Boston, one day after I’d typed THE END.

And now I had a book to self-publish. But you’ll keep that part to yourself, won’t you? Please—don’t breathe a word of this to anyone!

***I will not breathe a word to anyone, I will not breathe a word to anyone***

R.J.:  The book is called THE BURGLAR WHO COUNTED THE SPOONS and it’s coming out on a very special day, what made you decide to release it on Christmas?

L.B.  My preceding book, HIT ME, came out something like sixteen months after I handed it in. I was damned if I was going to let that happen again. I am of an age when a prudent man no longer buys green bananas, and anyway I’ve always hated waiting for a book to come out. If I self-published, I wouldn’t have to wait that long. I figured I’d bring the book out sometime in the spring.
In September, a month after I got off the ship, I went to Bouchercon in Albany. (By train! No airport for me!) I went primarily because it would give me a chance to sit down with Erin Mitchell and see if we could work and play well together. We clicked instantly, and she’s been my Marketing Goddess ever since, for which I find myself giving thanks on a daily basis.
At the time I was still weighing other publishing options, several of which were quite attractive. But I kept reminding myself of the impulse that had gotten the book written in the first place, and I knew I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t let Bernie dance with the girl who brung him.
But when? I had a book scheduled for May with my friend Charles Ardai at Hard Case Crime, an early pseudonymous work called Borderline, and I didn’t want to trump his ace by scheduling Spoons around that time. So I asked Erin if late winter or early spring was too soon. Not at all, she said. In fact, she said, what about December? In fact, what about Christmas Day?
Sounded good to me.

R.J.: I’m not breathing a word (fingers crossed Nanna will realize typing it is different) but you’re publishing it.! Tell me about how this process differs from working with a traditional publisher (there’s got to be a better phrase than traditional publishing)?

L.B. : M’dear, I’ve been in this business for 55+ years. (Is it really that long? Yes, it is. Am I really that old? Yes, I am. Gulp.) And this is the busiest I’ve ever been, and the most fun I’ve ever had. Really.

How does it differ? Utterly.

Before I’d made my final decision to go over to what my friend Russell Blake calls the Dark Side, I was discussing it with my agent. He pointed out that we could probably count on an advance of X dollars from a publisher. Could I really expect to sell enough eBooks and HandsomeTradePaperbacks to bring in that much?

Well, I said, how the hell do I know? But it certainly didn’t seem unrealistic, and the only way to know was to roll the dice.


You can read the whole interview in the latest issue of Crimespree, issue 54