Friday, 23 June 2023


On his 85th birthday, Lawrence Block brings readers The Autobiography of Matthew Scudder, one hell of a weird-as-I-damn-well-please read.

Never can say goodbye... No, no, no… The Autobiography of Matthew Scudder, purportedly by Lawrence Block, published on the MWA Grandmaster’s 85th birthday, is something else. It’s a head spinner; a captivating memoir of Block’s most popular character. Purportedly written by Scudder himself.

It straddles the line between art and subject, between fiction and reality, between creator and art, between truth and lie, and our perceptions of them all.

“Look, I’m an old man,” says Matt (now more or less the same age as Block) “My mind’s like an old river, turning this way and that, and in no particular hurry to get where’s going.” At times Matt balks at details, and delves deeply into facets of his life he thought he’d forgotten. He moves back and forth in time.

But he keeps on writing.

He skips over major parts of his life, shrugging them off as inessential or already covered by Block, or just as something he didn’t feel like talking about. The Autobiography also serves as a sort of prequel to the series, mostly focused on the first 35 or so years of his life, figuring there’s already a “sufficient printed record” of the years since The Sins of the Fathers. It wanders along, enjoying a relaxed, late-night confessional vibe, not so much read as overheard.

Block has been urged over the years to write more about Matthew Scudder—maybe not to produce another novel, though he says, “I’m assured such would be welcome—but to furnish a biographical report on the man himself…”


“The notion of writing about Scudder, of jotting down facts and observations about the fellow, has always rankled. I’ve turned surly when interviewers ask for a physical description, or seek out ways in which his personal history is or is not similar to mine,” Block says.

Trying to avoid the minefields of rankling or surliness, I asked Block how it went.

“Actually, It was both surprisingly easy and surprisingly difficult. The original suggestion, you’ll note, was that I write 4,000 words or so about Matthew Scudder. I knew I didn’t want to write four words, let alone 4,000, about the man, but I became more sanguine about it when I thought of shifting the assignment to the man himself.” Let Matt do it?

“Exactly. But when I actually sat down at my desk for The Autobiography of Matthew Scudder, I knew right away I’d need a lot more than 4,000 words to do what I wanted to do. And a day or two into it I knew I’d be writing at least 25K, and quite possibly a good deal more than that. It wound up around 65,000 words, which makes it novel length; indeed, it’s longer by a good margin than any of the first three books in the series.”


Lawrence Block SINS OF THE FATHERI’ve been a huge fan of Block’s fictionalized adventures of New York City private eye Matthew Scudder almost from the moment back in my teens when I picked up a battered, tattered paperback of the series debut Sins of the Father at a rummage sale. The subsequent series, the tweaked and twisted tellings of Matt’s adventures, rendered in first person, have added up to a healthy chunk of Block’s professional career in the last 50 years.

In those early novels we were told Scudder’s fall-from-grace backstory: a husband, a father and a cop, one of New York's Finest. A decent-enough detective, honest enough to get by, although certainly no saint, and already a little too fond of the bottle. Until it all came crashing down, with Matt, off-duty and under the influence, trying to stop an armed holdup. A stray bullet in the ensuing shootout took the life of a little girl, and Matt soon found himself divorced and jobless.

Those early novels found him staggering through life in various stages of drunkenness, living in a Manhattan hotel and taking on the occasional job, doing "favors for friends," slowly drinking his way into the grave, amid increasingly frequent blackouts and less frequent half-ass attempts to “handle” his addiction.

Until the watershed moment of Shamus Award-winning Eight Million Ways to Die, the 1982 novel, the fifth in the series, in which Matt finally realizes—and admits—that he’s an alcoholic. And that was that. Five books, that even now, could stand as one of the all-time Great American Detective series.

Block told everyone who would listen that the Scudder series was toast, stick a fork in it, it’s done, until he brought him back in a 1984 short story "By the Dawn's Early Light," published in Playboy, which also nabbed a Shamus Award. Which was later expanded and adapted into the novel When the Sacred Ginmill Closes (1986). Since then the series has evolved, following Matt, now a recovering alcoholic, gradually coming to terms with his life. There are slips along the way, and mistakes, but he perseveres. In later books, he's become a licensed investigator, and even remarries (to Elaine, a former hooker who he first encountered in his days as a beat cop). There have been 12 more novels and numerous short stories and novellas since then, plus a graphic novel and a couple of feature films.

