Monday, April 6, 2020

A Trawl Among the Shelves: Lawrence Block Bibliography, 1958-2020: Guest Post by Terry Zobeck

A Trawl Among the Shelves: Lawrence Block Bibliography, 1958-2020

A Trawl Among the Shelves: Lawrence Block Bibliography, 1958-2020 is a comprehensive and authoritative documentation of the works of Lawrence Block. I recently published it, with Larry’s full cooperation, as an eBook and paperback available on Amazon and as an eBook on many other platforms.

Readers of crime fiction are certainly familiar with Larry’s many books. They know the urban noir novels of Matthew Scudder, the urbanely witty tales of Bernie Rhodenbarr, and the melancholy accounts of hit-man John Keller. Many, too, know that Block is also Jill Emerson, Chip Harrison, and Paul Kavanagh. The more obsessive Block collectors also know that once upon a time he was Sheldon Lord and Andrew Shaw and several others.

But chances are excellent that not even the most ardent Block collector knows he also was Rodney Canewell, Howard Bond, Trevor Cole, Horace Bull, L. A. Kallett, Walter C. Brown, M.D., C. O Jones, and John J. Abbott, or that he ghost-wrote books for Rex Lardner, humorist and nephew of Ring, and Bob Harrison, publisher of Confidential, and an article on scuba gear for actor Lloyd Bridges of Sea-Hunt fame.

All of Larry’s work and that of his alter-egos is documented in A Trawl Among the Shelves arranged in seven categories: separate publications, first appearance contribution to books, first appearance in periodicals, ephemera, music/film/television/radio/stage, unlocated, and juvenilia.

A Trawl Among the Shelves benefited greatly from Larry’s involvement. My timing in sending him my initial draft last fall was a happy coincidence. It so happened he was in the initial stages of pulling together his papers in preparation of sending them to the rare book collection of the University of Carolina’s Library.

Within 24 hours he responded with many corrections and suggestions, and, most importantly, encouragement; though his initial dismay at seeing over 700 entries led to his suggestion that I title it The Man Who Wrote Too Much. I responded that while I thought it lacked a certain gravitas as a title for the bibliography, it would make a wonderful title for an afterword, if he would consent to write one. Much to my delight, he did. And he introduced me to his “production goddess”, Jaye Manus who designed the book and its cover.

Over the next several months Larry and I exchanged numerous emails. His would note long-forgotten pieces of which he couldn’t always recall the details of their publication. Mine would report on my research at the Library of Congress and on the Internet following up on his leads. A Trawl Among the Shelves ultimately documented 824 separate entries, including novels, short stories, anthologies, story collections, memoir, non-fiction, essays, book reviews, magazine columns, introductions/afterwords, songs, screenplays, and various types of ephemera.

Unless Larry has a sudden revelation or uncovers some long-lost documentation, I am confident that A Trawl Among the Shelves represents as complete and exhaustive a documentation of his pseudonymous work as possible. During its compilation, Larry even came across a collection of the covers of many of these books. He’s recounted on several occasions that he used to tear them off and tack them to the wall above his desk.

He thought he had lost them in one of his many moves. As a result, he was able to confirm about a dozen Andrew Shaw titles as his work. I scanned the opening pages of a couple of other Shaw titles for which he was long-thought by some collectors to have written. He was quickly able to determine they were not his work.

Among the previously undocumented pseudonymous books are more sex-novels, a sexual case history book, a non-fiction book for adolescents, and a book on investing in U.S. and foreign coins. One of the novels, Sex Takes a Holiday by Howard Bond, came to light as result of Larry’s afterword. He discusses a book he wrote for a fellow whose name he’s forgotten, if he ever even knew it, who wanted to start his own line of erotic paperback books. Larry met him in Times Square, collected his $500, and handed over the book. He never knew if it was published and could not remember a thing about it except for the pen-name he chose, Howard Bond, the name of the typing paper he used.

My quick Internet search identified several books of photography and Sex Takes a Holiday by a Howard Bond. After some little thought, I concluded that Howard the photographer was probably not the Howard the pornographer and purchased the latter’s book. Upon its arrival I scanned the first few pages and sent them to Larry. Voila! Lost novel found.

But A Trawl Among the Shelves doesn’t only document Larry’s pseudonymous work. Indeed, the main focus is on the many books, short stories and other works he has published under his own name since 1958. And there is an impressive amount of it, much of it of high quality and enduring interest, testament to the career of a professional writer who never wanted to do anything else in life since the age of 15.

For an English class in his junior year of high school Larry was required to write a paper on what he wanted to be when he grew up. He covered all the usual bases in a light-hearted manner and concluded with “On reading over this composition, one thing becomes clear. I can never be a writer.” Miss Jepson disagreed, gave him an A, and wrote in the margin, “I wouldn’t be too sure of that!” And that was it.

In “The Man Who Wrote Too Much” Larry writes how reading the bibliography got him to thinking about his productivity and motivation for writing; he concludes:

I found, finally, that one thing hadn’t changed, that all I really wanted was to be a writer. 

In an introduction to one of his books of poetry, E. E. Cummings makes the point that what sets him apart from most people is his obsession with making something—specifically poems, in his case. And that, I suppose, is what makes me write so much. Not because I have something important to tell you, not because I’ve a need to express myself. No, what I really appear to need is to pull words and thoughts and images out of the ether, throw them on a sheet of paper or a computer screen, and wind up having produced something that did not previously exist. Here, where once was nothing, there is now a new book.

A Trawl Among the Shelves: Lawrence Block Bibliography, 1958-2020 is available here
and on various e-platforms.

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