"I'm scared I'll decide not to publish them after all, and it's too late for that. So an uncharacteristic attack of honesty compels me to advise you that I am in the curious position of introducing you to a couple of dozen short stories which I myself haven't read in forty years."
That's from one of three introductions Block writes in "One Night Stands and Lost Weekends," a fun if warmed over collection of the author's early work, which had already been published in separate collectors' volumes at the turn of the century.
The stories are just what the title suggests. Quickies sold to pulps and their descendants in the late 1950s and early 1960s in the first part of the book and easily digestible hard-boiled novellas in the second. They're all easily forgettable - Block, in fact, forgot about a few - but curiously compelling.
Though they mirrored the dreck of the day - full of rapists, murders with semi-plausible twists and an unending line of bombshell blondes pulling a double-cross - Block shows the early promise that would lead him to Grand Master status with the Mystery Writers of America and four Edgar and Shamus awards.
His Matthew Scudder and Bernie Rhodenbarr characters are the gold standard. "One Night Stands and Lost Weekends" gives fans of Block's work an early look at the flamboyant fun of the Rhodenbarr mysteries and the wry humor and violence of the Scudder noirs.
The first part of the book is populated with stories whose titles are self-explanatory: "Murder Is My Business," "The Bad Night," "Bargain in Blood" and "Hate Goes Courting." They appeared in such forgettable magazines as Manhunt, Trapped and Two-Fisted.
The second part of the book contains three novellas first collected as "The Lost Cases of Ed London." London is more anti-Scudder than proto-Scudder with an uncomplicated life - if you ignore the bullets flying - full of clients, drink and nubile young women looking to throw a suave Manhattan P.I. off the trail.
Both sets of stories are tasty like candy and a little addictive. But like Block acknowledges in his introductions, this book is really for those fans who've read the author's contemporary work.
For those who want to introduce themselves to the author, skip this book and head directly to "When the Sacred Ginmill Closes" or "Burglars Can't Be Choosers."
You won't be sorry.