Thursday, July 14, 2011

Down Mean Streets With Lawrence Block Part IV

More of our 1995 interview with Lawrence Block…..
JA: And your future books?
LB: There is an upcoming Burglar book in June.
JA: Really!?
LB: The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart. That's the next book that will be coming out.
JA: Can you give us a quick preview?
LB: Sure. It will remind people in certain ways of The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca, I suspect. In the course of it Bernie, because of a relationship he's involved in, goes to the movies every night during a Humphrey Bogart festival. So he sees two Bogart films every night, and this inevitably begins to bleed into his psyche as the case goes on.
JA: Sounds great. One of your most significant villains was James Leo Motley. From what sick part of your brain did he come from?
LB: (Laughs.) I don't know. He was just sort of there! He was such a good villain, I was sorry to kill him. When I finished that book, I thought that it was not sound economics. I should've gotten more than one book out of James Leo Motley. But as I said before, the bad guys are as much aspects of myself as the heroes. (His grin sneaks up on him.) I don't rush to proclaim this!
JA: Maybe there's a Motley prequel somewhere.
LB: Never know.
JA: I think it's fascinating that Scudder in essence executed Motley at the end. That's another adventure that changed Scudder as a man, and because of that Motley is more interesting a villain than someone like, say, Hannibal Lecter.
LB: Pretty compelling character, though, Hannibal Lecter. I don't know that I always manage it, but I like to try to get in touch with the humanity of the bad guy. For me one of the more interesting things about A Walk Among The Tombstones, for example, was that the villain was a real nasty guy. And there was one window of opportunity where Scudder was talking to him at the end, and the sense of the person came through. I thought that was interesting. There's a non-series book of mine called Random Walk, I don't know if you know it, that has a serial killer. It's a multiple viewpoint book, and about a third of it is from his viewpoint. I don't know if anything you do at a keyboard takes a tremendous amount of courage -- it's not like facing man-eating tigers in Borneo -- but the one thing my work does demand is the courage to confront parts of one's self that one would prefer not to look at. And that happens sometimes in the villain, and sometime in the hero.
JA: Have you come away disappointed with what you learned of yourself through other characters? Or happy?
LB: No, not sorry. But generally one is reluctant to look into the dark corners of one's self. But what you learn eventually is that they are there anyway, whether you look or not.
JA: Any thoughts on a writer's life? Would you tell your son to be a plumber?
LB: I've told my kids to do whatever they want. But I think that it's a wonderful life. I'm enormously grateful for it. That doesn't mean that every moment of it is unmitigated joy, but that's okay.
JA: Didn't you own a gallery somewhere at some point?
LB:  Oh yeah, for one year in 1970-71. In New Hope, PA. I opened it so I would have something to do.
JA: Were you writing at the time?
LB: I was writing and living in the country. Writing would only take up so much of my time. I would go into the city to an apartment I kept there and hole up and write. But I needed something to do for the rest of the time, where there would be people to talk to. So I opened a gallery. Didn't last terribly long, but it was interesting to do. But as soon as the lease was up, I was out of there.
JA: What sort of work did you exhibit and sell?
LB: Whatever artist would turn up, I'd take their work. Some good stuff.
JA: Did you get a book out of it?
LB: No.
JA: Not yet.
LB: I learned certain things, not the least of which is I'll never do it again. But I was thinking about all of that recently when I was thinking of the amount of non-writing work that I was doing these days. The amount of correspondence, interviews, book tours, speeches, all the stuff, and I was contrasting that to twenty years ago when the only work-related thing I did was write. That, and every once in awhile carry the manuscript to my agent. And that was why, for example, that I had the time to do something like open a gallery. But now... no time! I'm not objecting. I like what I'm doing. And I could certainly cut down on some of it if I wanted to, like eliminate some of the travel and correspondence, but it's manageable.

Tomorrow we conclude our interview!

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