The Paperback Warrior website and podcast



Those of you who follow the VWOP Twitter account have probably heard of Paperback Warrior. Paperback Warrior, as you can tell by the above image, is a website devoted to reviewing hard-boiled crime, mystery, men’s adventure, espionage, and western novels. Like the pulp novelists of yore, Eric and Tom crank ’em out, posting at least one new book review a day and often two.

The Paperback Warrior empire expanded in the middle of last year to encompass a weekly podcast, featuring a book review apiece from Tom and Eric, as well as discussion of authors and other topics of interest to vintage paperback fans.

Needless to say, Parker would have to be involved in such a site.

The most recent episode (#36) of the podcast discusses Max Allan Collins’ Parker pastiche, Nolan, and has some news about Nolan that I have not yet covered.

Episode #16 covers Parker himself, and includes some very kind words about this site. (Thanks, guys!)

Several of the Parker novels have been reviewed on the site, and you can see them here.

I urge you to check out both the site and the podcast (which is perfect for a commute at about half an hour per episode). There’s always something interesting, and it’s likely to send you off hunting for treasure at whatever used bookstores are still around you or on eBay or Advanced Book Exchange.


Book review: A Stab in the Dark by Lawrence Block (Matthew Scudder #4)

A Stab in the Dark

Nine years ago, the Icepick Prowler terrorized the boroughs of New York City. Eight murders were attributed to him, but when, in a lucky break, he is caught, he only confesses to seven of the killings, and has an unshakable alibi for the eighth.

The eighth victim was a young woman named Barbara Ettinger. With the police not much interested in a very cold nine-year-old murder case, Barbara’s father, Charles London, turns to Matthew Scudder for help.

People reading the series in order will know what to expect by this point (this is not meant as a negative). Scudder’s probing has him talking to and investigating the friends, family members, and acquaintances of Mrs. Ettinger, uncovering secrets and connections.

Scudder’s investigation is hampered by two problems. First, he finds that there are people who most likely had nothing to do with the murder who do not want the murder investigated for fear of what else the investigation may reveal. Scudder is even fired from the case but continues to investigate:

“When you open up a can of worms you can’t just decide to stuff the worms back in the can. There are a lot of things set in motion and I want to see where they lead. I’m not going to stop now.”

It is likely that Scudder’s belligerence and stubbornness in this instance are fueled by alcohol, Scudder’s second problem. Scudder was a heavy drinker when we began this series in The Sins of the Fathers, and in In the Midst of Death, Scudder could maybe just barely still be called a functional alcoholic. His descent continues in A Stab in the Dark, as his behavior becomes more erratic and his decision-making suffers. He hasn’t hit rock bottom yet, but there is little doubt as to his direction. And this time, Scudder pays a price for his addiction beyond the usual and expected hangovers.

A Stab in the Dark is a return to form for Lawrence Block and Matthew Scudder after the disappointing mess of In the Midst of Death. Indeed, it in some ways feels like an apology for or correction of the previous entry. When Scudder improbably breaks the case, the solution feels like a revised and improved version of the slapdash ending of the previous novel, changing the ridiculous to the possible with a full explication of why cases are sometimes cracked this way. Matthew Scudder may be going off the rails, but Lawrence Block is back on track.

VWOP Ordo movie giveaway – with a couple of catches (read carefully!)

The Donald Westlake novella Ordo was recently reprinted as part of the two-fer Double Feature for Hard Case Crime (a look at that volume is coming soon).

Did you know there was a movie based on Ordo? It’s a French film from 2004.

It’s fairly expensive in its US edition, but I found a cheap used DVD from France. I have a region-free DVD player, so I gambled that it would have English subtitles. Alas, it does not.

So I’m giving it away. To claim it, you must:

  • Speak French.
  • Have a player that can play Region 2 DVDs. So you will either have to be one of our European readers, or have a region-free player. A regular USA DVD or Blu-ray player will not play it.

You can e-mail me if you’d like it, or hit me up on Twitter. If there are multiple requests, I’ll draw a name.

And I guess I’ll have to find another means of seeing Ordo <grumble>.

News for week ending 2020-03-14 (open thread)

A slow week, but a couple of items of interest.


Over at my side blog, I’ve got a brief look at the awful German comedy western Manitou’s Shoe. Never heard of it? If you’re lucky, you never will again.

On a more substantive note, “A psychology of my music listening; or, why I’m going to write a bunch of album reviews.

