A Walk Among The Tombstones With Author Lawrence Block

By Sean Tuohy

Later this month, former New York City detective Matt Scudder will slam his way into theaters across the nation in the new thriller “A Walk Among the Tombstones.” The film is based on the novel of the same name by legendary crime writer Lawrence Block, and was adapted to the big screen by award-winning writer/director Scott Frank (“Get Shorty,” “Minority Report,” “Out of Sight,” “The Lookout”). In the film, our drunken hero finds himself in the middle of a blood-soaked case when a drug kingpin's wife is kidnapped. Tough guy Liam Neeson plays Scudder and brings an edgy feel to the character.

I recently talked with Scudder’s creator Lawrence Block about the upcoming film.

Sean Tuohy: This is the second time Matthew Scudder has made it to the big screen. Are you excited to see him in the movies again?

Lawrence Block: Yes, very much so. “8 Million Ways to Die” didn't really work—artistically or commercially—although both Jeff Bridges and Andy Garcia did some very fine work in the film. “A Walk Among the Tombstones” is a much better film in every way, and very much reflects the book I wrote.

ST: What was process of turning your novel in to a movie?

LB: It took a long time. The film was just weeks away from commencement of principal photography when Harrison Ford changed his mind and pulled out. Then the project was dead in the water for over 10 years, and I never thought anything would come of it. But Scott never lost faith. He knew he wanted to make the film, and now he's done so...brilliantly.

ST Scott Frank has adapted novels before to wide acclaim. Were you excited to have him writing/directing the project?

LB: I was indeed. His adaptations of two Elmore Leonard novels, “Get Shorty” and “Out of Sight,” managed not merely to tell Leonard's stories but to capture his tone and attitude. I was particularly pleased when he elected to direct the film himself; I'd seen “The Lookout” (which he wrote and directed) and knew how good he was at this.

ST: “A Walk Among the Tombstones” is a pretty dark story. Why do you think this story was chosen to be turned in to a movie?

LB: Scott originally got Jersey Films to option the book just a couple of years after its 1992 publication. I don't know that darkness had anything to do with it; he read the book, liked it, and wanted to make it into a film.

ST: Liam Neeson plays Scudder this time around. How do you feel about that casting decision?

LB: I couldn't be happier. For years, Liam Neeson was up at the top of my own mental shortlist to play Scudder, ever since I saw him in “Michael Collins” (In my novel Everybody Dies, Michael Collins comes up in a long conversation between Scudder and Mick Ballou).

ST: How does it feel to see your work on the big screen?

LB: It's very gratifying. I've written well over a hundred books, and this is only the fourth to be filmed—and the first to be filmed at all well. So I'm obviously capable of being happy with a book whether or not it makes it to the screen. But that this book has been filmed, and filmed so brilliantly, feels better than I can describe.

ST: Final question. How do you take your popcorn?

LB: Intravenously.

“A Walk Among the Tombstones” comes out September 19, 2014.