Lawrence Block TELLING LIES FOR FUN & PROFITAnd then maybe eight or so years ago, Block told everyone he was stepping away from writing. Mind you, this is the same cheeky bugger who once published a writing guide entitled Telling Lies for Fun & Profit.

So really, how far can we trust him?

Since his “stepping away,” he’s become a one-man publishing industry, slowly rereleasing his back catalog. He’s edited several anthologies, and written a novella, A Time to Scatter Stones, that seemed like a final, unexpectedly sensual farewell to Matt and Elaine. He also put out Dead Girl Blues (2020), a standalone crime novel, and The Burglar Who Met Fredric Brown (2022), an oddball (possible) goodbye to another of Block’s popular characters, amateur sleuth/bookstore owner/gentleman thief Bernie Rhodenbarr.


And now this, a novel written purportedly in Matt’s own voice, the PI turned a reluctant chronicler of his own (fictional) life, scribbling away, not even sure why. Block (as Matt) seems assured and focused in the series; yet Matt is tentative here, more casual, resentful, and mildly peeved at times, dismissive of Block’s embellishments in his “slightly fictionalized” rendition of Matt’s “real-life” adventures.

And yet, as is his wont, Matt has allowed Block to put his name on the cover. Without any indication Matt himself has profited from any of it.


Still, it’s a delight to hear Matt doing the talking, for once. This is a book without any big drama or reveals (and what there is, is mostly downplayed) beyond one man’s life and times, the things that happened to him, a few random thoughts and reminisces about family, friends, etc. And yet I found it all compelling and even fascinating. There are no serial killers, psychotic murderers, Big Apple whack jobs, or any of Block’s stock-in-trade, except in passing. Those were already covered in the books.

Matt complains at times, “It’s a slog, remembering all of this, writing it down,” and even wonders, “Is anybody going to want to read all this?”

I wanted to reassure him that, “Yes, we do,” but characteristically, he was unavailable to interview. The man, after all, does value his privacy.

So I had to settle for Block. We swapped a few emails. I apologized for the smoke from all those Canadian wildfires that had rendered New York City’s air almost unbreathable, and then stealing a line from a million Amazon reviews, I assured Block that the pages practically turned themselves. How did the writing go?

“Well, writing’s a different process for me than it used to be. An hour or two at my desk and I’m done. When I'm on a book, it's generally a matter of sitting at my desk after (or instead of) breakfast and working for a few hours. Aging happens, and affects everything, writing included. I'm less inclined these days to start anything, less committed to finishing it, and able to put in fewer hours at a stretch. It can still go well, and often does, but not always. I used to go away to write, more often than not. I'd hole up in a writers colony or take a hotel room and focus entirely on writing. I haven't done that in some years now, and can't imagine wanting to. I'd rather stay home.

“At the risk of appearing precious or disingenuous,” continued Block, “I might say that writing the book was for me very much as it was for Matthew—letting the narrative go where it wanted, sometimes deleting a day’s work at the day’s end, having material in the book occur in my imagination like a long-forgotten memory surfacing in Matthew’s consciousness. In this respect, I was more interested and involved in the writing of this book than anything I can recall.

“I don’t think there was ever a moment during the several months I spent when I questioned the value of what I was doing,” he added. “I knew it was the book I wanted to be writing. I also knew it was one I’d want to self-publish; that’s been true of virtually everything I’ve done in recent years, but it seemed particularly clear here, because the likely audience for it would be small.” I was surprised. “Small?”

“Well, I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to read it, or being able to read it with enjoyment, who wasn’t already a fairly committed fan of the series.” I pleaded guilty,, assuring him I was fairly committed. Or should be.

“Even then, I couldn’t take reader enthusiasm for granted; someone who read the books just for the stories, or in the hope that TJ would say something amusing—well, why would he give a rat’s ass about Matt’s disappointment at being unable to take third-year Latin?”

Uh, guilty. Girding my loins, I asked him if he was pleased with the end result?

“Yes. Very pleased,” he admitted. “Exhilarated, really. Lynne (Block’s wife) is my first reader, and she gave me the perfect compliment. She said she had to keep reminding herself that what she was reading was fiction.”

That’s what I was getting at. I asked Block if he sometimes found himself unsure whose life exactly he was putting down? Or going back over the previous books? Obviously, there are always overlaps between a writer and his subject—otherwise anyone could write anything—but did he find himself cannibalizing parts of other people’s lives (not just his) or scraps of his own fiction for Scudder’s?

