Give An Author A Second Chance

June 27, 2012

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Lawrence Block & Robert Silverberg

Lawrence Block (left) & Robert Silverberg

Regular readers know that my favorite author is Lawrence Block.  Block has been writing since the 1950s, and continues to write new work.  About a decade ago, a friend gave me Burglars Can’t be Choosers, and I was hooked.  In pretty quick succession, I read all of the burglar books and also started working my way through Block’s Matt Scudder books.

There are ten Burglar books and seventeen Scudder novels (plus a short story anthology).  I’ve put more than a few dollars in Block’s pocket over the years.  I’ve also read some of his books on writing, and of course his short story omnibus Enough Rope.

Block also has three series of novels based on the following characters:

  • Evan Tanner – Tanner has the sleep center in his brain destroyed as the result of a war injury, and is now incapable of sleep.  He uses the extra eight hours of each day to learn about a myriad of topics, and manages to get himself involved in a lot of international escapades.
  • Keller – A professional hit man who actually had a conscience.
  • Chip Harrison – A private detective who works a boss who is infatuated with Nero Wolfe.

On the surface, I should love two of these characters.  The destroyed sleep center aspect of Tanner is cool, as well as his interesting take on politics.  Keller is a hit man who spends his spare time (and money) collecting stamps, of all things.  I’ve never read Nero Wolfe, so the Chip Harrison novels wouldn’t be something that would necessarily be my cup of tea.

So I bought a Tanner and Keller book.  I hated them and wasn’t able to finish them.  I was disappointed that I was unable to appreciate books written by my favorite author, but fiction is very much a matter of taste, and I simply didn’t like them.

Fast forward five or six years.  I was in the public library looking for some audio books to read.  I saw a Keller book.  On a whim, I decided to give it a shot.  I was surprised to discover that I enjoyed the book immensely.  I read the other Keller books and liked all of them.  I liked them so much that I pre-ordered the upcoming Keller book, Hit Me.  The book doesn’t come out until February, but I’ve had my pre-order in for a couple of months.

I also rediscovered Tanner.  My rediscovery in this case was two-forked.  It turns out that Tanner was a favorite character of a good friend’s dad.  The friend’s dad served his country in Vietnam, raised his son alone after his wife deserted them, and fought a courageous battle against cancer – an outstanding role model for his son and the community.  After he passed away, I often thought of reading some Tanner books, just to see if I could see the same things he saw in them.  A bit later, I read Lawrence Block’s Afterthoughts, a collection of the forewords and afterwords from his books.  Block’s thoughts about the Tanner books were the clincher – I needed to give them a second chance.  I found out that I liked the Tanner books as well.

I have yet to read the Chip Harrison books … but I’m sure that in time I will.

If you have every given up on an author, or on a book, I urge you to give it a second chance a bit later.  The years won’t change the text in the book, but they will change you, and you may appreciate the book more.

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