Wednesday 17 August 2022



While he is probably best known as a novelist and short-story writer, Lawrence Block has produced a rich trove of nonfiction over the course of a sixty-year career. His instructional books for writers are leaders in the field, and his self-described pedestrian memoir, Step By Step, has found a loyal audience in the running and racewalking community.

Over the years, Block has written extensively for magazines and periodicals. Generally Speaking collects his philatelic columns from Linn’s Stamp News, while his extensive observations of crime fiction, along with personal glimpses of some of its foremost practitioners, have won wide acclaim in book form as The Crime of Our Lives.

Hunting Buffalo With Bent Nails is what he’s got left over.

The title piece, originally published in American Heritage, recounts the ongoing adventure Block and his wife undertook, criss-crossing the United States and parts of Canada in their quixotic and exotic quest to find every “village, hamlet, and wide place in the road named Buffalo.” Other travel tales share space with a remembrance of his mother, odes to New York, a disquisition on pen names and book tours, and, well, no end of bent nails not worth straightening. Where else will you find “Raymond Chandler and the Brasher Doubloon,” an assessment of that compelling writer from a numismatic standpoint? Where else can you read about Block’s collection of old subway cars?

A fantastic collection of bits and pieces from favourite author, Lawrence Block. Essays and recollections of family, travelling at home and abroad, memories of other authors, friendships and some of their books, plenty of bits and bobs on New York and his long association with the city and some book introductions that he has penned over the years.

More for my own amusement than anyone's elses. The book comprises:


ABRIDGE THIS .... an essay on some of his books which have been transcribed for audio and why he regrets having allowed some to be truncated. Not any more they won't be.

ALL MY BEST EYES ARE PRIVATE .... real ones he's met and imaginary ie Matt Scudder

ALONE TOO LONG .... some short story origins and the solitude he experienced when they were conceived

APOCALYPSE IN A SMALL TOWN ... a 1948 trip with his father, his novel Small Town, 9/11 in New York

BACK IN THE DAY WITH DVR ... Dave Van Ronk, a singer, a musician, a reminiscence of a 45 year friendship, memories - present and fading, a lamented passing

THE BALLAD OF THE POUND ... a poem, hmm quickly moving on

THE BUMPY ROAD TO INSPIRATION ... a travel essay, Egypt, China, camels, Bangkok, Myanmar

CHEERS FOR THE MUCH-MALIGNED MOTEL ... no fixed abode, motel hopping and some handy hints for travellers

COLLECTING OLD SUBWAY CARS ... NYC subway, anecdotes, scenes in his books, comparisons with other cities, crime,

DONALD E. WESTLAKE ... a 40 year friendship, the variety of his work, a lost book and more

EAST SIDE, WEST SIDE ... Larry Ritter, boxing, baseball

FOLLOW THE SERENDIPITY ROAD ... travelling on Buffalo hunts, corn places, wax museums, Seven-Up cans, a clay factory, a local court

GAMBLERS, SWINDLERS, KILLERS AND THIEVES ... an intro to an anthology of the same name

GETTING BUSTED ... a recounting of an incident as a young man down Mexico way

GREENWICH VILLAGE THROUGH THE YEARS ... the neighbourhood, Block's memories of it, the attitude, the changes over time, Bernie Rhodenbarr

HAM FOR BREAKFAST ... another intro this time to Jewish Noir 2
"Here's every Jewish holiday in three sentences:
(1) "They tried to kill us."
(2) "We survived."
(3) "Let's eat."

HOW TO BE A WRITER WITHOUT WRITING ANYTHING ... ego and avarice rule, get paid without putting in the hard yards. I never knew V.C. Andrews had written 78 novels after her death. Ditto (but change the numbers) Robert B. Parker, Robert Ludlum, Rex Stout, Mickey Spillane etc etc. 
I do like the fact that Block seems unwilling to consider loaning out Scudder or Bernie to A. N. Other author. 

Or curate an anthology and get a band of author friends and associates to chip in. see Collectibles, In Sunlight or in Shadow, At Home in the Dark etc etc 

HOW WE'VE CHANGED ... the erosion of regionalism and the rise of the chain/franchise in the US

HUNTING BUFFALO ... late 80s and road tripS with wife Lynne tracking down Buffalos on the map..... 3 counties, 18 towns, plus Springs, Gaps, Valleys, Creeks, a list of 76 different locales follows

INTRODUCING MANHATTAN: A DARK DUET .... another introductory essay - actually two essays

LISTOWEL, A SPECIAL PLACE ... a bit of a lament for a place that has changed since his visits in the 70s

THE MAGIC OF MINNEAPOLIS ... a Bouchercon speech and a terrible magician

THE MEAN STREETS OF GOTHAM ... New York by any other name and a village in Nottinghamshire where they used to keep goats apparently - make of that what you will Batman.

NO SLINGS, NO ARROWS ... "You can't make a Hamlet without breaking legs."

A PEN NAME? REALLY? AFTER ALL ... pseudonyms, erotica novels, adventure novels

A RARE AND RADIANT MOTHER ... probably the most personal piece in the whole book. He talks about his father, mostly his mother and his sister. I think it's the most I ever read about Block the person as opposed to snippets on Block the writer.

RAYMOND CHANDLER AND THE BRASHER DOUBLOON .... a piece about a Chandler and a coin which features in one of his books. Block used to have an interest in coins himself. Interesting but it hasn't made me want to pick the book up.

TRAVEL BY NUMBER ... collecting countries and a unique club devoted to the same.


WRITING MY NAME .... signing books, new, old, repetition, repetition, repetition


Entertaining, never less than interesting, great narration and a wonderful accompaniment to numerous commutes and exercise runs. Did I love all the pieces? Probably not, but that's just fine.

Superb narration from Peter Berkrot. At times it felt like I had great company in the car with me, regaling me with interesting anecdotes and memories. It was also a bit of a change from my usual reading, which was an added bonus. 

4.5 stars from 5

Read – (listened to) March, 2022

Published – 2019

Page count – 258 (8 hrs 36 mins)

Source – review copy from author

Format - Audible 


  1. Oh, this looks like a great set of insights into Block's life and experiences, Col. And I'll bet he has a really interesting perspective on what he and his wife saw and did. Is there nothing he can't write?

    1. Ha maybe I'll pass on his efforts at poetry! It's a really enjoyable book, Margot