A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block read by Tom Stechschulte

“Don’t make any major changes in the first year” … they say at AA. Matt Scudder has five or six weeks not to decide what he’s going to do about Jan, a girl he sees Saturday night and Sunday morning …

“Some people say not to make any major changes for the first five years… or even ten,” Jim, a fellow AA member, tells him.

After a meeting at St. Claire’s Hospital they walk home and Jim says:

“Something Buddha said as it happens: it is your dissatisfaction with what is that is the source of all your unhappiness..”

I said: “Buddha said that?”

“So I’m told, though I have to admit I wasn’t there to hear him. You seem surprised.”

“Well,” I said, “I never thought he had that much depth to him.”


“That’s what everybody calls him, and what he calls himself as far as that goes. Big guy. Must stand 6′ 6 . Shaves his head. Belly out to here. He’s a regular at the midnight meeting at the Moravian Church but he turns up other places as well. I think he’s a former outlaw biker and my guess is he’s done time but…”

The look on his face stopped me.

He said: “the Buddha. Sitting under the Bodhi tree, waiting for enlightenment.”

“Listen, it was a natural mistake. The only Buddha I know works at the Moravian Church.”

Making amends is step 8 of the 12 step program, and Jack Ellery is making amends when he ends up dead. His gay, persnickety, over-responsible sponsor has Jack’s list of amendees. He tells Matt Scudder that maybe he should “look into” whether somebody on the list is a killer. Matt Scudder does.

Dry, sidewalk humor full of alcohol and hotel rooms and pre-digital middle aged uncoupled city men. But also, that wry twist of fate that takes Order and Organization and runs over it.

This time, the Order is the Big Book and its steps: specifically step 8. How rules make themselves flesh, and how that flesh moves it’s rules around life and institutes life in their image.

Lawrence Block, The Specialists, read by Fred Sullivan

A hotel room. Vegas. A whore, with a gun at her forehead and a cock in her mouth. They told her downstairs that the guy was important, a banker. And that’s what she tells her friend when she gets home. Her friend is Colonel Eddie Manso, who has always known that you’ve got to draw a line. On one side of the line is good, and on the other is evil. Written in 1969, and evil looks exactly the same: a bunch of Wall Street types who spend months persuading people away from their money, a crook with a bank at his disposal, thugs in suits who rob banks and collect the insurance. Investors, loansharks, bankers, thieves.

And then there are the good guys. Veterans, educated in and by Vietnam. Still on duty, sort of.

Hard Boiled

Some Hard-Boiled Characters of 20th C
(by the Members of Rara-Avis, compliled by Joe Dante and Mark Blumenthal, 2002)
(numerical order does not denote value)

