Monday, March 15, 2021

Biblioholic's Bookshelf - Markham The Case of the Pornographic Photos by Lawrence Block

I've probably mentioned on this blog before that I read Lawrence Block's fiction writing column in Writer's Digest in my formative years. His blog today still gives a taste of what that used to be like. 

I segued to Evan Tanner, Matt Scudder and Bernie Rhodenbarr from mentions in the column or in the "about" section at the bottom of the page. I also read his stories in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and picked up Ariel in hardcover from Arbor House. 

Some things were harder to find. He mentioned once how he'd come to write a novel about a private eye named Ed London because he'd been commissioned for a TV tie-in for a show called Markham with Ray Milland. 

Lawrence Block Markham CoverHe began with the detective being asked to solve the murder of a woman found on a friend's living room floor. The detective rolled the body in a Persian rug, moved it to a park then set off to solve the crime. There was even a John Caldwell cartoon to illustrate the stroll with the carpet over the shoulder in the WD column. 

Block and his agent ultimately decided the book was a better stand alone novel than a TV tie-in, so it became Death Pulls a Double Cross aka Coward's Kiss featuring a detective named Ed London. I eventually got to read that when a slim paperback was reissued while I was working at a library. 

Block still had to turn in a Markham novel, so he sat down and wrote another.  That became The Case of the Pornographic Photos (Belmont, 1961). Since then, it has been reissued as You Could Call it Murder.
The book was not to be found in The Book Nook used book store of my youth, but I picked it up for just a couple of bucks a few years ago in a pretty nice edition.

Markham Lawrence Block Back Cover Mystery

A few Ed London short stories, along with many more short tales can be found in Block's One Night Stands and Lost Weekends. You'll also find a more detailed account of the transformation of a Roy Markham novel into an Ed London novel via meetings with Knox Burger of Gold Medal Books. Burger is also the guy who talked John D. MacDonald into writing Travis McGee books. 

1 comment:

Lawrence Block said...

How nice to see this early effort get some attention so many years later! I've had it on my mind recently, as I recount the full story of its origins in A WRITER PREPARES, my memoir of my beginnings as a writer. (And of course as you note, the book is available anew as YOU COULD CALL IT MURDER.)

A WRITER PREPARES will be published June 24 but is now available for preorder But it would me my pleasure, Sid, to send you a complimentary review copy. Just email me (lawbloc @ and let me know which form works best for you—.mobi for Kindle, ePub for most other eReaders, or PDF.

And thanks again!


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