Generally Speaking: a philatelic patchwork
In the summer of 2009, bestselling novelist Lawrence Block began contributing a monthly column to Linn's Stamp News which quickly became one of that magazine's most popular features. Wide-ranging in topic and written with Block's unmistakable verve, this collection of the first 25 columns is a must for anyone interested in "the King of Hobbies and the Hobby of Kings." More
In the summer of 2009, award-winning novelist Lawrence Block began contributing a monthly column to Linn’s Stamp News, America’s leading philatelic publication. A collector as a boy and young man, Block had returned to the hobby in the 1990s. Before long he had begun writing about stamps when one of his characters, an assassin-for-hire named Keller, took up philately so he’d have something to do in his impending retirement.
Collectors can probably imagine what became of Keller’s retirement fund; it dwindled even as his collection thrived, and he’s gone on to star in four novels—Hit Man, Hit List, Hit Parade, and Hit & Run—with a fifth, Hit Me, coming from Mulholland Books in 2013.
Block’s column, “Generally Speaking,” quickly became one of Linn’s most popular features. It consists of the reflections and observations of a general worldwide collector—the author, like Keller, collects the whole world during philately’s first century, 1840 to 1940, plus British Empire through the reign of George VI.
The column ranges widely in theme, sometimes dealing with the choices a collector has to make (“Mint or Used?”, “Condition, condition, condition”), sometimes with the day to day tasks one confronts (“Album Bulge and Other Afflictions”, “Buying the Same Stamp Twice”), and often shining the light of philately upon some intriguing social or cultural topic. (“The Philatelic Upside of War” examines the profusion of collectible stamps resulting from the First World War; the philatelic impact of Germany’s hyperinflation of 1923 is assessed in “How Much is That Dachshund in the Fenster?”)
Generally Speaking gathers together the first twenty-five of Block’s columns. If you’ve been reading them in Linn’s, now you can have all the columns at hand in one place. If you’re a collector but haven’t read Lawrence Block before, you’re in for a treat.
And if you’re a fan of the bestselling author’s fiction, but have always regarded a stamp as something to stick on an envelope, here’s your chance to get a little more insight into what keeps Keller hard at work. Even if you don’t rush out to equip yourself with a pair of tongs and a packet of hinges, you’ll have a good time reading about it, and will very likely emerge with a little more respect for what has long been called the King of Hobbies and the Hobby of Kings.