Lawrence Block, Writer’s Block, & a Triad of Novels

I occasionally get blog updates from Goodreads, most often from Lawrence Block and, prior to his demise, Elmore Leonard. One of Block’s blog posts led me to his bookstore, where he sells signed copies of his own works and one other book that is among his top sellers but not written by him. I refer to Jerrold Mundis’s BREAK WRITER’S BLOCK NOW! How to Demolish It Forever and Establish a Productive Working Schedule in One Afternoon, A Proven System.

I highly recommend the book to anyone who wants to re-energize their writing; it’s a small hardcover, only 88 pages in length, and it costs less than a paperback.

I recently finished three books of fiction, only one of which I’ll recommend. The first is E. L. Doctorow’s Homer & Langley, a fictional retelling of the lives of two reclusive New York eccentrics–Homer Collyer and his younger brother Langley (both of whom died in 1947). While well written, I don’t think I’d recommend the book to anyone other than a lover of serious literary fiction.

The book does have a funny paragraph where Homer describes New York cops:

Cops are crooks with badges. When they’re not taking payoffs, they’re beating people up. When they get bored they shoot someone.

I had to laugh at that.

The book I will recommend is the classic tale Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. An excellent portrayal of the difficulties in being a second wife to a wealthy man who owns a mansion (Manderley) in the English countryside. The name of the mansion leads to the book’s famous first line:

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

Justly famous, but I wonder how many times Du Maurier wrote that line. The poetic sentence (an iambic hexameter, one foot longer than the more common iambic pentameter) might have had several versions. In fact, I wonder if this might have been more poetic:

Last night I dreamt I went again to Manderley.

I think I prefer that version, but then again maybe the author didn’t want a facile poetic line! This is prose, after all.

The final book I recently finished is a classic of the closed-door/locked room detective story–The Mystery of the Yellow Room, translated from the French of Gaston Leroux (1907). I found the short book overly complex–almost mathematical in its development. But let me quote one interesting line and I’ll leave it at that:

“Coincidences,” replied my friend, “are the worst enemies to truth.”

The fact that you’re present at the crime scene, with several other coincidences damning you, does not mean you’re guilty of murder! That’s one of the novel’s messages. Don’t rely on coincidences to prove a case!