Philip Marlowe (from the series by Raymond Chandler)
Sam Spade (from the novel, The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett)
3. The Continental Op (from the series by Dashiell Hammett)
4. Lew Archer (from the series by Ross Macdonald)
5. Matt Scudder (from the series by Lawrence Block)
6. Parker (from the series by Richard Stark)
7. Travis McGee (from the series by John D. MacDonald)
8. Easy Rawlins (from the series by Walter Mosley)
9. Harry aka Hieronymus Bosch (from the series by Michael Connelly)
10. Hoke Moseley (from the series by Charles Willeford)
11. Lou Ford (from the novels The Killer Inside Me and Wild Town by Jim Thompson)
12. Mike Hammer (from the series by Mickey Spillane)
13. Matt Helm (from the series by Donald Hamilton)
14. Dave Robicheaux (from the series by James Lee Burke)
15. Nick Stefanos (from the series by George Pelecanos)
14. Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson (from the series by Chester Himes)
14. C.W. Sughrue (from the series by James Crumley)
14. Hap Collins & Leonard Pine (from the series by Joe R. Lansdale)
14. Nameless (from the series by Bill Pronzini)
14. John Rebus (from the series by Ian Rankin)
14. Mouse (from the Easy Rawlins series by Walter Mosley)
22. Spenser (from the series by Robert B. Parker)
23. Eddie Coyle (from the novel, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, by George V. Higgins)
24. Brigid O’Shaughnessy (from the novel, The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett)
25. V.I. Warshawski (from the series by Sara Paretsky)
26. Dudley Smith (from the novels by James Ellroy)
26. Paul Pine (from the series by Howard Browne)
26. Dimitri Karras (from the series by George Pelecanos)
26. Arkady Renko (from the series by Martin Cruz Smith)
30. Hanson (from the novels by Kent Anderson)
30. Burke (from the series by Andrew Vachss)
31. Ned Beaumont (from the novel, The Glass Key, by Dashiell Hammett)
32. Artie Wu & Quincy Durant (from the series by Ross Thomas)
33. Tom Ripley (from the series by Patricia Highsmith)
34. Hawk (from the Spenser series by Robert B. Parker)
35. Amos Walker (from the series by Loren D. Estleman)
36. Kinsey Millhone (from the series by Sue Grafton)
37. Steve Carella (from the 87th Precinct series by Ed McBain)
38. George Smiley (from the series by John Le Carre)
39. James Bond (from the series by Ian Fleming)
40. Jack Reacher (from the series by Lee Child)
41. Earl Drake (from The Operation series by Dan J. Marlowe)
42. Bill Crane (from the series by Jonathan Latimer)
43. Keller (from the Hit Man series by Lawrence Block)
44. Frank Chambers (from the novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, by James M. Cain)
45. Frederick J. Frenger Jr. (from the novel, Miami Blues, by Charles Willeford)
46. Dan Kearney (from the DKA series by Joe Gores)
47. Hannibal Lecter (from the series by Thomas Harris)
48. Batman (from the comics/novels series by various authors)
49. Chili Palmer (from the novels Get Shorty and Be Cool by Elmore Leonard)
50. Martin Beck (from the series by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo)
51. Lucas Davenport (from the series by John Sandford)
52. Doc McCoy (from the novel, The Getaway, by Jim Thompson)
53. Peter Bondurant (from the trilogy by James Ellroy)
54. Harry Lime (from the novel, The Third Man, by Graham Greene)
55. Buzz Meeks (from the novel, The Big Nowhere, by James Ellroy)
56. Dan Turner (from the series by Robert Leslie Bellem)
57. Milo Milodragovitch (from the series by James Crumley)
58. Lew Griffin (from the series by James Sallis)
59. Mario Balzic (from the series by K.C. Constantine)
60. Charlie Resnick (from the series by John Harvey)
61. Jack Carter (from the series by Ted Lewis)
62. Clete Purcell (from the Dave Robicheaux series by James Lee Burke)
63. Max Latin (from the short stories by Norbert Davis)
64. Lloyd Hopkins (from the series by James Ellroy)
65. Joe Friday (from the Dragnet series by various authors)
66. Shell Scott (from the series by Richard S. Prather)
67. Nate Heller (from the series by Max Allan Collins)
68. Nick Corey (from the novel, Pop. 1280, by Jim Thompson)
69. Nick and Nora Charles (from the novel, The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammett)
70. Marcus Clay (from the series by George Pelecanos)
71. Socrates Fortlow (from the series by Walter Mosley)
72. Richard Bone (from the novel, Cutter and Bone, by Newton Thornburg)
73. Detective Sergeant Department of Unexplained Deaths (from the Factory series by Derek Raymond)
74. Elvis Cole (from the series by Robert Crais)
75. Walter Huff (from the novel, Double Indemnity, by James M Cain)
76. James Figueras (from the novel, The Burnt Orange Heresy, by Charles Willeford)
77. Casper Gutman (from the novel, The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett)
78. Mike Shayne (from the series by Brett Halliday)
79. Frank Clemons (from the trilogy by Thomas Cook)
80. Sharon McCone (from the series by Marcia Muller)
81. Race Williams/Three Gun Mack (from the series by Carroll John Daly)
82. John Shaft (from the series by Ernest Tidyman)
83. David Brandstetter (from the series by Joseph Hansen)
84 Jack Liffey (from the series by John Shannon)
85. Perry Mason (from the series by Erle Stanley Gardner)
86. Bernie Gunther (from the Berlin Trilogy by Philip Kerr)
87. Joe Gall (from the series by Philip Atlee)
88. Jonathan Hemlock (from the from the novels The Eiger Sanction and The Loo Sanction by Trevanian)
89. Kells (from the novel, Fast One, by Paul Cain)
90. Joe Pike (from the Elvis Cole series by Robert Crais)
91. Fast Eddie Felson (from the novels The Hustler and The Color of Money, by Walter Tevis)
92. Bob Lee Swagger (from the series by Steven Hunter)
93. Cora Papadakis (from the novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, by James M. Cain)
94. Roy Dillon (from the novel, The Grifters, by Jim Thompson)
95. Eva Wylie (from the from the series by Liza Cody)
96. Ed and Am Hunter (from the series by Fredric Brown)
97. Skink a.k.a. The Governor (from the a recurring character in the novels by Carl Hiassen)
98. Derek Strange (from the series by George Pelecanos)
99. Lionel Essrog (from the novel, Motherless Brooklyn, by Jonathan Lethem)
100. Charlie Arglist (from the novel, The Ice Harvest, by Scott Phillips)
101. Richard Hudson (from the novel, The Woman Chaser, by Charles Willeford)
102. Ernest Stickney (from the novels Stick and Swag by Elmore Leonard)
103. John Marshall Tanner (from the series by Stephen Greenleaf)
104. Doc Ford (from the series by Randy Wayne White)
105. Jay Gatsby (from the novel, The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald)
106. Dick Tracy (from the newspaper strip by Chester Gould)
107. Mick Ballou (from the Matt Scudder series by Lawrence Block)
108. Quiller (from the series by Adam Hall)
109. Deputy Detective Carl Houseman (from the series by Donald Harstad)
110. Maigret (from the series by Georges Simenon)
The 21 runner-ups
(Joe Gar almost made it):

