Strange Embrace / 69 Barrow Street – Lawrence Block

5 out of 5


Cute with the numbering there, HCC.

A hardcover collection of two, early Lawrence Block erotic pulps, written under pseudonyms and unpublished for fifty years!

The books themselves are average – though not without evidence of Block’s skills and flair – so this rating is more about the presentation and value. Firstly: I love that this is a flipbook. Multi-book collections are a nice deal in the first place, but there’s something pleasing about being able to just flip the thing over and start fresh. Plus, it justifies HCC using their painted covers on the “front” and “back” – and they went pretty full bore cheesepuff, given the genre of the contents. The hardcover binding is solid but the book opens easily; the page stock is stiff but very flippable; and the pages are a pleasing off-white tone that really makes its typeface handsome. The font itself is also well chosen – it feels somehow fitting for something “tawdry,” but also feels prim and proper, worthy of showing off this book as something of a prize piece.

Which it very much is. Block is one of the big names HCC has had the courtesy to republish works for us, and nabbing some long-gone books for such a professional presentation (juxtaposed by those nudie covers!) is a worthy collection addition. You also get two fresh afterwords from Block, one from each story, and these are not just tossed-off thank yous, but a full few pages of thoughts.

I suppose $30 may seem a bit steep, but I would’ve been happy paying $15 a piece for the stories, so taking that into account + the afterwords + the pleasing look and feel of the thing… It’s worth it.