I make no secret of the fact that I’m a big fan of crime writer Lawrence Block.  I’ve profiled him in one article and placed him atop my baker’s dozen list of favorite authors.  He has written novels, short stories, and even writes a monthly column in a philately magazine.  Additionally, he has written books for other authors – books that have been instrumental in my own writing.

Just as importantly, he is FUN.  His web site is a departure from the sterile sites you see elsewhere.  If you look carefully, you can see that he is actually selling books on the site (autographed), but the sales seem to take a back seat to the newsletter and other general chatter.  Really, you get the feeling that you are “in the know”.  Even the bookselling sounds like a quaint operation involving one guy shoving each book into a box and hand-printing the address.

Block is 73 years old, and is showing no signs of slowing down.  He recently released a new Matthew Scudder novel, A Drop of The Hard Stuff.  September will see the release of Getting Off: A Novel of Sex & Violence (I have no idea what that might be about) with Block writing under the pseudonym Jill Emerson.

I don’t have the details of Block’s financial status (that would be a bit stalker-ish), but with millions of sales under his belt, I suspect that he doesn’t need to postpone grocery shopping until his Social Security check arrives.  He’s past the customary retirement age, and it would be perfectly understandable if he decided to ride off into the sunset and simply quit writing.  But he hasn’t – he continues to write (although it’s been a damn long time since the last Bernie novel).

Several months ago, I found the septuagenarian on Facebook.  Unlike some authors, who only say something when they’re trying to sell you their new book (or get you to see the movie based on their book), Block interacts with his fans – from the “Rabbit, rabbit” for good luck on the first of every month to the daily affirmations for writers.  In between, he shares interesting insights, stories, and photos (he’s also a world traveler).  He actually – GASP – responds when people comment on his status.  He interacts with his Facebook friends as if they are, well … his friends.  Yes, he does occasionally link to items for sale – but in his typically self-deprecating manner.

He is also a man who embraces technology.  Recently, he has been bombing the landscape with Kindle versions of his short stories.  Brilliant, really, because who can argue that 99 cents is too high a price?  With the relatively low amount of work that goes into preparing an electronic edition, it’s easy to cost-justify the time spent – and it allows fan to get their grubby little paws (er, Kindles) on stories that haven’t been published in many years.

When block turned 73 back on on June 24, he celebrated bu jumping onto Twitter.  More recently, he launched his own blog (smartly opting for WordPress, the same software that powers The Soap Boxers).  What’s next – FourSquare :)

All in all, it seems like Lawrence Block is having a great time playing with all the new technology and having a grand time chatting with all his fans.  You want to know a great way to build loyalty in your fan base?  Interact with them as if there were peers – exactly what Block does.

I happen to have a signed copy of a Lawrence Block book.  No, I haven’t been lucky enough to meet him at a signing, nor did I buy one from his site.  While at a chain retail store that sells new and used books, I saw a copy of One Night Stands and Lost Weekends on the bargain shelf for $2.  I already had a copy, but was with a friend of mine who had never read any of Block’s work.  I grabbed the book and intended to present it as a gift.  On the way back to the office, I was flipping to the table of contents (don’t worry – I was a passenger) to tell my friend how many stories were included in my collection.  Imagine my surprise when I found myself in possession of an autographed copy.

I kept the autographed book and bought my friend a nice copy of Enough Rope – which is a far longer collection, anyway.  I’d call that a win-win situation.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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