These chickens of mine are lucky. They don’t know what’s coming their way. They may end up on a table but they don’t have the newspapers to worry them to death first. Seymour Shubin Anyone’s My Name 1953
Searching for a missing girl,
Shell Scott does battle with Arthur Trammel, leader of a California cult.Always Leave ’em Dying is what it is: Fast-paced but
featherweight, entertaining but absurd. I cannot deny that I enjoyed my first
Shell Scott experience, but I cannot say that I crave another. Grade: C+
Honma, a police inspector on medical leave, is approached by his nephew to find the nephew’s missing fiancée. After this, nothing much happens other than an investigation and a primer in Japanese debtors. Worth a read if you have a particular interest in things Japanese. Grade: C-
You can’t erase it all,
not even half of it.
Half my life surrendered to gray
screens the size of my thumbnail,
each flare carelessly shot
from my phone to another
now rocketing back,
landing in my lap like a cartoon bomb,
its wick lit.
(1) he goes along, or
(2) he escapes.
That’s all there is.
His keepers give orders and
he obeys them.
He doesn’t think;
he doesn’t argue;
he doesn’t engage
in philosophical discussion.
He does exactly what he’s told, and
all of his concentration remains
exclusively watching for a chance
to move onto (2).
Then he sees an opening, and
he coldcocks the economist from Yale, and
The International Parker Theorem states: The
more Parker gets involved in international intrigue, the less interesting he
becomes. Its corollary, the International Dortmunder Theorem, states: The more
a Dortmunder novel becomes involved in international intrigue, the sillier it
becomes. And this is Westlake’s constant artistic battle in the Dortmunder
books: to negotiate the fine line between funny and silly, to not get lazy and
descend into fart jokes.Don’t Askbegins in the general realm of the fart
joke with Dortmunder riding in a fish truck. (A future Dortmunder novel, I can
only assume, will begin with Dortmunder sitting in an outhouse.) The problem
with International Dortmunder is that Westlake cannot resist the low-hanging
fruit: silly names, silly accents, and so on. And Donald E. Westlake, of all
people, has no need for low-hanging fruit. In sum,Don’t Askis
an acceptable Dortmunder, though a bit lazy. Competent, but not inspired. Grade: C
Were watching you so don’t pull anything phoney——or else your kid gets knocked off see. We mean that Mrs. Cobb. Now from filling station drive straight to Darien —turn right BEFORE going under R.R. bridge. You turn your trip spedometer to OOO. Follow car line. You go exactly ONE mile and STOP. Have packages ready!! If you tip COPS its goodnight for kid. How about it? We’ll meet you. Norman Klein No! No! The Woman! 1932
In which Dortmunder must figure out how to retrieve money buried at the bottom of a lake. My pet peeve about the Dortmunder series has been that the lighter tone of these books (compared to, say, oh, I don't know, the Parker novels?) tempts Westlake sometimes to take the easy, sophomoric route (e.g., fart jokes). This time out, plot and execution are strong (the first major underwater scene, in particular, is brilliantly claustrophobic), and the proceedings stay mature . . . but Westlake cannot resist a certain silliness that sometimes mars the cumulative gravitas of the Dortmunder series. Exhibit A: Dortmunder at Mt. Rushmore, which is a deeply regrettable self-indulgence. Grade B+
Not a kick was wasted. Each of the two men received two kicks in the guts, by way of obtaining temporary silence. Each received a kick in the temple, by way of making the silence more or less permanent. Each received three kicks in the face as a lasting memento of the kicking.
Man on the Run begins
with a man on the run for a crime that he didn’t commit. Russell Foley is his
name, and he has the more-than-good fortune to break into the home of Suzy
Patton, a stranger who is willing to help him. This is absurd even for a novel of
this type, and the book’s ham-handed plotting as Russell and Suzy try to clear
his name only heightens the absurdity. If I had not known that Charles Williams
wrote this book, I would never have guessed it. I expect much, much better from
him. Grade: D
In my review of Dortmunder #2, before I was sold on the
series, I wrote that I would continue with Dortmunder until Westlake stooped to
his first fart joke. Dortmunder #5 plays farts for laughs three times, but,
mericfully, none decends to Blazing
Saddles territory. Threat retracted.
Upon finishing the Parker series, I began Dortmunder with a
sense of desperate skepticism, and I have been pleasantly surprised. I was
underwhelmed by Dortmunder #1 (The Hot
Rock), but Dortmunder #2 (Bank Shot)
was good enough to keep me going. Dortmunder #3 (Jimmy the Kid) was genius, which made mediocre Dortmunder #4 (Nobody’s Perfect) even more disappointing.
Fortunately, Dortmunder #5 (Why Me?)
is pretty great. The relationship between Dortmunder and his sidekick Andy Kelp
deepens, which points to the remarkable strength of the series: Dortmunder’s
sad-sack character develops a surprising gravitas, despite his status as a
perpetual punch line. At first I was uncertain whether the Dortmunder novels
should be read at all. Now I think they should be read in order. Grade: A-
(The following review does not contain spoilers; the plot element described below does not appear in the published version of A Devil for
1973, with his career in decline for more than a decade, Gil Brewer completed a
new noir thriller, A Devil for
O’Shaugnessy. A throwback, the novel would have fit as one of his lesser
Gold Medal paperbacks of the late 1950s, memorable primarily for the appearance
of a deranged pet monkey as a major character. Brewer’s agent submitted the manuscript to Coward, McCann, and the publisher sent detailed suggestions for
revision, including the possibility that “there might be a neater ending in
which Fisk and Miriam are killed together (in a chase scene, for example).”
Brewer dutifully responded to the publisher’s criticisms, only to have his
revision rejected outright. In their kiss-off letter, Coward, McCann made
substantial (and legitimate) objections to aspects of the plot that they had
implicitly endorsed previously. As well, they panned Brewer’s new ending,
complaining that “the car chase, another cliché, seems an awfully familiar
device. Haven’t we seen this already too many times before?” Feel Gil Brewer’s
pain. Grade: C
A: Excellent. I intend to read it again. B: Good. I might read it again. C: So-so. I didn't mind reading it. D: Bad. I resented reading it. F: Atrocious. I finished it only because I'm compulsive that way.