“The question’s a good one,” he admitted. “I knew going in that the last thing I wanted to do was go back to the books, or repeat material I’d already covered. I wanted to cover material I hadn’t previously addressed, and to do that I had to invent. All Matthew’s family background, all the material on his early years, just came to me as I wrote it. I hadn’t given it much thought before, I’d never known anything about his first wife’s background or how he wound up at the police academy or, well, much of anything. There’s nothing in my own personal history that corresponds to his. Our families were nothing alike, our ethnic backgrounds, our childhoods—entirely different. The closest we come to overlapping is that I did read Cicero in third-year Latin, at Louis J. Bennett High School in Buffalo, [New York,] an opportunity that was denied to Matthew at James Monroe High in the Bronx. My teacher was Miss Daly, not Miss Rudin, and some 25 years earlier she had been my mother’s Latin teacher.”

High Schools of Lawrence Block and Matthew Scudder

(Right) Louis J. Bennett High School in Buffalo, New York, the site of Lawrence Block's third-year Latin studies with Miss Daly and (left) James Monroe High School in the Bronx, the teenage stomping grounds of young Matthew Scudder.


And so it goes, as Matt recounts his life, right up to the present, offering a glimpse of his and Elaine’s life, their friends…. Matt’s still attending meetings and they see Mick and his wife frequently. Life goes on, as it does for Block himself.

“Regrets. Yes, of course. There are things I could have done better,” Matt confesses at the book’s conclusion. “But no bitter regrets, not really, because I truly like where I am. And the trip that got me here has had its moments.”

I found it just so unexpectedly moving, and I told Block so.

“Thanks,” he said, and threw me a zinger that still has my head spinning. “One way to look at the book—and to all books, really—that might be interesting. The book immediately preceding this one,The Burglar Who Met Fredric Brown, posits a parallel universe (a multiverse for you kiddies out there) into which Bernie and his friend Carolyn are catapulted, a world in which the two banes of Bernie’s existence, online bookselling and security cameras, do not exist. I hit on this because it was the only way I could imagine Bernie’s continuing existence as a burglar and bookseller, and it solved that problem while presenting others, but all in all it worked well for me—and for Bernie.


“I mention this because since then—and perhaps before it as well—I’ve realized that every work of fiction takes place in a parallel world, specifically a world in which everything implied or recounted in The Autobiography is true… everything Matt tells us is literally true—or at least as true as his own memory and perceptions can make it.

“In our world, of course, all of this is a work of the imagination, and specifically of my imagination. A reader can so regard it, or—to the extent that I’ve done my job effectively—he/she can enter into the book’s universe.

“Now you and I, Kevin, are in this world, although we’ve both spent time in the book’s world. But this world is the real one, right?

“Well, we’d have to think so, wouldn’t we?”

Weird, right?

A Lawrence Block Matthew Scudder Reading List

The Sins of the Fathers (1976)
Time to Murder and Create (1979)
In the Midst of Death (1976)
A Stab in the Dark (1981)
Eight Million Ways to Die (1982)
When the Sacred Ginmill Closes (1986)
Out on the Cutting Edge (1989)
A Ticket to the Boneyard (1990)
A Dance at the Slaughterhouse (1991)
A Walk Among the Tombstones (1992)
The Devil Knows You're Dead (1993)
A Long Line of Dead Men (1994)
Even the Wicked (1996)
Everybody Dies (1998)
Hope to Die (2001)
All the Flowers Are Dying (2005)
A Drop of the Hard Stuff (2011)
The Night and The Music (2013)

Other books
The Autobiography of Matthew Scudder (2023)

Omnibus editions
The Matt Scudder Mysteries (1997)
The Matt Scudder Mysteries Vol 2 (1997)

Kevin Burton Smith is a Montreal editor, author, critic, essayist, would-be cartoonist, blogger and Twittist currently stationed in the peculiar state-of-mind known as Southern California. His often rather dubious but always enthusiastic writings on crime fiction, music, film, bicycling, and sundry other topics have appeared in web and print publications all over the world, including Mystery Scene, Crimespree, The Rap Sheet, January Magazine, Details, Blue Murder, The Mystery Readers Journal, Word Wrights, Over My Dead Body, Crime Time (Britain), Crime Factory (Australia) and Musica Jazz (Italy). He is also the founder/editor of the award-winning Thrilling Detective Web Site, the internet's (erm...) premier resource for fans of fictional private eyes and other tough guys and gals in literature, film, radio, television and other media. 

An Interview With Lawrence Block: Never Can Say Goodbye
Kevin Burton Smith
Tuesday, 20 June 2023

Photo credit: Savannah Lauren

"Once I started thinking about it, I realized the lockdown was the perfect backdrop for claustrophobic suspense: It turned every home into a crucible. I’ve always loved writing about close-knit, closed-door social milieux...and in 2020 the pandemic forced us all to hunker down and cinch the drawstrings of our lives."

New York Times bestselling author Andrea Bartz is well known for writing scalpel-sharp observations about what she calls “close-knit, closed-door social milieux”—and the COVID-19 pandemic provided an opportunity to explore such dynamics in intriguing—if initially unappealing—new ways.

In Bartz's standalone suspense novel, The Spare Room (2023, Ballantine Books), Bartz introduces thirtysomething Kelly Doyle, who finds herself falling out with her fiancé as the pandemic rages around her. So when the opportunity to quarantine with an old high school acquaintance arises, she jumps at the chance. Sabrina is a successful writer and social media darling whose husband, Nathan, has a high-powered career in the US Department of Defense—and their gated mansion on the outskirts of Washington, DC, offers the promise of safety. But what begins as a bit of flirtatious fun between the three escalates when the couple invite Kelly into their marital bed.

Surprised by her attraction to both Nathan and Sabrina, Kelly enters into a romantic entanglement with them. But the exhilaration of this new experience soon begins to wear thin, leaving her to wonder where exactly she fits into their already established relationship—and her uncertainty only deepens when she learns that their last lover went missing under mysterious circumstances. With far more questions than answers, Kelly’s spacious new home becomes a claustrophobic prison as she embarks on a deadly search for truth.

Mystery Scene contributor John B. Valeri ask Bartz about the literal and emotional truths that inspired The Spare Room

John B. Valeri for Mystery Scene: The Spare Room’s origins are rooted in the pandemic. What compelled you to write about covid times, and how did you endeavor to capture the realities of quarantine without allowing it to overwhelm the narrative?

Andrea Bartz: Although the book was inspired by my own lockdown experience—after staring at the walls of my studio apartment for a few months, I packed up and moved in with a high school friend and her family—I initially pitched the book to my editor without a pandemic setting. “Who wants to read about it?!” I cried. “There’s a reason so few books are set during the Spanish flu!” But my editor pointed out that the pandemic allowed living situations like mine (and my protagonist’s) to arise: When else had so many independent adults abruptly begun crashing with friends?

Once I started thinking about it, I realized the lockdown was the perfect backdrop for claustrophobic suspense: It turned every home into a crucible. I’ve always loved writing about close-knit, closed-door social milieux (from the perfect-seeming members of a glamorous, all-female coworking space in The Herd to the cooler-than-thou hipsters in The Lost Night), and in 2020 the pandemic forced us all to hunker down and cinch the drawstrings of our lives. The eerie silence and tension of that period made my authorly spider sense tingle: The empty streets and quiet dread reminded me of a Hitchcock film, and as newscasters hammered home that stranger danger was real, that anyone could kill us, that we should truly trust no one, I noticed the messaging echoed some of my favorite horror films.

Though the pandemic is simply the backdrop for The Spare Room, not the focus, I loved turning the isolation and fear up to 11 for dramatic effect. Recoiling from touch, never meeting the neighbors, not answering the door, crossing the street to avoid another person, being unable to see someone’s entire face—these are the tiny, terrifying things we dealt with every day, and while they don’t drive the book’s narrative, they certainly contribute to its unsettling tone.

Your protagonist, Kelly, is vulnerable at the story’s outset, both in terms of her mental state and physical space. How do her circumstances separated from her fiancé, living with veritable strangers make her more susceptible to possible manipulations, and more questioning of people’s motivations (including her own)?

Early in the pandemic, when I was still living alone in Brooklyn, I started seeing my therapist over this kooky little service called Zoom. (Such novelty!) One week, she asked if I’d had any real-life (socially distanced) conversations with friends since we last spoke. “No,” I told her, “but I feel pretty good this week. I don’t think I need to make more plans.” She explained that the brain’s self-protective mechanisms automatically kick in to handle the current situation—to make it feel normal and fine, even when it’s not. (Anyone who’s ever yelled, “What took me so long?” after finally leaving a relationship or job can attest to this!) “You do need to see other people,” she told me. “Even if you don’t feel like it.”