Book review (take two): In the Midst of Death by Lawrence Block (Matthew Scudder #3)

Note: I wrote a rather perfunctory review of this years back. One problem then was I that I listened to the audio book, so was unable to flip back and forth. I’m reading the Scudder series in order at the moment and revisited this one, so here is an updated review. It’s more negative. Spoilers!

A police whistleblower has his halo not just tarnished but trashed when he is accused of extortion by a high-class call girl. Claiming innocence and knowing he is being targeted by a furious police force angry at their dirty laundry being revealed, he hires Scudder to get to the bottom of things. Before Scudder gets too far into it, the call girl is murdered.

After two terrific Matthew Scudder novels, The Sins of the Fathers and Time to Murder and Create, Lawrence Block stumbles with the third, In the Midst of Death. Block’s skill with writing will keep you turning the pages, but the book is a mess.

Nothing leads to revealing the killer’s identity other than Scudder’s instinct. There aren’t clues, there’s no foreshadowing, nothing. Something just clicks in his head and, voila!, he’s right!

There’s a ridiculous sex scene that leads to an attempted romance where the lovers talk of the moon and such. We are supposed to buy that this is more than a romance of convenience, but it’s difficult to believe that it’s a romance at all.

For the second novel in a row, Scudder pressures someone into suicide, and in the same way. You’d think Scudder would have learned after the first time. Why is nearly the exact same situation in two books in a row? In Time to Murder and Create, Scudder at least felt guilty about it, but this time out, he doesn’t really care.

In fact, Scudder bears partial responsibility for two deaths in this book. Scudder, who apparently has never read a mystery, doesn’t realize that if someone involved in a murder case is furiously trying to get in touch with you and you purposely avoid responding, that person will end up dead. This death doesn’t concern him much, either.

Throw in a plot hole with a major loose thread wrapped around it, add in some really awkward attempts at humor, and you’ve got a mess on your hands.

The last few pages are poignant, but that is not enough to salvage In the Midst of Death. If you are sampling the series rather than reading it in order, you are safe to skip this one. If you are reading the series in order, it’s short, at least not boring, and is important in tracking Scudder’s further descent into alcoholism, so go ahead and plow through it. Just don’t try to make sense of it.

Have no fear. Block and Scudder will right the ship, and soon.

Other posts in this series

News for week ending 2020-03-07

Greetings! Here are some items of interest from the past week.

From The Westlake Review–Existential Question: Will There Ever be Another Donald Westlake?

Todd Mason at Sweet Freedom drew attention on Twitter to a couple of pieces on Westlake from his archives:


I have revived my occasional blog of reviews of movies, books, and music not related to Parker, Donald Westlake, or crime fiction. Although I mostly write there, often quite quickly and sloppily, to amuse myself and as a diary of some of the things I watch, read, and listen to, it is viewable by all. I know you care about my opinion on everything (right?), so if you would like to read it, it’s at This week I have a short review of the new H.P. Lovecraft adaptation, The Color Out of Space.

Content is pretty scant there at the moment, but it will get beefier pretty quickly as I port over scribblings I’m not too embarrassed of from other fora.

I also set up a separate Twitter feed for the same topics: @trentofftopic. If you are reading this and move quickly, you could become my first Twitter follower!

Have a great week! And remember, if you see something you think might be of interest to VWOP readers, I can be easily reached via Twitter or e-mail.


Review: Time to Murder and Create by Lawrence Block (Matthew Scudder #2)

Small-time crook “Spinner” Jablon hits it big running a blackmail racket. He’s got dirt on three people, who become the three prime suspects when he’s found in the river. Matthew Scudder had been given the evidence by Spinner, just in case that happened.

Why Scudder?: “Why I think you’ll follow through,” says Spinner, “is something I noticed about you a long time ago, namely that you happen to think there is a difference between murder and other crimes.” And Spinner is, of course, correct.

The second Matthew Scudder novel following the stunning The Sins of the Fathers does not pack the wallop of that classic, but few novels do. However, it’s an entirely worthy follow-up. Block’s extraordinary skill with character development is on full display as Scudder crashes into the lives of the three suspects, only one of whom is likely to be guilty–at least of the crime Scudder is investigating.

Block continues to develop Scudder’s moral compass in Time to Murder and Create, and it’s often a broken one. Scudder is barely interested if at all in bringing justice to a situation that’s nearly as reprehensible as murder, likely leaving the reader a little, or a lot, queasy.

The ending of Time to Murder and Create is ultimately unsatisfying–not because of a failure of writing, but because in life, endings often are.

Posts in this series

News for week ending 2020-02-29 (open thread)

Here are some items of interest from my first week back.

