Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Afterthoughts, Version 2.0 by Lawrence Block

I'm going to try not to repeat what I wrote here nine years ago about the first edition, but that will be difficult: it's still largely the same book, if spruced up, reorganized, expanded and improved.

So let me start with the TL;DR version of both posts: Lawrence Block is a smooth, engaging writer who has had a long, interesting career, mostly in the fields of crime fiction, and Afterthoughts, Version 2.0 collects afterwords from a wide variety of his books, almost all written in the last decade and a half, which provide amusing (and generally consistent) background details and context about the writing of those books and his life at the time, over the previous fifty years. It is not an memoir - that is the more recent A Writer Prepares - but it's something of a companion to that memoir, and is more focused on the details related to specific books. And I think fans of writers typically do want details around specific books.

You're probably not interested in this book if you've never read Block. If you have never read Block, but do like 20th century American crime fiction, let me aim you towards The Sins of the Fathers (hardboiled PI), Burglars Can't Be Choosers (humorous cozy), Hit Man (crime), or Small Town (expansive thriller).

OK, so, with that out of the I actually have anything else substantive to say?

Afterthoughts is well organized - an amusing thing I've noticed with Block is that he seems to have very little patience for arranging pieces of prose: his pieces about his short-fiction collections complain that he doesn't know how to put stories in a pleasing order, so he defaults to chronological or alphabetical order when forced to do so. (And that makes me wonder how his recent career as an anthologist has been going. Surely he doesn't just plop the stories into the book in the order they're turned in to him, does he?) But, in this book, he's first broken up his vast corpus into categories (one-off novels, series, short fiction, his general sex novels and those written as Jill Emerson, etc.) and then arranged the afterwords within each category in sometimes-chronological fashion. Given what Block has written about organizing collections, elsewhere and in this book, that was probably a huge pain for him, but it's appreciated. (Note: the first edition was also organized in basically the same way, so this was likely a pain for Block, or some editor at Open Road Media, about a decade ago.)

Otherwise, this is basically all of the material in the first edition, with some corrections and probably some elisions (to keep from saying the same thing too many times), plus quite a bit of new material from books republished in the decade since that first edition. I bought it and read it despite owning the first one, so I do think that's worthwhile and reasonable. (Of course we always think the things we've already done are worthwhile and reasonable: how could we not?)

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