How do writers come up with the plots and characters for their books? It is said that J.K. Rowling came up with the entire wizarding world of Harry Potter during a train ride. Others say they get their inspiration from remembered dreams, fantastical places they bring to life on paper. One thing is certain: writers include their own experiences and aspects of themselves in their work (be it fiction or nonfiction), some authors more so than others, often with veiled references and obscure quotes. Which makes you have to wonder about the folks who write murder mysteries: what is it about their lives that they are bringing into their plots about death, mayhem, and murder? And would we really want to know these people, or even cross paths with them on a regular basis?
Today’s remarkable find is from a well-regarded mystery writer who lives in New York City, Lawrence Block. He has written numerous books, and his career spans five decades. His latest books are part of the “Hit Man” series, and his latest book, Hit Me, will be released this month. It turns out that he already released a special edition of his book, available today on eBay, Lawrence Block’s HIT ME – limited philatelic first edition w/ souvenir sheet:
In this interesting crossover from Block’s fictional universe to reality, this limited edition book comes with a series of stamps, ostensibly collected by the main character in the book, Keller. Yes, that’s right: the fictional has become real, and the aftermath of this transformation is available on eBay. According to the listing, the fictional character Keller is a hit man, but he is also a stamp collector. And the stamps he collects in his book are available here. The listing explains the details:
“The Philatelic Edition consists of 500 serially-numbered and signed copies, produced by a small press with binding and paper stock superior to the trade edition. Affixed to each book’s limitation page, and custom-canceled with a “Keller Cancel,” is a genuine private postage stamp showing the book’s cover—and valid as United States Postage. This is the book’s true first edition; it came off-press in December, 2012, two months before the Mulholland Books trade edition.”
But, as the listing says, that is not all. In addition, “(e)very purchaser of the HIT ME Philatelic Edition also receives two copies (one mint, one custom-canceled) of the free illustrated souvenir sheet, signed by Lawrence Block and showing stamps from the Keller Collection—including the Poor Man’s Jenny.” If you are confused as to what that means, head over to Keller’s page on Lawrence’s blog. It gives details about the fictional-yet-real stamps seen in the photo, above:
“—the 2-1/2 heller provisional stamp, printed but never issued, by the press of the Evangelical Mission in Wuga, German East Africa.
—Martinique #2, the French colony’s rarest and most expensive stamp, acquired by Keller after a horse race ended in a photo finish.
—A German stamp overprinted for use in the plebiscite territory of Allenstein, but never released, and now reposing in the collection of a young boy in Buffalo, New York, a new friend of Keller’s.
—Obock #J1, the very rare postage due stamp. Keller owned a lower-priced reprint, until an original came up for sale in an auction in Dallas.
—British East Africa #34Ac, the very rare initialed provisional issue. To bid on this stamp, Keller had to risk a return to New York.
—United States #C3, a stamp we can call the Poor Man’s Jenny. As you’ll learn in Hit Me, it has special significance to Keller…”
Inventing a complex, make-believe character is one thing, but bringing make-believe items into the real world is genius.
Hats off to Lawrence Block for creating such a memorable world populated by interesting characters. We are not sure where the idea of a stamp-collecting hit man came from, but we hope that the author’s creative juices keep flowing for many more years.