There's not an iota of flab in this book. Every word is employed for a purpose, working its ass off to make each sentence crackle. The prose is stripped bare as a wino's mattress and goes down quicker than a desperate crack whore. I have my doubts whether I'll ever fully embrace Westlake's more whimsical Dortmunder books, but as long as Hard Case and U of C keep dishing up the rough stuff, I'll be there asking for extra helpings.
View all 4 comments. Nov 02, Greg rated it it was ok Shelves: hard-case , crime-fiction. Two stars is a little harsh, and it's probably a better book than the last Hard Case novel I read, Two for the Money , but I'm judging this against other Donald Westlake books, and not against other crime books. So far this is my least favorite of Westlake's books. There are some good moments in it, but then there are some awful ones. His dialogue is kind of tinny here and there are moments when he goes overboard with needless descriptions of rooms and people that make me think he was getting pai Two stars is a little harsh, and it's probably a better book than the last Hard Case novel I read, Two for the Money , but I'm judging this against other Donald Westlake books, and not against other crime books.
His dialogue is kind of tinny here and there are moments when he goes overboard with needless descriptions of rooms and people that make me think he was getting paid by the word for this novel.
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For a similar period novel I enjoyed The Cutie more. He had better control over the novel in that one, and I would have guessed that was an earlier attempt, and Westlake was still getting his voice and all of that writerly stuff, but according to publication dates this followed The Cutie by two years. Book report time. A guy gets out of the Air Force. Riding home with his dad a cream colored Buick pulls up alongside them and a man with a mustache opens fire on them.
His dad dies, he gets his ankle jacked up and loses an eye. When he gets out of the hospital he vows revenge. Some stuff happens. On the plus side there is possibly one of the best accidental killings in any book within these pages. Who knew eye sockets could kill?
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Oh, and Plattsburgh shows up, including some real life places in that shitty little town. Plattsburgh represent, ! Violence, vengeance, rage and revenge. Through a blood shattered window we see Ray Kelly's life unfold as it almost ends. Discharged from the Air Force, he's home and reunited with his father only to loose him in a seemingly unprovoked hail of hell-fire. Punctured with lead, Ray's father's death open wounds fresh on Ray as he delves deep into the hidden life his father once led learning truths better left lies, all the while acting as the reaper, bringing a the sickle to a gunfight.
Donald Westla Violence, vengeance, rage and revenge. Donald Westlake's is pure noir. Conceptually well executed and well plotted though let down by inconsequential introspective dialogue and a weak leading man in Ray Kelly - his hard man persona exemplified at every opportunity read too false and provided little room for any character depth. This hurt the overall feel of the story, making it an average read when it could've been great. Jan 11, Seizure Romero rated it liked it Shelves: mystery , badassery. She'd booked the room for a four-day dance festival, and she wasn't real keen on dancing alone.
Problem was she had a broken toe, so she wasn't dancing much. At least on her feet. In the early hours this gal did a horizontal Hustle that would make a man swear off all other vices. I didn't see much of the sun. With nights like those, I didn't care. It was cold in Reno, and I'm not just talking about the weather. The casinos pull in the worst-- the desperate, the needy, the lost-- addicts and junkies intent on the next score. One more spin of the wheel, one more card. Sure, there was the dancing: Salsa, Bachata, Merengue.
A Latin-American trifecta of gyrating bodies and fleet feet. People moving, losing themselves in the music.
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But that was several floors below our little room, our little room with a view of the bleak brown hills of the desert in winter. That was for people without a care in the world. People without broken toes. This dame was escaping from something, but that toe was slowing her down. That room was as good a place as any to hide.
She kept me warm and I kept her from being lonely. And that's all any two people can really ask of each other. Sure, maybe Ray Kelly had it rough-- he lost his father, an eye, more than a month in the hospital. His brother's a sap and he learns things about his family no man should have to know. But that's just a book. A tale for soft joes who like to crack wise and think tough while safe at home, safe and out of the cold.
A story for bums with time on their hands. I lost a long weekend in a Reno hotel.
I lost everything else to a broken-toed dame on the run. Sep 10, Jim rated it liked it Shelves: 3hard-case-crime , 1paper , 2fiction , mystery-thriller. Maybe a bit more than 3 stars overall, but I had to subtract part of a star for Otherwise, the story was very good. The action was great. One of the better HCC books.
The whole book had been leading up to this shot.
It was a HUGE deal, but our hero doesn't even try to sight it in or test it first. If I missed where he did, please let me know. This really hurt the book for me. View all 7 comments. I'm a big fan of old school covers, and looking at these Hard Case Crime ones in various reviews, along with wanting to read more noir got me to pull the trigger and get a few of these.
Where better to start than Donald Westlake? I could definitely see bits of Parker in Ray Kelly, and his 'Syndicate' that Parker battles is clearly the same one that is on display here The story itself is very much a time capsule of the 50s I'm a big fan of old school covers, and looking at these Hard Case Crime ones in various reviews, along with wanting to read more noir got me to pull the trigger and get a few of these.
