One Night Stands & Lost weekends - By Lawrence Block


IN 1999 THE SMALL PRESS PUBLISHER Crippen & Landru brought out a limited hardcover edition of twenty-five previously uncollected early stories of mine. I called the book One Night Stands, as most of the stories were written in a single session.

The Lost Cases of Ed London followed two years later, consisting of three novelettes narrated by a private detective whose name you can very likely infer.

I was by no means convinced that any of these stories needed to return to print, and yet I didn’t want to deprive collectors and specialists of access to them. So I chose to limit their availability to these hardcover collector’s editions, and not to allow them to be reprinted in paperback form.

Here you have the contents of both volumes, assembled together in a handsome but reasonably priced trade paperback edition. How come? What happened that led me to change my mind?

More important, I think, is what didn’t happen. No one who bought either book wrote to the publisher to demand his money back or to me to savage me for foisting such crap upon the reading public. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that anybody liked the stories; for all I know, collectors bought them and admired them and placed them with pride upon their shelves, never bothering to read the damned things. While I might have worried that reissuing them would damage whatever remains of my reputation, well, it didn’t.

And here’s something that did happen: Sometime in the mid-nineties I got an e-mail from my friend Evan Hunter. He’d been approached by Charles Ardai of Hard Case Crime about the possibility of HCC’s reissue of a group of stories Evan had written and published some forty years earlier. They featured a Bowery derelict named Matt Cordell, a former cop who pulls himself together sufficiently to handle a case and then falls apart again. Evan wasn’t sure he wanted to see those stories back in print, and he wondered what my experience had been with the publisher and with reissuing early work.

I was able to vouch for Ardai and Hard Case Crime, and I was also able to put in a word for Matt Cordell. I remembered those stories well—I’d read all of them when they appeared—and I assured Evan that neither he nor they had anything to apologize for. “And for what it’s worth,” I said, “here’s how I make this sort of decision. When I’m faced with two courses of action, I try to pick the one that brings money into the house.”

Why should I sit in judgment of my early work? Why should I limit its readership to collectors with full wallets? Why not opt instead for the choice that will bring in a few dollars?

ONCE I’D COME AROUND to that way of thinking, I didn’t need to do a lot of heavy lifting. My publishers and I agreed that both books should be combined into a single volume, or if you prefer, a double volume—English is a curious language, isn’t it? And was there a title that might serve for such a book?

I still liked One Night Stands as a title, but it didn’t really fit the Ed London novelettes. They’d taken longer to write—a few days, certainly. I couldn’t remember whether I’d written them on the weekend or during the week—I could barely recall having written them at all, to tell you the truth—but as soon as the new title came to mind I liked it, and so did the good people at HarperCollins.

We also decided that the original introductions should stay, and so you’ll find them here, one immediately after this one, the other preceding the novelettes.

THERE’S ONE OTHER THING I should talk about here, and that’s a story that was included in One Night Stands as a separate pamphlet. It’s tucked into the main body of this new edition, but it isn’t mentioned in the original introduction, and I probably ought to remedy that.

The story was my only real attempt at science fiction, a genre I rather liked and certainly respected, but not one to which my talents and imagination seemed to lend themselves. My agent liked the story and sent it everywhere, and it always came back, until it landed at Science Fiction Stories, that market of last resort edited by Robert A. W. Lowndes. (They paid half a cent a word, but my agency insisted they get a minimum of ten dollars for a story. They took their one buck commission, and I netted nine dollars. Funny