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A Drop of the Hard Stuff (Matthew Scudder #17)

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  2,038 ratings  ·  332 reviews
"Right up there with Mr. Block's best....A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF keeps us guessing."--Tom Nolan, Wall Street Journal

Facing his demons in his first year of sobriety, Matthew Scudder finds himself on the trail of a killer. When Scudder's childhood friend Jack Ellery is murdered, presumably while attempting to atone for past sins, Scudder reluctantly begins his own investiga
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Published May 12th 2011 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 2011)
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Dan Schwent
A friend of Matt Scudder's from AA winds up dead and it looks as if someone he named in his eight step is the murderer. Scudder takes the case for a cool grand and begins working the people on the list. Only the killer isn't take things lying down. Will Matt make it to one year sobriety?

You know, every time I read one of Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder books, I feel as if I've entered a metaphorical genital measuring contest with the esteemed Mr Block. I unzip my pants to reveal that I've read
Hi, my name is Robert Downs, and I’m a member of Lawrence Block Anonymous (LBA for short). I can see why he was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 1994. He has the damaged, hard-boiled detective figured out as well as anyone else I’ve ever read, and his prose flows better than eggnog at Christmastime. And it’s easy to keep on guzzling the way his famous PI Matthew Scudder used to swig the hard stuff. A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF indeed. Well, more than, but it’s easy to get ca ...more
Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Thanks to a contest here on Goodreads, I ended up with an advanced reader’s copy of the new Matt Scudder novel. I had actually been rereading all of the Scudder books in preparation for the release of this in May, but I had only made it to When the Sacred Ginmill Closes when this arrived. I briefly thought about waiting while I reread the rest of the series, but I’m not known for my patience or willpower so I burned through this in less than 24 hours.

There’s two w
May 13, 2013 Carol. rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all Scudder fans, fans of the private detective genre
Sometimes nostalgia is a boozy, teary drunk, blathering on about loss, other drunken times, other bottles. And sometimes, it's a fine stroll down memory lane, leafing through a photo album of your friends and that one perfect summer, a glass of wine in your hand. Block nails it here in the (currently) last of the Matt Scudder series, walking the fine line between fond remembrance and maudlin. He and Mick are closing the pub, Mick with his whiskey, Scudder with his club soda. Looking back, Mick w ...more
James Thane
May 28, 2011 James Thane rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves a good book.
After a long six years, Lawrence Block finally delivers A Drop of the Hard Stuff, the seventeenth book featuring New York P.I., Matthew Scudder. Beginning with The Sins of the Fathers in 1976, Block has parceled the Scudder books out over a period of thirty-five years, much to the frustration of fans who can't get enough of them. But each book has been worth the wait, and this one is no exception.

By now, Matthew Scudder would be in his middle seventies, and so Block cleverly sets this book back
Narrated by Tom Stechschulte (added to book description), this was great, my first introduction to Matthew Scudder, even though it is book #17 in the series. I slipped into the world easily. There was some mention of other cases, but it wasn't a big deal & I don't think I'll remember enough details for them to be spoilers. Actually, I got the feeling this series isn't chronological.

I like hard boiled detective novels & this had a lot of the same qualities, but there wasn't much or any r
Aug 17, 2011 Ed rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of hardboiled fiction with a mellow depth
Recommended to Ed by: email of new books from my library
I've been a long time admirer of the Matt Scudder hardboiled crime fiction series. The early titles appeal more to me for their edgy, gritty quality, but this new entry does a satisfying job of dipping back into Matt's past. He's approaching his one-year anniversary of sobriety at AA, and working as a quasi-private detective. Several jobs keep him busy while he tries to figure out where his life goes next. By turns elegaic, ruminative, and fatalistic, A Drop of the Hard Stuff offers that same wo ...more
Harry Connolly
After seeing A WALK AMONG TOMBSTONES at the theater, I was looking for a novel that would make me feel as sad and as bleak as the movie did, without the unfortunate elements that I had to forgive in the theater. This was the closest option and I grabbed it.

It doesn't have the same punch as the film, but it is very nicely done, as private investigator books go. As in most of these books, it's primarily dialog but it's very good dialog.

The plot is pretty straightforward: Matt Scudder, former cor
Martin Reaves
We all know Lawrence Block is a master…no THE master of detective fiction. Hell, of any fiction. Wait…you don’t know this? Pardon me while I cock an eyebrow and gaze at you with a look of utter incomprehension.