Doan and Carstairs (from the novels and short stories by Norbert Davis)
Alexander Cutter (from the novel, Cutter and Bone, by Newton Thornburg)
Patrick Kenzie (from the series by Dennis Lehane)
Harry Stoner (from the series by Jonathan Valin)
Satan Hall (from the series by Carroll John Daly)
Jane Whitefield (from the series by Thomas Perry)
Will Graham (from the novel, Red Dragon, by Thomas Harris)
Abraham Trahearne (from the novel, The Last Good Kiss, by James Crumley)
Dave “The Enforcer” Klein (from the novel, White Jazz, by James Ellroy)
Repairman Jack (from the series by F. Paul Wilson)
Fang Mulheisen (from the series by Jon A. Jackson)
Thorn (from the series by James W. Hall)
Neal Fargo (from the novel, Interface, plus short stories by Joe Gores)
Dan Fortune (from the series by Michael Collins)
Max Cady (from the novel, The Executioners, by John D. MacDonald)
John Francis Cuddy (from the series by Jeremiah Healy)
Mike Dolan (from the novel, No Pockets In a Shroud, by Horace McCoy)
Jo Gar (from the short stories by Raoul Whitfield)
Maximum Bob Gibbs (from the novel, Maximum Bob, by Elmore Leonard)
Bernie Ohls (from the novel, The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler)
Carmen Sternwood (from the novel, The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler)

Thanks to Joe Dante and Mark Blumenthal and, as always, William Denton, who manages the Rara-Avis list.

Hope to Die by Lawrence Block

What a wonderful Upper West Side between Broadway and Central Park West in the 70s voice to listen to …. when you’re on a boat to Kabul or Talibaq. Close your eyes and you can see the doormen, the yellow taxis, the short, balding, murderous psychoanalysts, walking their dogs between appointments with depressive middle aged lawyers suffering from garden variety impotence.

It must be comforting for the patient, I said, to have a shrink who
can pull a gun on you if you start acting out…You’re on the verge of
this major breakthrough, really getting in touch with your anger, or remembering
what really happened when your uncle came into your bedroom that night,
and you look up from the couch, and there’s Dr. Nadler, and he’s pointing
a gun at you….

Nope. Theres nothing as insidious as a bald jewish shrink on the Upper West Side — except a bald Jewish shrink with an aphorism: What do you get? You get what you get.