Lawrence Block has written over 80 novels, has had several films produced on his books, and also scripted “My Blueberry Nights” starring Jude Law, Norah Jones, and Natalie Portman in 2007. This brief exchange occurred when his novel HIT LIST was released, a mystery that featured a hit man named Keller. His latest book on audio is GETTING OFF.
Jonathan Lowe: In your Keller mysteries the killer/protagonist more concerned with his stamp collection, and sees money from this “job” as a means to buy more rare stamps. In one, the tension came from a third party, another hit man who wanted to eliminate Keller in order to score more work for himself. As Woody Allen might say, it’s a great job–you get paid well, travel, meet interesting people, and you’re your own boss. My question is, can they sleep at night unless they’re sociopathic?
Lawrence Block: Well, sociopath is a term we’ve coined to label a person who can sleep at night after all that. I’ve known a couple of them over the years. Nobody quite like Keller, however. And he doesn’t seem sociopathic to me. Just your basic urban lonely guy.
Lowe: But not one Steve Martin might play in the movies. Or would he? About your own films, I know Whoopie Goldberg played Rhodenbarr from “Burglar in the Closet,” which was filmed as BURGLAR. Then there was EIGHT MILLION WAYS TO DIE, and NIGHTMARE HONEYMOON. What’s up with the Keller movie?
Block: “Hit Man” is in the works as a film, to be called KELLER, with Jeff Bridges slated to star. I’ve seen the screenplay, and I have to say I like it. (Note: the movie was never made.)
Lowe: About Keller’s obsession with stamps, I’ve heard you collect them yourself.
Block: I collect what Keller collects, too. Worldwide before 1940.
Lowe: You must enjoy stamp art, since artists wandered into “Hit List,” and talk about artists like Mondrian, as in the novel from your burglar series “The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian.”
Block: I do. My wife’s an artist, and I painted a Mondrian of my own over 20 years ago, figuring I’d never be able to own an original, and how hard could it be? That’s what gave me the idea for that book.
Lowe: If you could compose a hit list of other writers you’d like to eliminate from the competition, who would they be?
Block: Oh, that wouldn’t work. The fellows I’m apt to be envious of are ones I wouldn’t dream of eliminating, because then I’d have nothing to read.
Lowe: Any thoughts on the future of crime writing? How about a crime writer who’s a criminal?
Block: Well, we all are. I thought you knew that.
Lowe: I do. And by the way, thanks for your time, it was nice talking to you. Now please just wait right there, and I’ll be over with a silenced 9 mm.
Block: I’ll look forward to it. But do me a favor. When you leave your house, don’t look behind you.