Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book: The Night and the Music, by Lawrence Block (2011)

I could begin this post by talking about how essential Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder books were to getting me hooked on crime fiction as a teenager, but I won’t. In part because I’ve mentioned it almost every time a new Scudder title comes out – Block’s still writing ‘em, so I’m still reading ‘em – but mainly because screenwriter/director Brian Koppelman does a better job covering the same ground in his introduction to this new collection of Scudder short stories.

The pieces appear in the order of publication. The first entry, “Out the Window,” has a strong 1970s vibe, while “The Merciful Angel of Death” vividly captures the desperation of the early years of the AIDS crisis. But the stories ultimately mirror the arc of the Scudder series, with the ex-cop and occasionally licensed private investigator making peace with his alcoholism and reflecting on his past. The last two, “Mick Ballou Looks at the Blank Screen” and “One Night at Grogan’s,” have the unmistakable air of valedictory about them. But then I’ve thought that Block was bringing down the curtain on Scudder before only to be happily proven wrong.

In fact, if I have a complaint about The Night and the Music it’s that it comes hard on the heels of A Drop of the Hard Stuff, a particularly strong outing published only a few months ago. A year from now I’ll be desperate for more Matt and would have paid a king’s ransom for this collection. But who knows? Maybe there’ll be another Scudder book by then. Stranger things have happened. In the meantime, pick up The Night and The Music right now for a song.