Before I knew it I was subscribing to a weekly numismatic newspaper and buying coins from dealers and at auctions. I’d collected stamps as a boy, and now I was collecting coins with at least as much pession, and a little more money to commit to the pursuit.
I’d been doing this for three years or so when my writing career hit a bad patch. A falling-out with my agent led to my losing access to the publishers who had long sustained me. Fortunately, I had nothing else to fall back on—no college degree, no vocational experience. So I had to keep at it, and I developed some additional markets for my work.
And while I was at it I wrote a couple of articles for numismatic publications. “Raymond Chandler and the Brasher Doubloon” was the most interesting of them, and it opened a door for me in Racine, Wisconsin. That’s where I sent it, to a fellow named Kenneth E. Bressett who was editing a new magazine called the Whitman Numismatic Journal. He snapped it up, and before long he found an excuse to visit Buffalo, where I was living. Our meeting led to a job offer, and by July of 1964, I’d sold our house at 48 Ebling Avenue, in the Township of Tonawanda, and relocated with wife and two daughters to 4051 Marquette Drive, in Racine, where I worked on the magazine and related enterprises for a little overt a year and a half.
It was the only job I ever had after college, and I surprised myself by discovering an unexpected ability to survive and even flourish in a corporate atmosphere. Toward the end of my stay, I learned that my boss planned to move me out of the backwater of the Coin Supplies Division and into general marketing, which told me that I had found for myself, astonishingly, A Job With A Future.
This was enormously heartening. But, even as I realized all this, I realized too that it was not a future I wanted. I was, alas, doomed to be a writer, and had, in fact, sustained myself during that year and a half by writing and publishing a couple of novels and several shorter works. I had in fact just finished the first Evan Tanner novel, The Thief Who Couldn’t Sleep, when I made my decision to give up my job and return to the East Coast.
It was good to return to my real life. But I’ve never regreted a single day that I spent in Racine, and I’m pleased to present the piece that started it all.
The first publication of the following essay was in the Whitman Numismatic Journal in 1964. It is currently available in Hunting Buffalo with Bent Nails (December 2019), a nonfiction collection of essays by Lawrence Block.
One of the stock components of the contemporary mystery novel is the disappearance of some item of great value or importance. This missing article serves as the focal point for the mystery, with various agents attempting to recover it and various complications arising in due course. If the article itself is interesting, the book is made more interesting for its readers.
The nature of this sort of item is infinitely variable. It may be a unique objet d’art, as in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. It may be a vital document, as in any of a plethora of espionage novels. In the recent movie Charade, a batch of rare stamps filled this role.
Occasionally a coin or a collection of coins is used in this fashion as the core of a mystery novel. Perhaps the most noteworthy instance of numismatics in detective fiction occurs in Raymond Chandler’s The High Window, where the plot spins around the mysterious loss of an uncirculated specimen of the Brasher Doubloon. The book is of particular interest to a numismatist not only because a coin is involved, but because several interesting facets of numismatics, including a clever counterfeiting method, are treated in some depth.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
6 New Writers to Watch
Wiley Cash’s debut, A Land More Kind Than Home, about the bond between two brothers landed on the New York Times Best Sellers List and received the Crime Writers’ Association Debut of the Year.
British author Ann Cleeves has an affinity for remote areas and how these isolated regions affect her characters.
“Anyone can play Snow White. It takes real talent to play the Wicked Witch.”
Mystery Scene MISCELLANY
FIRST USE OF FINGERPRINTS
The newest entry in my Pittsburgh set series of thrillers is called Panic Attack. It’s the sixth book featuring Daniel Rinaldi, a psychologist and trauma expert who consults with the Pittsburgh Police.
During the pandemic, Ian Rankin stepped away from Rebus and into the shoes of friend and literary hero, the “Godfather of Tartan Noir” William McIlvanney.
Call it The Case of Life Imitating Art.
Thomas Walsh - The Unusual Suspect
Any paternity test on the sub-genre of police procedural will identify the DNA of Ed McBain and Lawrence Treat, as well as the 1948 movie The Naked City and the radio and TV series Dragnet…and of course Thomas Walsh.
In Razorblade Tears, two aging men—one Black, one white, both with criminal pasts—join forces to seek revenge for the murders of their gay sons. The themes of fathers and sons and toxic masculinity will be familar to fans of Cosby’s 2020 breakout Blacktop Wasteland.
VIPER'S NEST OF LIES
A slip of the tongue is a dangerous thing. Not only does it expose indiscretions, it also can lead to murder. The latter especially applies to me.
The Importance of BEING IDLE
Early retirements. Flexible hours. Less drama only good vibes. Is a big chillout the balm we need in these chaotic 20s?
TAKE FIVE:Chandler Massey (Will, DAYS)
SOUTH PARK - Guilty pleasure TV show
ZACH TINKER ON DAYS RETURN
When Zach Tinker (exFen, Y&R) was hired to play Sonny in the Peacock miniseries DAYS OF OUR LIVES: BEYOND SALEM, he didn’t know what the future would hold for the character.
CHANDLER MASSEY ON DAYS RETURN
Coming back to Salem for a visit as Will Horton means a tad more finagling for Chandler Massey these days.
FROM FRIENDS TO ENEMIES!
Matthew Perry trashing TV gang in $1M tell-all
MATTHEW PERRY: SHUTTING FRIENDS OUT!
THE SITCOM STAR MAKES A RARE APPEARANCE — LEADING SOME TO WORRY ABOUT HIS WELL-BEING.
MEGHAN'S INFOMERCIAL DEAL!
Her Face Is Her Fortune Meghan could make upwards of $200 million like directto-consumer sales star Cindy Crawford.
NOT A CROC!
Bindi plans wedding redo
Bindi Using New Baby To Build Empire!
Crocodile kid Bindi Irwin and hubby Chandler Powell plan to build a worldwide business empire based on their newborn daughter, Grace, insiders tell GLOBE!
LAWSUIT SAYS FOXCONN COST GOVERNMENTS HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS
Worldwide electronics leader Foxconn Technology Group violated terms of its contract in Wisconsin, while local governments spend hundreds of millions of dollars to prepare for the project, a lawsuit filed by a real estate development company alleges.