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A Drop Of The Hard Stuff

(Matthew Scudder #17)

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  3,229 ratings  ·  447 reviews
Matt Scudder and Jack Ellery grew up together but were never exactly friends. Twenty years later, when Scudder was a detective and Jack was part of a police line-up, it was clear their lives had taken very different paths. But what they did share was an ongoing battle with alcohol.

Now, both men are on the straight and narrow and Ellery is trying to make amends to the peopl
Paperback, 319 pages
Published September 1st 2012 by Orion (first published 2011)
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3.83  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,229 ratings  ·  447 reviews

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Jason Koivu
It's high time I started on book one in Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder series, because I am LOVING what I'm reading so far!

Scudder is a once-cop, once-private investigator cum investigator (just seems to depend on the day and his finances) who's battling alcoholism. (view spoiler) He's forced into a case somewhat close to his hardened heart, so he ends up loo
May 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
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
Bill  Kerwin

This last book in the Matt Scudder series, published in 2011 when Block was seventy, harks back to events in Scudder’s life that happened almost thirty years before, in Matts first year as a recovering alcoholic.. It contains much of the vigor of his earlier work and will be—if Block chooses to end things here—a fine conclusions to a superior series.

This is a frame story (I have always liked frame stories), told by Matt himself to his old friend Mick Ballou during one of their frequent all night
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
Jan 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
James Thane
May 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Jul 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Seeing as Matt Scudder ages along with his creator, Lawrence Block doesn’t feel there’s much interest in following the activities of a detective in his mid-70s. Rather than write a follow-up to All The Flowers Are Dying, Block backtracks about thirty years, all the way back to Scudder’s first year of sobriety where he finds himself on the trail of a killer.

An old friend of Scudder’s, fellow AA member Jack Ellery, is found murdered. Having no friends or family, Jack’s sponsor hires Matt to look i
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well. That was wonderful, a beautiful swan song for Block and his Scudder.

I'm very glad Block found his true heart again, and poured it into his hero and this book. It's a gem, a treasure, a visit to the not-always golden past, a superb detective-noir, a journey of a newly-sober alcoholic (perhaps Block himself, through Matt). The pacing is wonderful, and the dialogue mostly top-notch. Best of all, there's no forced repetition to pad out the saleable length of the book. It's not a masterpiece, b
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
Aug 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A trip down memory lane with Matt Scudder, ex-cop and AA member...recalling his first anniversary of sobriety and events that surrounded that milestone. His methodical drip-by-drip approach to discover who was responsible for a number of murders was the usual - a satisfying, intimate discussion with an old friend.
I can't think of another author who manages to create this level of intimacy between reader and character.
Feb 04, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Very best way to sum up this novel is depressing in spite of the fact the main character manages to stay sober for a year. Congrats on that, but the rest of the novel takes a bender.
Steve In Ludlow
May 12, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
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
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Matt and Mick are too old to hang out like they used to, and too old for the adventures of hard men, but on a rare occasion they can chat all night about the past. I'm happy to eavesdrop. I wish there were many more of these books in my future.
Jack Heath
5 Stars. My first Block and please bring me another. He's got a comfortable writing style which draws you into the scene and the lives of the characters. His abilty to describe people is uncanny. Wait till you meet Block's guy stuck in the 1960s and 70s. I felt for Matthew Scudder and his effort to stay on AA's numerous steps of sobriety. Matthew's friend of childhood days, Jack Ellery, has re-surfaced; they bump into each other at one of the many AA meetings in Manhattan. Boy there are a lot of ...more
Diane S ☔
Jul 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I so enjoy the Matthew Scudder character and this book helps fill in some of the gaps in previous novels. Shows how he got help for his drinking, joining AA, no longer a cop and meeting up with someone he had known from his old neighborhood. Unlike him this friend didn't become a cop but a thief and murderer, but like him did become an alcoholic. They meet at a AA meeting, where they are both trying to change and stay sober but when the friend is killed Scudder investigates.
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
Martin Reaves
Sep 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Tony Gleeson
Apr 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Harry Connolly
Oct 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Larry A.
Feb 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Andrew Smith
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: noir-hardboiled
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
May 29, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tisha La Bonnaise
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, not exactly spine tingling, but lots of nice elements here to me. I enjoyed the over-the-top NYC "street" characters who populate the gin joints and bars. Also, I liked the authentic dialogue, clipped and losing the point, but eventually returning to it in a meandering way, imitating uneven real-life conversations. Matt Scutter fits the mold of the existential hero, alone and alienated, living a bleak existence. He's tasked with finding a murderer without much to go on, and characters who ...more
May 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
Jan 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017
The final (I'm still hoping though) Scudder book is a flashback tale, and all the better for it. It's great to be back with a shakier, less settled Scudder as he comes up on his first year of sobriety. And we get reacquainted with old characters like Jan and Jim which is a pleasure too.
Apr 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Donna by: Michael
Shelves: mystery
While this is the 17th book in the Matthew Scudder series, it is a flashback to the point in Scudder's life when he is just completing his first year sober and Alcoholics Anonymous plays a large role in the story. Block has refused comment (from what I can tell) on whether he himself is a member of AA, but he represents the fellowship and the way members work the 12 Steps in a realistic way.

It appears from some minor research that the Scudder books are not published to cover Scudder's life chro
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Which book to begin reading Block? 14 38 Mar 19, 2017 11:38AM  
Author Interviews: Lawrence Block interviewed on The Late Show (Video) 1 5 Feb 14, 2013 04:16PM  
  • Empty Ever After (Moe Prager, #5)
  • Camouflage (Nameless Detective, #35)
  • The Cut
  • When the Thrill Is Gone (Leonid McGill, #3)
  • The Adjustment
  • The Deputy
  • Killer Colt: Murder, Disgrace, and the Making of an American Legend
  • Lost Stories
  • Maigret in Vichy
  • The Long-Legged Fly (Lew Griffin, #1)
  • Nobody's Perfect (Dortmunder, #4)
  • The Informant (Butcher's Boy, #3)
  • The Blue Hammer (Lew Archer #18)
Lawrence Block has been writing crime, mystery, and suspense fiction for more than half a century. He has published in excess (oh, wretched excess!) of 100 books, and no end of short stories.

Born in Buffalo, N.Y., LB attended Antioch College, but left before completing his studies; school authorities advised him that they felt he’d be happier elsewhere, and he thought this was remarkably perceptiv

Other books in the series

Matthew Scudder (1 - 10 of 17 books)
  • The Sins of the Fathers (Matthew Scudder, #1)
  • Time to Murder and Create (Matthew Scudder, #2)
  • In the Midst of Death (Matthew Scudder, #3)
  • A Stab in the Dark (Matthew Scudder, #4)
  • Eight Million Ways to Die (Matthew Scudder, #5)
  • When the Sacred Ginmill Closes (Matthew Scudder, #6)
  • Out on the Cutting Edge (Matthew Scudder, #7)
  • A Ticket to the Boneyard (Matthew Scudder, #8)
  • A Dance At The Slaughterhouse (Matthew Scudder, #9)
  • A Walk Among the Tombstones (Matthew Scudder, #10)
“You show up at these meetings to stay sober and you walk out with a fucking education.” 10 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…