As you noted, Kelly’s miserable at the book’s onset—she’s friendless and jobless in a new city after following her fiancé there, and then, once lockdown hits, trapping them in their townhouse, he calls off the wedding. In non-pandemic times she could just leave, but not now. So it makes sense that an invitation from Sabrina, someone she hasn’t spoken to in years—a high school friend with whom she’s rekindled a friendship out of lockdown boredom—seems like a great choice. Then, not long after moving in with Sabrina and her husband, Kelly starts to fall for them—and willingly enters a three-way relationship despite a parade of red flags.

We talked a lot about “unprecedented times” back in 2020, and Kelly’s in a stew of unprecedented experiences: She’s in a global pandemic, cut off from the rest of the world (including the friends who might normally go, “Honey, what are you doing?”), discovering her bisexuality, and exploring polyamory. She’s a neophyte in every possible realm! So it’s no surprise she convinces herself that she can trust the couple she’s infatuated with and explains away all the warning signs. Like my therapist said, the brain works hard to convince us everything is fine. Without her usual reality checks, let alone any possible escape route, Kelly is beyond vulnerable.

The book is a locked-room mystery of sorts. How did you find the constraints of this setup to be both a convenience and a challenge to creating baffling but ultimately believable crime(s)?

If you were going to commit a major crime in your own home, you really couldn’t choose a better time than the lockdown. Who would know? Who would investigate? How would anyone stumble onto the crime scene or cover-up? We were all tucked away in our own pandemic worlds—who knows what really went on behind locked doors? For those reasons, covid was a real boon to characters determined to get away with things. We suspense authors often have to twist ourselves in knots to explain how anyone could think they’d get off scot-free, but state-sponsored social isolation did some of the heavy lifting for me. Though this book isn’t a traditional whodunit, I had so much fun playing with the locked-room setup as the metaphorical walls close in on Kelly and her “perfect” quarantine living situation.

Kelly is surprised by the naturalness with which she finds herself attracted to Sabrina. In what ways were you able to draw upon your own emotional experiences to inform her discovery of being bisexual?

I met my partner Julia in late-summer 2020—and nearly three years later, as we share a car, our pets, and a home address, I officially consider myself queer. But before we started dating, I’d always identified as heterosexual. In many ways, the slow pace and isolation of the pandemic allowed me to start listening to my inner, wiser self: I was thousands of miles from my conservative, traditional upbringing, and hundreds of miles from my close friends, who—though loving and accepting—saw me as a straight woman. And, like many people, when I woke up from the trance of pre-pandemic busy-ness, I looked around and thought, “Wait—my life doesn’t need to be what I thought it was. Do I actually want the things I’m going after?”

I showed Kelly working through many of the same emotions and experiences I’d had: grief over letting go of long-held ideas about herself, forehead-slapping revelations at all the clues she missed (“Wait, straight women don’t get crushes on other women?!”), and surprise at how not-weird this new kind of relationship feels, to name a few.

threesomeKelly enters a romantic relationship with Sabrina and Nathan, both as a threesome and as a couple with each. What are her perceptions of the power play(s) that exist within their union(s)—and how are her suspicions heightened as she becomes more intimate with them, both individually and as a threesome?

Kelly’s understanding of polyamory shifts throughout her character arc: At first, she trusts Sabrina and Nathan to show her a triad should work, but by the end of the book, she realizes the way they went about it was, frankly, all wrong. Kelly’s painfully aware that Sabrina and Nathan share a marriage license, a deed, a last name, and decades of shared experience; she can’t possibly catch up on their institutional knowledge of each other. She also feels unclear on so many of the rules of their relationship, struggling to navigate sexual encounters with one or both, how to discuss one partner with the other, and so on. But perhaps the biggest issue is that Nathan and Sabrina shut Kelly down when she seeks clarity—and is there a bigger power play than keeping someone in the dark about how they’re “supposed” to behave?

It was a real challenge to capture these shifting dynamics among the three main characters, especially as Kelly (along with the reader) tries to parse whether Sabrina and Nathan are being willfully obtuse—or doing their best in a tricky situation. I write without an outline, never sure what’ll come next, so the couple even kept me on my toes!

Sabrina and Nathan’s former lover Elizabeth remains a presence throughout the book despite being absent under mysterious circumstances. Tell us about the establishment of her character and the ways in which she haunts Kelly, Sabrina, and Nathan, albeit differently.

