Mind the gap… The filming of Lawrence Block’s A Walk among the Tombstones

This week, allonymbooks author Cadell Blackstock discusses the film adaptation of Lawrence Block’s novel A Walk among the Tombstones, currently being filmed in New York.

This blog doesn’t often cover issues of writing technique, not least because there are plenty of other authors, editors and bloggers out there covering the topic in great detail. Among them is a fond favourite of allonymbooks, the acclaimed New York crime writer Lawrence Block, whose many excellent books on writing technique are as brilliantly readable as they are thoroughly useful. Many years ago, I had the benefit of listening to Block wax lyrical on the power of the imagination for the reader. I was at a workshop in which another budding writer asked Block whether the many bars and churches visited by his dark and brilliant creation, the PI Matthew Scudder, were actual places in New York. The budding writer was concerned that if the places weren’t real, how would they be believable in the novel. Block very patiently defended his position that it didn’t matter if they were real or not, what mattered was that one wrote about them convincingly, for if they were real in the mind of the writer then they would be real in the mind of the reader. If one believed in a fictional character, then surely…?

That layer of trust between author and reader is always stretched when a book reaches adaptation stage and becomes a film or television programme. There are so many detectives, policemen and PIs who have been reinterpreted in the flesh that the path currently being trodden by Liam Neeson as he takes on the mantle of Matthew Scudder is not a new one. From Continue reading

Life after death: science vs. faith

This week’s news about Harvard neurosurgeon Dr Eben Alexander III‘s near-death experience during a meningitis-induced coma has re-energised the debate about what light science can shed on questions about the afterlife. This divisive issue has generated a considerable body of scholarly and non-fiction writing for over a century, exploring the differences between scientific and divine truth, and the possibility of using science to prove definitively whether or not a form of life or consciousness exists after death. From the philosophical rationalisations of Richard Dawkins to the direct challenge by physicist Simon Singh to the television psychic Sally Morgan to undergo a scientific test under laboratory conditions to prove her ability, the burden has remained with believers and practitioners of the paranormal possibilities to provide indisputable scientific evidence of their position. Several institutions are engaged in the disproof from the scientific angle, including James Randi’s Educational Foundation, whose mission is to “help people defend themselves from paranormal and pseudoscientific claims”, while in the UK one of Britain’s leading psychologists, Professor Chris French, is a leading figure in a larger skeptical movement who have proposed that a very simple test would be able to prove one way or the other if psychics are genuinely speaking to the spirits of those who have died.

Cynics have been quick to note that Dr Alexander has a recently published book to promote which not only details his experiences, but also no doubt provides more scientific detail about how he drew the conclusion that what he had seen was genuine and not a product of brain chemistry, a topic on which he is an acknowledged professional expert. Dr Alexander explains: “There is no scientific explanation for the fact that while my body lay in coma, my mind—my conscious, inner self—was alive and well. While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the Continue reading

Stumbling over the past: the Warsaw of Rising Up

In this week’s blog, Evie Woolmore recalls how a weekend in Warsaw inspired a novel.

To arrive in Warsaw by train at the end of the last century was like waking up inside the memories of one of John Le Carre’s characters in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. The train had cut a ponderous path through the Czech Republic, slowing but not stopping at tiny concrete stations on a single line track. Through the dirty windows I glimpsed slender, behatted men, always alone, pulling up the collars of their coats, turning a cold shoulder to onlookers as they lit their cigarettes, waiting, always waiting for something. At every border crossing I had been scrutinised by uniformed soldiers, moustachioed, bushy eyebrowed, curious about the British woman travelling alone through their country. The Iron Curtain had long been torn down but its shadow still seemed to fall, gauzy and grey.

It is not surprising I arrived in a contemplative frame of mind as the train pulled into the subterranean central station. When I emerged into the late October afternoon, I realised why Warsaw nestles shops and walkways beneath the streets – because even on a bright sunny day in autumn, the wind is brutal, scouring the plains all the way from Siberia, and whistling across the sheer glass facades of the endless modern buildings that dominate the modern Warsaw skyline. The roads seemed as wide as the buildings were high, perhaps echoing the Wisla River that cuts a swathe Continue reading