Time To Murder And Create by Lawrence Block

Time To Murder And CreateMatthew Scudder, ex-New York police officer, current private investigator, has a strange collection of friends. But the Spinner wasn’t exactly one of those. A petty criminal and a blackmailer, he knew that he had enemies. So he gave copies of his secrets to Scudder, paid him a retainer, and checked in every Friday. On the day that he doesn’t check in, Scudder is under instructions to open the envelope. And that day has come…

Scudder has three names – a man who has been paying for his daughter’s mistake for years, an uptown lady desperate to keep her (many) liaisons a secret from her fellow socialites and a candidate for governor with dark sexual secrets that would destroy his campaign in an instant. Convinced that one of these was the killer, Scudder adopts a dangerous plan – to take the Spinner’s place and continue the blackmail. If someone killed the Spinner, then they will presumably try and kill him too. But the plan is going to have far worse consequences than that…

The second book in the Matt Scudder series, possibly the series that Lawrence Block is most famous for. Personally, I prefer the Bernie Rhodenbarr books, but this was written in 1976 (not 1977, Wikipedia!) and so it qualifies for Past Offences’ Crimes Of The Century #1976book meme for this month – just coming in before the deadline.

It’s a fairly typical noir, so not my usual cup of tea. I reviewed the first book in the series a while ago and wasn’t that keen on it, but this is a big improvement. There are some typically dated phrases that wouldn’t be seen in a book these days, but I’ve seen a lot worse.

Plotwise, there are no great surprises. Scudder’s suspicions bounce from one suspect to another until the page count runs out. He survives a couple of murder attempts and spends a bit of time mulling over a disastrous consequence of his plan but then gets over it pretty quickly…

I’m doing it a bit of a disservice there – it trundles along nicely and is a well-written enjoyable tale – but there are no real surprises in the plot. Decent enough, and a quick read, but noir needs to have something special for me to enjoy it (the apocalypse, clowns, for example). Recommended if you are a fan of the genre.

By the way, the title is a quote from T S Eliot but I didn’t spot the point of it. Anyone want to care to explain it?


  1. Been to long since I had a go at this series – I liked it a lot back in the 80s and early 90s and sooner or later will go back as Block is usually an author I find pretty compelling. Sorry this one was a bit blah – must admit, don’t remember it …


      • Recently saw the film of WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES but was a bit underwhelmned (it was during a very, very long flight though, so not ideal) and again realised that barely remembered the original (which probably says more about me than Block)


      • It’s a decent movie that works hard to recreate a toned down style reminiscent of the 70s, eschewing the hyperbole we assume with thrillers today and gets top marks for me for that. In terms of story and character it felt a bit less exciting – but as I say, I was in the middle of a flight to Australia so was uncomfortable, zonked out and watching on a tiny screen so may try again really!


  2. I remember reading this about 15 years ago and having a similar reaction to you; it’s perfectly fine if you like this kind of thing, but as an introduction to the genre it’s not going to set anyone’s soul on fire. And, equally, I too have no idea why the Eliot quote is used in the title. All told, I’m not really sure what I’m contributing with this comment, to be honest.


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