As a character, Elizabeth was as slippery as an eel—I had trouble pinning her down even as I worked through several drafts, and her backstory was one of the final elements I hammered into place. I knew Kelly was fascinated by her, maybe even a little obsessed with her…when you’ve got a massive crush on someone, you can’t help but fixate on their latest lover, right? I knew she had to care about and even see herself in this ex so that the revelation that Elizabeth was missing would pack an emotional punch. For Kelly, Elizabeth represents wild, sexy new possibilities—the opposite of her norm-y husband and 2.5-kids life plan.

In The Spare Room, I had fun weaving in ephemera that hinted at a former lover, including the secret Polaroids and half-written manuscript from Sabrina. The physical clues helped me understand the different lenses through which key characters viewed mysterious, enigmatic Elizabeth.

The book is erotically charged without being gratuitous. In terms of sexuality: How did you approach the question of what to show on the page vs. what to leave to the reader’s imagination?

This book would not have worked if Kelly weren’t deeply in love with her hosts—“A young woman moves in with some friends and then idiotically sticks around when she discovers they might be dangerous” is not a great pitch. And the narrative follows her sexual awakening, a huge shake-up to her self-identity that helps explain why she allows herself to be swept up in this thrilling, passionate, unpredictable new relationship. In short: I always knew I’d have to write some sex scenes!

I decided to show more of that first, unexpected, identity-shifting threesome, as well as a later sex scene where Kelly winds up feeling unsafe (no spoilers)—but other than those two, I did a lot of fade-to-black when things were heating up. There are also some intimate scenes that sort of fade in after the event, with characters cuddling and talking in bed. It’s interesting to me that some reviewers seem fixated on what they deem tons of graphic sex…and I can’t help wondering if queer and poly couplings are what make the scenes stick out, compared to spicy moments in other thrillers.

Leave us with a teaser: What comes next?

I’m currently hard at work on my fifth novel, which will come out in 2025. I can’t say too much yet, but whereas The Spare Room was a departure from my past books, this one is sort of a return to form: There’s an immersive tropical setting, an exclusive, fascinating social scene, and a dead body right from the jump. I have no idea how it’ll end, but I’m having a blast writing it!


The Lost Night (2019)
The Herd (2020)
We Were Never Here (2021)
The Spare Room (2023)

John B ValeriJohn B. Valeri is a lifelong lover of books and the people who write them and the host of Central Booking, where he interviews authors and other industry insiders. Valeri is a contributor to CrimeReads, Crimespree Magazine, Criminal Element, Mystery Scene MagazineThe National Book Review, The New York Journal of BooksThe News and TimesThe Strand Magazine, and Suspense Magazine. He regularly moderates author events and book discussions at bookstores and libraries throughout Connecticut, and serves on the planning committee for CrimeCONN, a one-day reader/writer mystery conference cosponsored by Mystery Writers of America/New York Chapter.


In "The Spare Room" by Andrea Bartz, Three Is a Dangerous Crowd
John B. Valeri
Saturday, 17 June 2023


The Final Girl Support Group
by Grady Hendrix
Berkley, June 2023, $17, paperback

Very high concept, very meta, The Final Girl Support Group, by Grady Hendrix, celebrates the tropes and dashes preconceptions of the so-called Slasher film genre. “Final Girls," are the "real-world" women whose tragic experiences inspire the seemingly endless stream of horror movies featuring high kill counts and a plethora of plucky, never-say-die heroines.

Five of these women are now in support group therapy together, having lived through traumas most could hardly comprehend. They do their best to move on from these experiences, dealing with the fallout in myriad and surprising ways. Most do manage to cope, with varying degrees of success, but, one by one, they begin falling under attack from a mysterious killer, who seems intent on exterminating them. As they again face imminent death, they are forced to revisit their sad histories, and confront the fallout caused by their coping mechanisms.

One of their number, Lynette Tarkington, whose Final Girl status has been questioned in the press and by serial killer aficionados, finds herself on her way to becoming the literal last woman standing as she desperately seeks to uncover the identity of their merciless stalker.

Hendrix’s latest is a sly, ironic, subversive, and darkly funny novel, one that delivers unexpected laughs and chills, exciting action and covert commentary on a society that seemingly can’t get enough of these women in peril. A love letter to slasher films, it’s also critical of them, harshly condemning the pillars of these movies, which seemingly celebrate the cheapness of life and the vulnerability of women. Given its release date, I want desperately to say it makes for “terrific summer reading,” but, truth is, it’s a gripping, highly readable piece of work that will thrill you any time of year.

A review of this novel in hardcover first appeared in the print issue of Mystery Scene Magazine.

Review: "The Final Girls Support Group" by Grady Hendrix
Hank Wagner