Now then, if I may. There are no spoilers in this review, because a Drop of the Hard Stuff cannot be spoiled. I could detail the plot from start to finish and every line would still sparkle. Block’s stories (for me, anyway) are not really about plot, which I suppose is why I find them so r
Richard Kearney
I've been a fan of Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder detective novels since I heard an interview with Block about 20 years ago on David Rothernberg's wonderful Saturday morning radio show on WBAI. In Scudder, Block offers a modern hard-boiled detective who is also struggling as a recovering alcoholic. A former police officer who left both the force and his family after accidentally killing a child during a shootout with criminals on the lam, Scudder relocated to Hell's Kitchen in the 1970s and ev ...more
I was so happy to see this new Matthew Scudder book, A Drop of the Hard Stuff. I do believe I've read the whole series, and Lawrence Block is one of my favorite writers in the mystery genre. In this one, Matthew is getting older (as am I!)and the novel opens with him sitting in a bar having a long late-night talk with his old friend, Mick Ballou (Matt, still sober after all these years, is drinking a club soda). They are discussing the path not taken in life, and Matt launches into a story about ...more
Tony Gleeson
Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder series has hit a few bumps lately. "Everybody Dies" seemed like a logical place to leave Matt and wish him well, but Block couldn't resist two more entries thereafter in the increasingly settled life of his formerly hard-living protagonist. It makes sense, then, that Block sets his newest entry as a look back at an earlier point in Scudder's life-- when he was beginning to deal with getting sober and much of his life was still in various states of turmoil (althou ...more
Steve In Ludlow
I am big fan of the Matt Scudder series and Lawrence Block is a great writer with a light touch. In the earlier novels, prior to Scudder going on the wagon, Block conjured up a nocturnal and timeless New York with the emphasis on bars and bohemian characters. About a third of the way through the series Scudder stops drinking and spends lots of time seeking out AA meetings. However, the characters developed and the plots were strong.
This novel is told in one long flashback, an after hours confes
The most recent, and possibly the last Matthew Scudder novel. It has a very nostalgic, elegiac feel in the prologue and epilogue, with the bulk of the story being Scudder's telling his old friend Mick Ballou about his long-ago first year in Alcoholics Anonymous. I found the book annoying to read, since I wanted it to be (as usual for Lawrence Block) a tightly plotted and ingenious murder mystery. Instead, the murder and its solution seemed almost incidental to very long, very repetitive descript ...more
Larry A.
Among veteran mystery writers, Lawrence Block is one of the most underrated stylists because he has no recognizable style. He writes in a smooth, straightforward manner, and is very good at naturalistic dialogue. The pages turn effortlessly, but as Nathaniel Hawthorne once observed, "Easy reading is damn hard writing." In this Matthew Scudder installment, the recovering alcoholic/ex-cop must solve the death of Jack Ellery, a former boyhood friend who turned criminal before straightening out in A ...more
First Sentence: “I’ve often wondered,” Mick Ballou said, “how it would have all gone if I’d taken a different turn.”

A present-day Matt Scudder reminisces with his friend, Mick Ballou about a case in his early days of sobriety, particularly an incident when he was approaching his one-year mark in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). Jack Ellery, now at sixteen months sober, was trying to follow each of the twelve steps; including making reparation to others for the harm he had done them. When Jack is murde
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This was the first Lawrence Block book I had read in quite some time. I don't remember why I "went off" Mr. Block, but after reading A Drop of the Hard Stuff, I am definitely back on.

This crime novel is as much the story of Matthew Scudder's struggle to stay sober, with 12 step references throughout, as it is the story of his boyhood friend who is murdered.

A flashback to the early 80's, this book finds Matt attending countless meetings working toward that elusive first year of sobriety. Through
Linda Robinson
This book is such a comfortable read, it may as well be wearing a cardigan sweater, sitting in a cushy chair, smoking a pipe, with a cup of tea on the side table. Lawrence Block is a superb writer, and his prose is as potent and jewel-like as the translucent whiskeys that pour on the pages. I never know who dunnit until Block reveals it, even studying the clues dropped like gems on the ground. With the turn of each page the tension builds in this latest - will Scudder take a drink? Will I mind i ...more
Matthew Scudder is such a great character and it's always fun to go back to a seminal moment in a character's life to see where it all came from. That is what A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF is. Set in the early 80's, right after Scudder became sober, he is on the hunt for the killer of a long-lost friend who Scudder suspects was killed because he was following the rules of AA to the letter. What's also fun about this story is its setting--no cell phones, no computers, no Metro Cards--I felt nostalgic ...more
A caveat with this one - if have not previously read any of the Scudder installments, don't start here. Go with Dance at The Slaughterhouse or When The Sacred Ginmill Closes, then come back to this one.

Hard Stuff is a backstory; Scudder and Ballou reminisce about a specific case from the past that coincides with the the former cop's first year of sobriety. Some of the AA stuff may get a bit long winded for some but it's nothing else if not accurate. Block writes so well it's sickening. Yes I'm j
May 27, 2011 Eric rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone that likes detective fiction
A perfect detective story. It was well framed, had a tight plot, great descriptions, believable three-dimensional characters, phenomenal dialogue, and an unseen ending that didn't seem forced or gimmicky.

