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Lawrence Block on Matt Scudder

March 23, 2011

LAWRENCE Block’s Matthew Scudder was the first fictional detective I REALLY loved. He was an alcoholic former cop who inhabited some of the Manhattan bars I went out of my way to find when I went to NYC in the early 90s.

But, he was much more than just a Manhattan bar fly or a character you would imagine to be in the background of a Kojak episode. He was a bright, intense, intelligent, conflicted and charismatic man who changed the PI/ cop paradigm I was used to.

He had the usual traits you associate with the PI, a background of chaos, breakage and dysfunction. He is divorced, involved in bouts of debilitating blackout drinking, he is recovering from accidentally shooting someone in the course of his former a career and knows the denizens of Manhattan’s nightlife that allow him to investigate murders and missing people.

There is much about Scudder that represents Block in his own life in the early 70s when he started writing him. He lives in the same area and he certainly had his battles with the bottle, if not as seriously as Scudder.

The Scudder series has come to a halt now, after 16 books dating back to the 1970s,  he is now old and content and living with his second wife Elaine, a former escort girl turned art dealer. He is too docile and happy to be brought out of retirement. It’s excellent that the author feels so much for the old boy.

That you have so many novels, spread over a long period you get a sense of becoming engrossed in a life developing, witnessing it in real time almost.

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