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BOOK REVIEW:
ONE NIGHT STANDS AND LOST WEEKENDS:
THE EARLY STORIES
BY LAWRENCE BLOCK

We hope you enjoy this book review by Douglas R. Cobb.



Gritty, hard-nosed, in-your-face hard-boiled detective story author Lawrence Block is a legend in the making. He's written several popular series of novels, such as the Keller's Greatest Hits series, with Hit and Run, the latest one published, just released this past June. He has several collections of short stories to his name, he's edited anthologies of mystery stories, and even has written books for writers, like Telling Lies for Fun and Profit and Spider,Spin Me a Web. And now, collected together for the first time (sort of), are some of Block's earliest short stories and three novellas featuring the private cop, Ed London.

The short stories, by themselves, had been published previously, albeit in a limited distribution to collectors and specialists, under the title One Night Stands. Block mentions in the introduction to this collection that he wrote many of these stories "in a single sitting," so that explains the title. The novellas took him a bit longer, but not a whole lot longer, so he added the "Lost Weekends," part to this collection's title.

Why re-release the short stories with the addition of the London novellas? Block states in the introduction that "I don't think these stories are much good, or representative of my mature work." I don't believe he is expressing false modesty with this statement, but it is often difficult for a writer to judge his/her earlier work, except in a perhaps harsh light. One should take the stories in the context of the times they were written in, also, and that they (like most stories) were written more for the purpose of earning a few dollars than to be some sort of artistic statement. And, the reason for the re-release and the addition of the London novellas is, at least in part, also to earn the author money. Hey, writers don't last long if they "starve for their art," despite some people's romantic notions to the contrary.

So, with this collection, we have Block's early work, which appeared in mystery/crime magazines with titles such as Trapped, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Ed McBain's Mystery Book, and Manhunt. And, they're stories which the author himself refers to as not being as good or "representative," of his "mature work." But, are the stories and novellas in the collection worth reading, suspenseful, and hold one's interest, despite the author's caveat?

For me, I would say yes, they are. The short stories pretty much all have trick or twist endings, which may be a bit formulaic, but which was often (and still is now) demanded by the editors of magazines. Though readers of short stories have come to expect this type of ending and anticipate them, that doesn't mean that a well-written one can't still be satisfying, and Block wrote some of the best examples of this that I've ever read. The titles of short stories, the first things readers see before they begin a story, are also very important, and need to be eye-catching, and Block's stories in this collection demonstrate that, with titles like "Bride of Violence," "Bargain in Blood," "The Badger Game," and "Professional Killer."

These titles, designed to draw the reader's eyes and attentions to them before all the others in the mags, carry over to the Ed London novellas in the collection: "The Naked and the Deadly," "The Stag Party Girl," and "Twin Call Girls." I liked the short stories in this collection, but liked the novellas more, because Block was not constrained so much by length requirements and could develop his characters more and throw in a few red herrings to mislead both the readers and Ed London, as he unravels the cases. For mystery readers and people who like crime noir fiction, One Night Stands and Lost Weekends is hard to beat. Spend a few nights (or weekends!) Losing yourself in the guilty pleasure of reading these early tales, and you'll be glad you did!

REVIEWED BY DOUGLAS R. COBB

DO NOT REPRINT WITHOUT PERMISSION OF THE REVIEWER, DOUGLAS R. COBB


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