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The prolific and gifted American crime writer.
What, in relation to your writing, are you most proud of?
That I’m still at it after 60+ years as a professional writer. I keep thinking I’m about to retire, but I’ve made an utter ass of retirement. Terry Zobeck has compiled my bibliography, and the lists are endless. He asked me to provide an Afterword, and I titled it ‘The Man Who Wrote Too Much’.
At what point in your life did you start to describe yourself as an author?
I don’t know. There was a day—oh, perhaps 45 years ago—when I had a letterhead printed: “Lawrence Block, Hack Writer and Plagiarist, 235 West End Avenue, etc.” (I’d read that F. Scott Fitzgerald so designated himself on his letterhead, so I appropriated it—which rather demonstrated its accuracy, wouldn’t you agree?)
What did you buy with your first royalty cheque?
The first cheque I received for a piece of writing was $10, from The War Cry, the magazine of the Salvation Army, for a piece entitled ‘We Found God on the Bowery’. What did I buy with it? A drink, probably.
What is the first crime story you remember reading?
It was in the Book of Genesis. Two brothers, if I remember correctly. Can’t seem to recall the names or details, but it had an impact…
I’ve been a professional writer for over sixty years. I’ve won a batch of awards, some of which I may even have deserved. The new bibliography lists 201 books, 88 articles or stories that made their first appearance in books, 409 that appeared first in periodicals. The Man Who Wrote Too Much indeed.
Born June 24, 1938, in Buffalo, New York. Graduated from Bennett High School in 1955, attended Antioch College. Have lived mostly in New York City ever since, and reside there now with my wife, the erstwhile Lynne Wood. Have three daughters and four granddaughters. Just completed a semester as writer-in-residence at Newberry College in Newberry, South Carolina, and will do this again in the fall of 2020—and, really, for as long as they’ll have me.
I can certainly say something about the great satisfaction that came with my having been awarded the Diamond Dagger. No award has ever meant more to me. I had been profoundly gratified a few years earlier to receive the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master award, but in a sense that was to be expected; my place in American crime fiction was such that eventual Grand Master status was in the cards.
But this was not true of the Dagger. There was nothing at all inevitable about it. It’s an honor given to very few of my countrymen, and I was not half chuffed to get it, and am still grateful for it.
As for my thoughts on publishing and how it’s evolved, I wouldn’t know where to begin. All changed, changed utterly—those could be my first words, but they’d do for almost any look backward, in any area.
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