Review: Collectibles edited by Lawrence Block

cover of Collectibles edited by Lawrence BlockCollectibles edited by Lawrence Block
Subterranean Press (May 2021)
320 pages; $50 limited edition hardcover; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

I’ve been a collector as long as I can remember. From Star Wars figures to comics to trading cards to wrestling magazines to movie posters to….well, you get the picture. This continues today as I peer anxiously at my encroaching dotage, indulging in an old(er) man’s passion for vinyl records and vintage books.

I’ve got my grails, for sure, and a few pieces in my collection(s) that I’d vigorously defend, but damn….I’d never kill anybody over them.

Although I’m reasonably well-adjusted and have my priorities somewhat in order, I recognize that’s not the case with all collectors. Lawrence Block recognizes that, too, and he and Subterranean Press have built a hell of a collection around the idea of collectors gone bad.

Right up front I’ve got to mention the Joe R. Lansdale story (y’all should know by now that if there’s a Joe Lansdale story in an anthology I’m reviewing, I’m going to talk about it). “The Skull Collector” is not as lurid as it sounds, but it does involve competing collectors trying to acquire a human skull. The skull in question once belonged to Etta Pace, a one-time companion of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. Lansdale is in fine form here, clearly having a good time writing about a shootout at a clock tower, and crooks with names like Sugar Baby Blabber Mouth and Bridge Support. You’ll have a good time, too.

S.A. Cosby, author of last year’s white-hot hit Blacktop Wasteland (and this summer’s impending white-hot hit, Razorblade Tears) checks in with “Blue Book Value,” about a man who plans to dig a classic car out of the woods and use it as his ticket out of a jam, only to discover that, sometimes, things are hidden for a reason.

In “Lost Shows,” Lee Goldberg writes about a man obsessed with old television shows — specifically, those that never made it to air. Unfinished episodes and cancelled series are his targets. When the collector meets a character actor who starred in one of his holy grails, he sees a way to help an old man out of a bad situation, and to make a nice addition to his collection. This one has some nice twists and turns to keep readers invested along the way.

Other items pursued in these stories include a panda drawn on a bar wall by popular street artist; a high-priced clone of America’s favorite girl-next-door; a rare blues record in Phenix City, Alabama; and an intensely personal rejection letter.

Block has curated a wonderful set of stories, making Collectibles a….(sorry, I can’t resist)….killer collection.

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