  • Clive Cussler dead at 88: 
  • Brian Cronin at Comic Book Resources: Darwyn Cooke Perfectly Melded the Worlds of DC and Richard Stark Together. It’s a look at Catwoman: Selina’s Big Score, Cooke’s precursor to his Parker adaptations. 
  • Dean Koontz has a new series called “Nameless,” published by Amazon. “His latest project is a bit of a throwback to the Parker novels by Donald E. Westlake (writing as Richard Stark): short, gritty crime stories with a no-nonsense protagonist. In one scene, Koontz even drops the name ‘Alan Grofield,’ a recurring character in Parker’s capers.”I hope to check out this series soon.
  • James Davis Nicoll at Tor has an introduction to the Dortmunder series: 
  • CrimeReads has an exclusive excerpt from Double Feature, the new Hard Case Crime volume featuring two Donald Westlake novellas. 

That’s it for this week! If you come across something that might be of interest to fellow Westlake and crime fiction fans, feel free to send it my way via e-mail or Twitter.



IDW Publishing announces Richard Stark’s Parker: The Martini Edition: Last Call

I’m very excited about this. IDW Publishing has just announced Richard Stark’s Parker: The Martini Edition: Last Call.

For those of you not familiar with the first Martini Edition, it was released in 2011 and was a massive, and I mean massive slipcased volume containing the first two of Darwyn Cooke’s already-classic comic book adaptations of The Hunter and The Outfit. But there was more. So, so much more. For a look at it, see my review.

Pug for scale

With both Darwyn’s tragic death and the passing of years, I had given up on a second volume, but it is coming in September 2020. Announced contents include (per the IDW site):

  • The Score
  • Slayground
  • More than 100 pieces of never-before-seen Parker art by Darwyn Cooke
  • A roundtable talk with Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Bruce Timm, and Scott Dunbier on Parker and Darwyn Cooke
  • A brand-new 17-page story by Multiple Eisner Award-winning creators Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

I know without having to ask that this is a labor of love for Scott Dunbier of IDW, and I know it’s going to be amazing.

List price is $99.99, but…

<turns into guy hawking commemorative plates on TV>:

You will treasure it for a lifetime!


But wait!

There’s more!


The first volume is coming back into print as well!


So if you missed out in 2011, coming soon is your chance, and it may be your last chance, to acquire that handsome volume as well!

</TV guy>

If ever books were worth $100 a pop, these are them. Start saving your pennies.

Here’s (The Violent World of) Parker!

Greetings dear readers! After a long hiatus, I’m back.

A very brief version of the past couple of years…

The URL expired because I wasn’t on top of things. I went to purchase it, assuming it would be available. Who would snatch up a URL like that with no monetary value?

Well, someone did, and judging by the page that came up when you went to the site, it was someone in Japan. Frustrated and angry, I still tried to offer the owner some blood money, but I never got a reply, likely because whoever grabbed it didn’t speak English.

Following that, I purchased, and through much trial and tribulation got the site working again. I briefly did pretty well with it, but then two things happened.

First, I found out that I had somehow lost all of my files other than what was posted on the site. I had loads of stuff not yet posted. This was deeply depressing, and, in conjunction with my other difficulties with the site, dampened my enthusiasm for the project.

Second, I went through a series of health issues, one right after another. I’m a pretty healthy guy overall, but I had three separate health crises in 2019.

So not much happened with the site.

But I did check in on the .com URL every now and again, and one day, it was available again! I quickly snatched it up.

And, miracle of miracles, I recovered nearly all of those files. I had a dead hard drive I had been using for backup that I’d retired long ago but hadn’t gotten around to destroying yet. I decided to roll the dice and paid a lot of money, and voila!, most of the files were there. (Before anyone tells me to be better about backing things up, I was doing it. Something, I’m not sure what, just went horribly wrong somewhere along the way.)

Also, I got past all of the health issues. I’m not only fine, I’m healthier than I have been in ages–the New and Improved Trent is here! (Well, my back is still a little iffy…)

So the site is back, and I’m excited to be working on it again. It felt like something important was missing from my life for the past couple of years, so I’m champing at the bit to get galloping again.

I am indebted to Isaac at Austin Web and Design for his excellent assistance with getting the site back to the .com URL and helping me upgrade the back end–it turns out a lot has changed with the web since I moved the site to WordPress a decade ago. (Please rest assured that despite the company’s name, the flawed site design is all mine.) I highly recommend them for your website design needs, and please let them know that I sent you.

Thanks for sticking with me, thanks for reading, and please spread the word that I’m back. And do check back tomorrow for an exciting bit of news…