When Lawrence Block was born in Buffalo, New York on June 24, 1938, there was no way anyone could know that he would start his writing career authoring pornography, only to switch to mysteries and eventually be named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. He started publishing short stories while attending Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and married Loretta Ann Kallett in 1960, the year after he graduated. Together they had three daughters, but were divorced in 1973. In 1983, he married Lynne Wood, and has remained with her for nearly two decades. Though they still live in New York City, the couple love to travel, and have been all over the world from Burma to Ireland, and Block has made numerous cross-country booksigning treks.
Block has managed to create several very different mystery series, from the tortured alcoholic detective Matt Scudder to the light-hearted and irreverent humor of burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr, to the disturbingly likeable assassin Keller. He has a fairly rare ability among authors to maintain these vastly different characters without any inadvertent or intentional crossover or repetition. Though each character grows and evolves, they always remain true to their origins. This sets him apart from many other authors, who either find themselves in a rut, writing either the same plot or almost identical characters over and over, or wind up having traits from their various characters bleed into one another so much that it becomes difficult to tell the series apart. The one thing that seems to tie Block's characters together is the author's own often ironic sense of humor, which finds its way into everything he writes.
There is much more to Lawrence Block's writing than just mysteries. He is well known for his kindness to new authors, and has shared his wisdom and experience in several books about the craft, as well as many years as a columnist for Writer's Digest magazine. He also wrote the liner notes for the album Song for Ageing Children by folk singer Dave Van Ronk. The song "Last Call" on that album, in turn, provided the title and epigraph for the Scudder novel When the Sacred Ginmill Closes.
Block has one of the greatest imaginations of any author. His descriptions of Matt Scudder's desperate fight with the inner demons of alcoholism ring true, though the author himself is not an alcoholic. A woman who had once made a living as a burglar complimented him at a signing for seeming to know exactly how burglars operate. Though Bernie Rhodenbarr clearly reflects the author's wit and charm, Block has, as far as anyone knows, never burgled anything. He admits, however, that the Rhodenbarr series did grow out of a time when he contemplated burglary as a career. Thankfully, he stuck with writing instead, and has become one of the most prolific mystery writers of our time, with over 50 books under his belt and showing no signs of slowing down now. The numerous honors, including multiple Edgar and Shamus awards, he has received attest to his skill in the field, and the consistent high quality of his works earned him the prestigous Grand Master in 1994. Anyone who enjoys a good mystery is virtually guaranteed find something to love.
Block, Lawrence. Hope to Die. William Morrow. 2001.
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King, David J. "Lawrence Block's biography." David J. King's Personal Web Site. <http://www.dcs.gla.ac.uk/~gnik/crime-fiction/block/block-biography.html> (December 17, 2002)
Upper, George. "Authors and Creators: Lawrence Block." The Thrilling Detective Web Site. <http://www.thrillingdetective.com/trivia/block.html> (December 16, 2002)
White, Claire E.. "Talking Mystery with Lawrence Block." The Internet Writing Journal®. <http://www.writerswrite.com/journal/oct99/block.htm> (December 16, 2002)