A Drop of the Hard Stuff Paperback – Feb 1 2012
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"Totally gripping....A great American crime novel."―Ed Park, Time
"Block has so perfected a pared-down, hard-boiled style that this story--about good intentions that backfire, fatally--seems to tell itself."―Maureen Corrigan, Washington Post
Mesmerizing....A lament for all the old familiar things that are now almost lost, almost forgotten."―Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review
"A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF is a wise and fascinating addition to the Matthew Scudder cannon. It could not be more welcome, nor could it have been written with more understated craftsmanship. The dialogue sounds exactly like things people say to each other, but it isn't. It's better, quicker, smarter. Read this book attentively. It's much more fun than taking lessons."―Thomas Perry
About the Author
Lawrence Block is a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America, has won multiple Edgar and Shamus awards and countless international prizes. The author of more than 50 books, he lives in New York City.
Top Customer Reviews
A present-day Matt Scudder reminisces with his friend, Mick Ballou about a case in his early days of sobriety, particularly an incident when he was approaching his one-year mark in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). Jack Ellery, now at sixteen months sober, was trying to follow each of the twelve steps; including making reparation to others for the harm he had done them. When Jack is murdered, his AA sponsor asks Matt to find out what happened. Doing so nearly costs Matt his sobriety and his life.
The book opens with a thought we have all considered of 'what if?'.
I have missed Scudder. Block has a wonderful use of language, a great voice and does dialogue so well. It is very natural with excellent flow with just the right touch of humor. In talking to a cop about the investigation into Jack's murder'''it is on my plate, and my mother raised me to finish every'.But on the dinner plate of crime, my friend, Jack Ellery is the Brussels sprouts.' There is a delightful exchange involving the confusion over Buddha, the bouncer at a rough bar, and the Buddha sitting under the bodhi tree. His writing includes wonderful quotes, literary references and small truths that sound cliché because they are true, but they make you think.
Block's sense of place and time add to the depth of the story. You needn't have spent time hanging out in after-hours bars as Block takes you there and draws a chair up to the table for you. His knowledge and love of New York City are apparent in every page, but he is as aware of its dark side and flaws as its attractions.Read more ›
Lawrence Block appears to have experienced a "dry" period in his writing. Aside from a memoir called "Step-by-Step", a Keller short story for Kindle, and some reprints of his earlier Hard Case series, we Block-fans haven't heard much from him. And I, for one, have missed him. His book, "A Long Line of Dead Men", published in the early 1990's is, to me, the best detective/mystery book I've read. "Dead Men" was also in the Matt Scudder series.
Matt Scudder is a recovering alcoholic, former policeman for the NYPD, and now a non-licensed private investigator. He has a lady-friend with whom he has an uncertain relationship, and through his under-the-table investigating business, makes a living. The theme throughout the Matt Scudder series is alcoholism. In some books it's more obvious than in others, and in this one, his latest, the plot revolves around AA, the Step program, and the detritus that falls out in people's lives as they live their day-at-a-time lives. Matt is asked to "look into" the murder of a man he knew as a child who had taken a different path as an adult than Matt. Scudder became a policeman, while Jack Ellery became a petty criminal. But both became alcoholics, and as the book opens in the early 1980's, both meet up at an AA meeting. (Actually, the book opens and ends with Scudder relating the story to his friend Mick Ballou in today's New York City).Read more ›
Herein, Block returns to a format he first used with Scudder in When the Sacred Ginmill Closes, with the present Scudder narrating a much earlier case. We go to Scudder's first year of sobriety in the early 1980's, just after the events of Eight Million Ways to Die. Sympathetic Irish gangster Mick Ballou cameos as the person to whom Scudder tells the story.
An acquaintance from Scudder's childhood comes back into his life, a small-time hood who's gone sober and now, per the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, is in the 'Amends' phase of his eternal recovery. But someone kills him. His guilt-stricken sponsor, who'd pushed him to work fairly quickly through the 12 Steps, hires Scudder to find out who and why. And off we go.
Block does a lovely job of fleshing out Scudder's early-recovery self throughout the narrative. We also get an in-depth look at the workings of Alcoholics Anonymous and those who've sought it out to save themselves. Booze is as much a nemesis as the hidden murderer for Scudder, and the two dovetail neatly in a climactic sequence.
The ending may not satisfy everybody -- there is closure, but not of the bow-wrapped, justice-always-prevails variety. It satisfied me, but, then, I'm always glad to reacquaint myself with Scudder, and after the super-smart serial killer adversary of a couple of the most recent Scudder novels, I liked seeing things return to a more normative scale. Highly recommended, though it you've never read a Matt Scudder mystery before you should probably start at the beginning with A Stab in the Dark and work your way forward.