Book Review: Block Is Never Lacking In Ideas

Dec 12, 2016

Lawrence Block
Credit Mary Reagan

Prolific mystery writer Lawrence Block, creator of characters Matt Scudder, Bernie Rhodenbarr and Evan Tanner, has never been lacking in ideas. He writes books with colleagues, works under pseudonyms and writes guides for aspiring writers, such as Telling Lies for Fun and Profit

His latest brainchild is an anthology of short stories by 17 authors including Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates and Michael Connelly, called In Sunlight or In Shadow. All of the stories are inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper. Block observes that Hopper’s paintings suggest a story waiting to be told. As he notes, “There is a before and after quality, a future and a past.” With that in mind, each author was instructed to choose a painting from which to draw their story. 

Megan Abbott’s “Girlie Show” is based on the 1941 painting of the same name. Abbott sets the mood for the book with her tension-filled story of a sexual encounter, violence lurking underneath and in the shadows.  L.A.’s bard, Michael Connelly, writes “Nighthawks,” based on the iconic painting from 1942, featuring his popular Detective Hieronymus Bosch, telling a compelling story of the man with his back to us at the diner’s counter.  Jeffery Deaver imagines “Hotel by a Railroad” as a covert message between spies in the form of a letter of confession in the story “The Incident of 10 November.” 

Each story is accompanied by a reproduction of the painting and a brief and conversational bio of the author. The paintings include lesser-known Hoppers as well as classics that expand into the before-and-after narratives inspired by Hopper’s genius depiction of moments in time.  

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