A Drop of the Hard Stuff is worth reading if only as a case study for how to write dialogue realistically, or how to research a setting -- the entire book revolves around Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and writings, which Block wrote so well, I was certain he was a recovering alcoholic.
Andrew Smith
This is the book fans of Lawrence Block have been waiting for since 2005: Scudder is back! It’s not my favourite Scudder book (the previous book, All the Flowers are Dying, takes that prize) but this series is so superior to almost any other crime fiction out there that even an average Scudder tale is well worth browsing your favourite online bookstore for (i.e. it’s not something you’re likely to find in Waterstones, unless I’m very much mistaken).
For the record, Matt Scudder is a former NYPD d
Cheryl "Mash"
A Drop Of The Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block
Published by Mulholland Books/Little, Brown and Company
ISBN-13: 9780316127332
At the request of Mulholland Books, an ARC TPB was sent, at no cost to me, for my honest review.
Synopsis (borrowed from B&N): Grandmaster Lawrence Block brings his greatest character, Matthew Scudder, back into action in his most personal case.
Matthew Scudder is finally on the straight and narrow when he runs into "High-Low" Jack Ellery, a childhood friend from the Bronx.
Realistically Heavy. Can you take it?, June 21, 2012
By Ellen Rappaport (Florida) - See all my reviews

This review is from: A Drop of the Hard Stuff (Matthew Scudder) (Paperback)
I started reading or listening to L.B.'s Matt Scudder series years ago and loved it. L.B. was born to write. I've gone back and started this series again. This time listening to "A Drop of the Hard Stuff" on CD narrated/performed by Tom Stechschulte who does an excellent job.

This was Matt going through one of the harde
Joe Alfieri
I got my copy last night (5/17)at Block's book signing in Belmont, CA. Autographed by himself (along with two other books) at a great event put on by M is For Mystery.

I'm about a hundred pages in, and if I didn't have other priorities, I would have finished it last night. Another great one from the master.

Update: finished, and it's a terrific read, very nearly as good as A Dance at the Slaughterhouse. It's an earlier Matt Scudder that we have here, just in his first year of not drinking, and con

Laura de Leon
3.5 stars.

I suspect my rating would have been much higher if I'd read any of the previous books in the series, if I knew and was already invested in the character of Matthew Scudder. I have the first book of the series in my shopping cart, and plan to meet Matthew properly soon-- I saw lots of promise in this book.

The mystery here is secondary, and that's fine with me. It provides something for Scudder to do while he deals with the real meat of the book-- facing one year of sobriety. It also gav
Nick Ertz
From my blog ( I just finished reading A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block. This is the latest in the Matthew Scudder series by Mr. Block. It’s an amazing book and it’s an ordinary book. Now I’m not trying to channel Dickens, but this book works on so many levels, as you start it you figure it’s a flash back so Scudder can have an adventure from a time when he was young enough to do that stuff. But then you realize that it’s a confessional of sorts – an old man shari ...more
I'll always read Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder novels. They're so comfortable. You slip on Scudder's life like a favorite jacket and go down to the diner for a warm breakfast and strong coffee. Maybe swing by a meeting in the afternoon. Read the paper. Slowly, quietly, Scudder discovers an unexpected wrongness in the smoothness of his life and turns his relentless attention to fixing it.

All that said, I gave this one only three stars because it's a flashback to an earlier stage of Scudder's life
Block, Lawrence. A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF. (2011). *****.
Set in New York City in about 1982, this is the 17th installment in Block’s Matt Scudder series. Matt has resigned from the police force after a tragic accident where he kills a little girl while shooting it out with a pair of robbers. He has stopped drinking and is about to celebrate his first year of being dry. He spends a lot of time at AA meetings. At one of the meetings, he meets up with a man with whom he went to grammar school. Hi
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Which book to begin reading Block? 11 26 Dec 02, 2014 12:23PM  
Author Interviews: Lawrence Block interviewed on The Late Show (Video) 1 4 Feb 14, 2013 04:16PM  
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Received the Shamus Award, "The Eye" (Lifetime achievment award) in 2002.

From his web site:

I'm told every good author website needs a bio, so here's mine:

"Lawrence Block's novels range from the urban noir of Matthew Scudder (A Drop of the Hard Stuff) to the urbane effervescence of Bernie Rhodenbarr (The Burglar on the Prowl), while other characters include the globe-trotting insomniac Evan Tanne
More about Lawrence Block...
The Sins of the Fathers (Matthew Scudder, #1) Eight Million Ways to Die (Matthew Scudder, #5) Hit Man (Keller, #1) When the Sacred Ginmill Closes (Matthew Scudder, #6) Burglars Can't Be Choosers (Bernie Rhodenbarr, #1)

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“You show up at these meetings to stay sober and you walk out with a fucking education.” 7 likes
“I dialed it now, and the machine picked up. I listened to a dead man's voice. I hung up, wondering how long it would be before someone unplugged the machine, how long before the telephone company cut off the phone service.

You don't die all at once. Not anymore. These days you die a little at a time.”
More quotes…