Recent Read: Hollywood vs the Author

HollywoodYou don’t have to be an author or a movie lover to find this collection of interviews/essays fascinating. It’s well known that writers in Hollywoodland are considered cesspool waste or at best necessary evils. This book is a sobering look at the life of writers who dare to go Hollywood. Among the authors included are Lee Goldberg, Michael Connelly, Tess Gerritsen, Lawrence Block, Max Allan Collins, Alexandra Sokoloff, and T. Jefferson Parker.

After reading this interesting and entertaining collection my recommendation to any author who finds himself in the position where a Hollywood producer is offering you an advance on your book, it’s best to just take the money and run.  Let them do with it what they will. They will change it, adding characters, removing  characters, locations, motivations and everything else for reasons that may or may not make sense to you. Once you sign on the dotted line you have no control on what they do to your story and your characters. What they can’t change is your book. Your vision, your story remains the same between between the pages of the book. It will remain intact in bookstores everywhere. So unless your in the Stephen King stratosphere of authors either stay away or take the money and run.

Recent Read: A Time to Scatter Stones

Stones

It’s great to have Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder back, even if it’s a short trip. The two charges leveled against the book by many Amazon and Goodreads reviewers are 1) the book is too short and 2) there is too much sex. In both cases, these are complaints not worth listening to. In the first case, the book is listed, blatantly advertised as a novella. Complaining that a novella is too short is redundant! As for item number two, the blind, the uninformed ant all those who miss the point will whine and complain, but for those who get it, will understand that Mr. Block has written a timely tale of what we read or hear about almost every day, the idea of sexual consent.

In this story, An aging Matt Scudder and his wife Elaine Martell get involved in helping  Ellen, a younger woman, Elaine met at her support group for women, all former call girls. Ellen is being stalked and harassed by a former client who does not understand or won’t accept the meaning of the word no. We only know him by the name of Paul. Paul manages to terrorize Ellen forcing her to consent to his demands without breaking the law keeping the police at bay and making Ellen a helpless victim. Paul is obviously getting off feeling the power he has controlling Ellen.

In helping Ellen, Scudder finds himself searching for a man he has no idea who he is nor what he looks like. In digging in, putting pieces of a puzzle together,  Matt skirts the legal process himself.

A Time to Scatter Stones is a satisfying return with an old friend facing a #metoo world. It’s a short visit, but I for one did not need a full blown three and fifty-page novel to satisfy my soul. Nice to have you back Matt.

Favorite Quotes on Writing

Twelve favorite quotes on writing from ten authors I admire.

Thompson-jim

There is only one plot – things are not what they seem. – Jim Thompson

Truman-Capote

You can’t blame a writer for what the characters say. – Truman Capote

elmore-leonard

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. – Elmore Leonard

Kurt-Vonnegut

Every sentence must do one of two things: reveal character or advance the action – Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Edgar-Allan-Poe-Charles-Smeldon

A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.  Edgar Allan Poe

I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat. –  Edgar Allan Poe

Block

One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off. – Lawrence Block

King

When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done. – Stephen King

If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write – Stephen King

laura-lippman

There’s always time to read. Don’t trust a writer who doesn’t read. It’s like eating food prepared by a cook who doesn’t eat. – Laura Lippman 

RaymondChandlerPromoPhoto

The more your reason, the less you create. – Raymond Chandler

Parker

Sure, I have advice for people starting to write. Don’t. I don’t need the competition. – Robert B. Parker

Recent Books Read and Recommended

In Sunlight or in Shadow – Lawrence Block – Editor

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A compilation of short stories all centered around the work of artist Edward Hopper. It’s an intriguing premise and for the most part the authors pull it off with style. Hopper’s work is filled with images of isolation, loneliness and voyeurism, each lending itself to much interpretation. That’s just what all of these authors do and most do well. There are a couple of mind numbingly  dull entries, but overall this is a worthy collection. Special raves to Stephen King, Jill D. Block, Joe R. Lansdale, Michael Connelly and Nicholas Christopher.

