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Book Nook: A Writer Prepares by Lawrence Block

Vick Mickunas' 2021 interview with Lawrence Block

Last year I interviewed Lawrence Block for his novel "Dead Girl Blues" which was primarily set in Lima, Ohio. This creepy tour de force is written from the viewpoint of a serial killer who is looking back fondly at a vile act he perpetrated years ago. Now he's become a pillar of his community, married, with children, a successful businessman who is hiding in plain sight. From killer, to pillar!

The crime he committed remains unsolved. As he fantasizes about doing something like that again we wonder; will he ever pay for his sins? We can hope. Block published that book on June 24, his birthday. He never expected to write that story. He had essentially stopped writing novels. But something compelled him to do it. And this scary book is truly one of the masterworks in a bibliography that is so long and complicated it boggles the imagination.

If you look up the word "prolific" in the dictionary it should definitely include a photo of Lawrence Block. His industrious, illustrious writing career began in the late 1950's and now continues with another book he never thought he would publish, a memoir called "A Writer Prepares." In this book which will be published on June 24 (Happy Birthday, LB!), Block looks back at his early days as he was honing his craft. He was cranking out books and stories, pulp fiction, erotica. He employed various pen names.

After Block became an established writer of crime fiction under his own name he had distanced himself from those early works. When fans would ask him to autograph material written under various pen names he would refuse while neither confirming nor denying his connections to them.Now apparently the passing of time has softened that stance. In this new memoir he describes writing those books. He has embraced them now and has been working to reissue many of them. This book is a tribute to all the work that went into becoming a successful writer. One important aspect of his process was that Block immersed himself in reading the mediocre work of other writers who were trying to get published. This internship in which he read really bad stuff was crucial for him. It wasn't studying the masters that did it. It was scrutinizing the slushy pile of bad manuscripts that crossed his desk when he was working at a literary agency in New York during a co-op study program for Antioch College. That co-op became a springboard that helped to launch his writing career.

I am currently writing a book. From now on whenever I get bogged down I'll think about the young Lawrence Block hammering away on his typewriter and that inspirational image alone will make me sit right back down at the keyboard. Thanks, LB!

The Book Nook on WYSO is presented by the Greene County Public Library with additional support from Washington-Centerville Public Library, Clark County Public Library, Dayton Metro Library, and Wright Memorial Public Library.

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Vick Mickunas introduced the Book Nook author interview program for WYSO in 1994. Over the years he has produced more than 1500 interviews with writers, musicians, poets, politicians, and celebrities. Listen to the Book Nook with Vick Mickunas for intimate conversations about books with the writers who create them. Vick Mickunas reviews books for the Dayton Daily News and the Springfield News Sun.