Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book Review: Donald E. Westlake, The Hot Rock (1970)

This is less a review of the first Dortmunder novel than a first reaction to the existence of the Dortmunder series. When I finished the last of Donald E. Westlake’s twenty-four Parker novels, I turned to Dortmunder as a possible replacement in my reading program. As the well-known story goes, Westlake wrote the first Dortmunder novel when a Parker novel went awry, becoming too humorous to work as a vehicle for the sociopathically humorless Parker (though Parker does drop a few seemingly intentional one-liners in the later books of the series—a remarkable sign of growth in a generally static character). I love humor, but I love the humorless Parker more, so while I was reading 
The Hot Rock, I was wishing the whole time that it were a Parker novel. That’s just me. Dortmunder came as advertised: He’s a sad-sack Parker who moves through a world of absurdity rather than a world of menace. I often see the Dortmunder novels described as comic, but I would opt to describe The Hot Rock as silly. I enjoyed the silliness (given that silly Parker is better than no Parker), and as I make my way through the rest of the series, I will be interested to see if Westlake can ever manage any of the profundity with silly that he manages with menacing. To be sure, it’s a more difficult task. Grade: B

No comments:

Post a Comment