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 first released, a mystery that featured a hit man named Keller. One of his many books 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. As do I.
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.
Name dropping is no longer frowned upon in our age of celebrity-everything. Instagram has billions of selfies and narcissists are everywhere, including the White House. Extroverts seem to rule the world, although many may be surprised by the quiet power of introverts (who are often seen—by extroverts—as somehow inferior.) They are not. According to Susan Cain, the author of Quiet, there are a multitude of achievements made by introverts, and names you wouldn’t normally associate with the word (which doesn’t mean shy, but rather seekers of meaning and privacy over party small talk or ego-driven pursuits.) Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep, Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford, Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts, Lady Gaga, Emma Watson, Courtney Cox, Keanu Reeves, Barack Obama, Steven Spielberg, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, Ron Howard, Terrence Malick, Bill Gates, JK Rowling, Tom Ford, Bob Dylan, Stephen King, Jeff Bezos, and the Google founders. They are all introverts. So was Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Marilyn Monroe, Ray Bradbury, Jimi Hendrix, Abraham Lincoln, Marlon Brando, Audrey Hepburn, Steve Jobs, James Garner. The list goes on. Personally, I don’t dress as smart as Tom Ford (above) but I do have my own sense of style and imagination (in writing, anyway.) Never imagined myself as rich or famous, although I wrote “Fame Island,” which is based on a true story and involves a reality show used to impress an island dictator enamored of fame. The reboot is titled “Lottery Island,” and an opening quote is Trump’s: “People are impressed by fame. Think big and live large.” He actually tried to buy property on the island whose developer I knew. Survivor meets Lethal Weapon. In my own case, on search there are listings for two others with my name that seem particularly ironic. This blog is way, way back on the pages due partly to the fact that another journalist (not independent as I) got blown up in the media years ago for pooping on someone’s lawn instead of asking to use a toilet in a neighborhood where he was waiting to question someone. (Hey, he had to go!) I once had a kid poop on my lawn in Arizona too (where this journalist lived) and it was no big deal. I didn’t call police, I put up a fence. Another case is a deceased philosopher who is even credited in some links for writing one of my novels. (He never wrote fiction.) Those are just two examples that stand out. Now, it is fashionable to follow those who are famous or have a fashion faux pas or viral video. Accidents happen, and as a society we love to rubberneck. But the real grind of writing and research takes time, and extroverts don’t usually have the patience for it, by contrast. They may be big on sports and the US vs THEM of every situation. To some, most everything is a sport. Ask any of the names above still alive. Leonard Nimoy was another introvert, but let’s ask him (via “sweet Jesus”) right now anyway… “So. What do you think, Leonard?”
If you didn’t hear that reply, you might not be an introvert.