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Publisher's Summary

Broadway Can Be Murder started out to be a novel based on Johnny Midnight, a TV series which everyone has long since forgotten. Except, of course, that nothing manages to be forgotten in the Internet Age. I, whose job it was to knock out 50,000 words of Johnny Midnightish prose and dialogue, had forgotten when it ran and who was in it, but Google took no time at all to remind me that the title role was played by Edmund O’Brien, and that the series ran during the first nine months of 1960. I was in New York, newly married, living at 110 West 69th Street. I was writing short stories for crime fiction magazines, erotic novels for Midwood and Nightstand, and fielding assignments that my agent steered in my direction. One of these was from Beacon Books, who had acquired the book rights to a TV drama and wanted to hire someone to write a book. Beacon Books, with “Johnny Midnight” as both the book’s inspiration and its title. I wrote it, but by the time Beacon was preparing it for publication, the series had been canceled. The publisher saw no reason to pay a licensing fee for a moribund show, and accordingly changed names: Johnny Midnight became Johnny Lane, and his trusty servant morphed from Uki to Ito. And Lawrence Block became Ben Christopher for the occasion. Someone at Beacon picked the title, Strange Embrace. Well, there’s a lesbian element in the book, and I guess they wanted to play it up, and “strange” was a useful code word toward that end. Now, in 2021, Theo Holland is voicing an audio edition of the book - and I think it's high time it have an appropriate title, one that sounds like the hard-edged crime novel it is instead of the bit of erotica Beacon wanted to make it resemble. It's a murder mystery with a Broadway theater setting, so why not call it Broadway Can Be Murder?

©1962, 2021 Lawrence Block (P)2021 Lawrence Block

What listeners say about Broadway Can Be Murder

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Recommended


A solid though whodunnit, Broadway Can be Murder — nee Strange Embrace — is a breezy, compulsively readable early effort from Lawrence Block. Originally a tie-in to short lived television series Johnny Midnight, the book stands well on its own and if you didn’t know going in about it’s Johnny Midnight roots, you wouldn’t know while reading it, either.

The plot is straight forward: the leading lady in an upcoming Broadway production is killed in her bed, followed shortly by the killing of the leading man in the same fashion. As mysterious phone calls pour in to more of the cast threatening a similar fate, producer Johnny Lane takes the case in his own hands while his own life is threatened if he doesn’t cancel the show. Along the way, Johnny will contend with hired thugs with fists for brains, the 60s beat culture, a homicide detective ready to throw him in prison if he doesn’t leave the detective work to the police, and a serial killer armed with a straight razor.

I’d never heard of Johnny Midnight prior to Block’s reference to it in regards to Broadway Can be Murder, and was delighted to find how well the book plays on its own. There is a unflattering portrayal of an Asian butler, though this is an unfortunate aspect of America’s past, not this work itself (he is taken from the series, produced in the early 1960s). Block was a damned fine writer even early in his career, and though the identity of the killer isn’t terribly difficult to figure out before Johnny does, this does nothing to detract from the book as a whole. A quick fun romp as the confident straight laced producer finds himself sympathetic to the counter culture so antithetical to his own world is an enjoyable backdrop to a simple murder mystery well plotted and executed by a writer who was beyond his years and would go on to become one of the best.

Theo Holland is, as ever, an excellent narrator, and I was pleased to see his name attached to a book I was already planning to listen to. His natural rhythm is impossible to avoid falling into, and his ability to move slowly while maintaining the action is admirable. He doesn’t come equipped with a tough guy’s voice like so many you’ll hear behind the microphone of crime novels, and he doesn’t need it. If you haven’t listened to him before, this one is a strong start — he will occasionally give women’s voices a cartoonish air, but that never happens here. He has lent his talents to quite few of Lawrence Block’s books and nails each one, as well as his work with classic writers like Mark Twain. He is a good choice for this book.

If you’re interested in a breezy murder mystery, Broadway Can be Murder is a solid choice. For something heavier, Block’s library is filled with books that will linger in your mind, though for the casual reader looking for a fun read, this will give you everything you need. Add to it a strong performance from Theo Holland, and this book is an easy recommendation.

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Nostalgic mystery

Lawrence Block captures the era well.

Theo Holland does a good job narrating.

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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exceptionally good

I didn't expect this to be so good. I loved it and quickly fell down the rabbit hole. I had a suspicion as to who the killer was, but it did detract from my immense enjoyment of this story. Job well done. I highly recommend it. I voluntarily listened to a free copy of this and am giving an honest review. The narrator did a great job bringing the characters and story to life.

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Mystery

This is a very good book. It holds your interest from start to the end. Interesting characters and a good story line. I Thought That Holland did an excellent job narrating this book. I was giving a free copy of this book but that has no influence on my review. If you like mysteries I think you will like this book..If my review is any help will you please click on the helpful link below. Thank you.

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Good

TV show Johnny Midnight story of, interesting if one remembers the show. Narration by Holland was enjoyable. Given audio for my voluntary review

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  • col2910
  • 07-11-21

I liked it.

Another early Lawrence Block book and one which was originally pseudonymously published under another title. I do like listening to Lawrence Block's work, particularly when narrated by Theo Holland.

This one has a murder mystery at its heart, with a few leanings towards titillation/erotica. I don't think you could class it as racy though. There's no more sex involved than many other straight out and out crime fiction books I've read recently.

Johnny Lane, our main character is a theatre director and is putting together a show. His unknown, young, talented lead is murdered and subsequently he and other members of the cast receive threats that the play must be cancelled or they will end up like the dead actress.

Lane, who just happens to be friends with the cop who catches the case, does some sleuthing of his own. Another member of the cast is killed in a similar fashion to the first - cut throat razor and discovered naked - and Lane gets busy.

Best book ever? No, but I really liked it. It was an entertaining outing. Lane gets a beating to go with his warning. He does some amateur investigating, running up a few wrong alleys, has a tryst or two with one of the other actresses in the show, befriends a beatnik, discovers some secrets his young starlet had, annoys his cop pal, and a few of the show's team and eventually cracks the case, just as you always knew he would.

New York setting, theatre/acting/thespian backdrop, interesting enough plot - not overly complex or convoluted. I don't think I guessed the culprit before the main character did, but I don't think I was especially trying to. I was happy enough to go where Block was taking me, in whatever time it took to get there.

Not his best work, but it kept me entertained for a few hours.

4 from 5

Read - (listened to) June, 2021
Published - 1962
Page count - 212 (4 hrs 29 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible