I’ve been reading and rereading Lawrence Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr series for years (like, probably close to 20 years — they were on the shelf above Lillian Jackson Braun’s books at my library and I picked them up at some point in middle school when I’d exhausted The Cat Who…) but I’ve never really read anything else by him — although he’s published quite a bit. I saw his name on this story collection, along with some other favorites (Stephen King, Jeffery Deaver, Lee Child, and Craig Ferguson, of all people) so I thought I’d give it a shot. It’s pretty well-done, and while not every story is a hit, several do stand out in the pack.
Each story within In Sunlight or In Shadow takes its inspiration from an Edward Hopper painting. Now, I could tell you instantly that Edward Hopper painted Nighthawks, but I would be hard pressed to come up with another. Luckily, Block secured the rights to reprint each painting at the beginning of the short story that it inspired, which I loved. The paintings mostly share a “lonely night in the city” sort of quality, which lends itself well to short stories.
Like I said, not every story rocked my world, but I particularly liked a few. The first one, Girlie Show, by Megan Abbott, as well as Joyce Carol Oates’s The Woman in the Window were a couple of my favorites. Stephen King’s contribution is as close as the collection gets to horror, and it’s wonderfully creepy. I also really liked Block’s contribution, Autumn at the Automat, which closes the collection perfectly. Many of the stories feature lonely people, or people down on their luck, but what each does with their situation varies greatly.