Robert B. Parker’s Debt to Pay – Reed Farrel Coleman 

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Robert B. Parker was one of my favorite authors. His passing back in 2010, needless to say, left a void in my reading. The Parker estate, and Parker’s publishers, chose to continue three of his series characters: Spenser, Jesse Stone, Virgil Cole & Everett Hitch with other authors. Debt to Pay is Coleman’s third book in the Jesse Stone series. Michael Brandman wrote the first three, Coleman has been an improvement and this latest entry is his best so far. He has managed to keep Parker’s essence yet make the characters his own.

Shadows on a Maine Christmas – Lea Wait

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Around Christmas time I always like to find a mystery or two with a holiday theme. While surfing the internet, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, I came across author Lea Wait and this entry in her Antique Print series. The story is set along the coast of Maine, and frankly, that was part of what attracted me to read it. I have visited Maine many times over the years and honestly, its one of my favorite states. Wait’s characters are well developed and I have come to like the author’s main character, Maggie Summer, very much (I am currently reading another book in this series). Additionally, her well defined description of life in Maine adds to the pleasure. If you looking for a page turner, this book won’t satisfy you. It’s leisurely paced giving you time to soak in the atmosphere. Yes there is a murder, but it is just as much about the characters and the space they inhabit.

Home – Harlan Coben

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The drought is over! After at least five years, Harlan Coben has finally brought back Myron and Win in this fast paced thriller about two  young boys who have been missing for ten years. Both wisecracks and thrills fly at a fast speed. Coben’s book are always filled with plenty of unexpected twists and this one is no exception.

Feelin’ the Bern…Rhodenbarr

Before Bernie Sanders there was Bernie Rhodenbarr, Lawrence Block’s expert thief and used bookstore owner. While Bern is good at his chosen profession, unfortunate situations always seem to occur, like an unexpected dead body showing up at the wrong time which forces our anti-hero to have to investigate the murder in order to clear his name.

I have been a admirer of Lawrence Block’s work for years now. He first came to my attention one day, during a lunch break from work, browsing the bookshelves in one of the local libraries. It was one of the his Bernie/Burglar books that caught my attention.

Bogart BlockBernie first appeared in 1977 with Burglars Can’t Be Choosers. With his second outing, the series settled in a series of titles beginning with The Burglar Who… With the third book in the series, The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling, published in 1979, Bernie acquired a bookstore in Greenwich Village. Eventually, Bernie got a cat he named Raffles, a gift from his best friend and Village soulmate Carolyn Kaiser. After all, what second hand bookstore doesn’t need a cat?

In all, there are eleven books in the series plus a few short stories. There is not a bad one in the bunch. The last one, The Burglar Who Counted Spoons, was published in 2013 after a nine year hiatus. The books are chock full of sharp witty dialogue and  wonderful characters.

If you are familiar with Lawrence Block, you know that The Burglar books are just a small piece of his complete output of work. Block’s other great character is Matt Scudder, an ex-cop and recovering alcoholic who does “favors” for friends and clients. Scudder quit the force after accidently causing the death of a young girl. His life soon fell apart; he left his family and moved into an old hotel in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen area where he earned money working as a unlicensed P.I. doing those “favors” as he called them. The Scudder books, as you may have guessed,  are much darker but just as brilliantly written.

TombsIn 2014, an excellent adaptation was made of his novel, A Walk Among the Tombstones, with Liam Neeson as Scudder. Until this film, Block had not had much luck with his work being transferred to the screen. From Nightmare Honeymoon to Burglar, one was worst than the other In the latter film, Bernie was transformed into Bernice and portrayed by Whoopi Goldberg. Nothing against Ms. Goldberg, but who the hell thought  this was a good idea?

From what I have read Block has not expressed much interest in doing anymore Bernie books. Which for me and many fans is sad. Still, we can hope.