Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dortmunder Footnote

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.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Review: Donald E. Westlake, Why Me? (1983)

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-

Monday, June 24, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

you wind up paying
for things
you didn’t even know
had a price

          Warren Moore
          Broken Glass Waltzes

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Book Review: Gil Brewer, A Devil for O'Shaugnessy (1973)

(The following review does not contain spoilers; the plot element described below does not appear in the published version of A Devil for O'Shaugnessy.) In 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

Monday, June 17, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

on the stairs
muffled voices.

          Seymour Shubin
          Anyone’s My Name

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

Nobody gets
everything in this life.
You decide
your priorities and
make your choices.
I’d decided
long ago that
any cake I had
would be eaten.

          Donald E. Westlake
          Two Much!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Book Review: Donald E. Westlake, Nobody's Perfect (1977)

I liked the first 89% of Nobody’s Perfect well enough (statistic courtesy of my Kindle’s progress bar) but with 11% to go, Donald E. Westlake lost me. Too much, too silly, too busy, trying too hard. In Nobody’s Perfect, Dortmunder (a.k.a. Sad Sack Parker) has a robbery go unluckily wrong (surprise!) and as a result gets blackmailed into performing another robbery, which, of course, seems unlikely to go well. If you enjoy the Dortmunder formula, you will certainly enjoy Nobody’s Perfect, despite the fact that the book goes to hell at the end—which, given that this is Dortmunder, might actually be the most appropriate possible way for the book to go. Grade: C+

Monday, June 3, 2013

Pulp Poem of the Week

He was dead.
Even with practice
he would never be
any deader.

          Howard Browne
          Halo in Blood