Sun, Feb 20, 2005 - Page 19 News List

A mystery to Taiwanese fans no more

Bestselling crime and mystery novelist Lawrence Block is in Taiwan for the first timeto visit the Taipei International Book Exhbition and promote a newly translated book

By Dan Bloom  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

American crime-fiction novelist Lawrence Block has released over 50 books, 20 of which can be found in Chinese translation.

PHOTO COURTESY OF FACE BOOKS

Lawrence Block may not be a household name in Taiwan, but his Taipei publisher hopes it soon will be. The bestselling crime-fiction writer from New York attended the annual Taipei International Book Exhibition (TIBE) as a guest author, and his publisher here, Faces, of the Cite Group, is sending him around the country on a publicity tour to drum up business for a translation of a book set largely in Vietnam and titled The Scoreless Thai.

Block, one of America's most prolific and successful crime-fiction novelists, is the author of over 50 books, 20 of which have already been translated into Chinese for the Taiwan market.

While a bestseller in Taiwan usually hits the charts when its sales rise above 10,000 copies, several of Block's page-turning crime books here have gone over the 20,000 sales mark, according to a publishing industry source.

Among the titles in the US that have gained Block a reputation as a master storyteller are Eight Million Ways to Die, When the Sacred Gin Mill Closes and the newly-released All the Flowers are Dying.

The various crime and detective series that Block has authored star a cast of fictional characters that includes Evan Tanner, Matthew Scudder and Bernie Rhodenbarr, among others.

In addition to over 50 books in print, Hollywood has come calling, Block said, and several of his bestselling books are under option for movie deals or are in pre-production now.

Eight Million Ways to Die was made into a movie starring Jeff Bridges and Andy Garcia with the screenplay's first draft written by Oliver Stone, according to Block. Another of his bestselling books, The Burglar in the Closet, was made into a film titled Burglar starring Whoopi Goldberg.

With a Chinese translation of The Scoreless Thai done by Clara Yi -- who translated several of Block's earlier books -- recently released here, his local publisher hopes that Block's work will become more popular here among a new generation of crime-fiction fans.

The Scoreless Thai (published originally in 1968 as a paperback titled Two for Tanner) was written, Block said in a recent e-mail interview, without ever having set foot in Asia.

"In the book, my series character Evan Tanner meets up with a Thai man who has no luck with women. I never could figure out why the publishers originally called it Two for Tanner back then."

Obviously, Block has an active and witty imagination and has put it all to good use throughout his prolific career, though he often does travel for research purposes, the 66-year-old writer said.

Having visited over 100 countries, Block and his wife are in Taiwan for the first time and are st to visit Tainan and Chiayi, among other places.

When asked if some of his future books might be set in Taiwan, Block said, "My most recent novel in the Ed Tanner series, Tanner on Ice, takes place in Burma, which I visited before writing the book. Am I likely to write something set in Taiwan? Well, these days most of my work is set in New York. But anything's possible."

Although Block's crime thrillers have been translated into Chinese for the Taiwan market, they remain unpublished in China, he said, although his literary agent in New York has received several overtures from publishers there.

For now, Chinese traditional-character rights for his books have been sold only for the Taiwan market, with the China market treated as a separate translation region for rights and distribution.

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