The story itself is very much a time capsule of the 50s, which is all the more interesting since the characters in the book are trying to relive the 30s. While it was definitely over written at times alot of description and the mobster dialogue was painful , the story moved along and was very engaging. There was quite a bit of sudden violence even among friends which I'm sure was always realistic, but it fit the mood of the story, so it worked. There was also quite a bit of stereotyping that would never see print today, but fit the time very well The main character's response and difficulty with said violence was pretty interesting, especially since he was in the war.
Of course, being an airman and dropping bombs is a little different from gunning a person down, but still, it was very humanizing in a story where quite a few of the characters were very much not very human. I would have liked either a bit more or a bit less of and ending.. I could definitely see getting burnt out on the style if one got too carried away, but I really enjoyed this one and am looking forward to more! Aug 15, Robert rated it liked it Shelves: xseason. Serviceable, if a bit repetitive, and none of the characters is likable; so more interesting as an early curio of Westlake's career than as an actual story.
The greatest strength of his writing, however, is the characters. Westlake is a master at throwing flawed individuals into an impossible situation without sacrificing their likability. Everyone feels realistic at the end of the day, which is a rare find in an otherwise pulpy outing. While the short standalone novel sometimes flirts with interesting themes, such as regret and old age, it never does deeper than the occasional subtext.
Considering how badly most stories from the 60s age, inaccurate gangster representation is far from the worst sin such a book can commit. On a side note, the Kindle port is lazy. View all 3 comments. Feb 27, Chris rated it liked it Shelves: hard-case-crime , mystery-crime. Ray Kelly gets out of the Air Force, and prepares to enter civilian life again. All that changes when his life is thrown upside-down; after his father arrives to take him home, a car drives up next to theirs and opens fire.
It sounds so straightforward, but Westlake has plenty of surprises up his sleeve. In some cases, Westlake builds up the feeling of straightforwardness so expectations set in, right before he drops another surprise in your lap. And, really, who could ask for anything more. Full review and other Hard Case reviews found here. Jan 03, Greg rated it liked it Shelves: reviewed , prest-century. I listened to the audio edition of this novel, as read by L. Ganser, on a road trip.
Gaser provided, with a very clear voice, a number of various accents perfectly rendered. Now, to the book: I was pulled in immediately by the opening chapters and enjoyed the closing chapters. However, there was a rather slow middle portion that dealt much too extensively with the mafia.
In fact, when I heard the final few lines, I realized that middle third could have been condensed into a much shorter sectio I listened to the audio edition of this novel, as read by L. In fact, when I heard the final few lines, I realized that middle third could have been condensed into a much shorter section. In summary: 4 stars for Ganser's vocal talents, 2 stars for the novel as Westlake simply lost me halfway through the book and that's the worse thing an author can do even though the opening and closing were fine for this genre.
Hence, my 3 star rating. I'm going to try one more Westlake book form and if he avoids ridiculous racial comments like Negros aren't as family oriented as are Jews and Italians: that's just ignorance, even in , and even if spoken by a "bad" guy I might even appreciate his work enough to become a fan. Authors do often publish weak works which become outdated fast, but the twists and turns within "" are indicative of an author who can deliver a good plot. Dec 01, Lars rated it liked it Shelves: crime. Nevertheless I think that other books fit better in this series, like "Kiss her goodbye" by Allan Guthrie or "Grifter's game" by Lawrence Block.
Westlake tries to sketch an image of the hard guy who gets into trouble through no fault of his own. In my opinion, the author succeeds only partially in drawing this image. What I missed is a background of the main charakter. All you get to know is that the army dismissed him. That lack of antecedents makes it "" is a solid member of the HCC-series.
That lack of antecedents makes it quite difficult to understand him and his actions. I personally didn't get involved as much in the story as it happened with the books mentioned above. Nonetheless - if you like the genre, you will definitely have fun with this mafia story. Jan 24, Jure rated it really liked it. I repeat: no women!?!? Really unusual, especially considering it begins with a guy being discharged from the military!? More here review includes spoilers! Dec 26, Nick Anderson rated it it was amazing. In some ways it recalls Mad Max: Fury Road : a relentless chain of events that just keep happening; a short respite to regroup and reset; and then a final flurry full of bloody resolution.
Actually, another way reminds me of Fury Road is a similarity in its approach to the "action hero". Like Westlake's Ray Kelly, Max Rockatanksy isn't immune from being affected by the events of the story he's placed into; both inhabit worlds where they're thrown into an existence that is lived solution-to-solution rather than moment-to-moment. If anything, Westlake's view of the action hero's existence is even more brutal than George Miller's--Kelly achieves his goals by the end of , but is left maimed, nearly crippled, without a family, a home, or a sense of purpose.
To use a phrase, Westlake's complete lack of fear of pulling a trigger story-wise combined with some extremely tight writing makes a hell of a read. Highly recommended. Jun 11, David rated it really liked it Shelves: noirboiled. Having read all the Parkers and Dortmunders and a few scattered others , I have set out to read all the remaining novels of Donald E.
Westlake, minus the early sleaze. The first phase of this project is reading the novels that he published under his own name. Going in publication order, is the third novel on the list and the best one so far. The story of an Everyman who wants revenge on the mob, I note with interest that it was published in the same year as The Hunter , the first Parker nove Having read all the Parkers and Dortmunders and a few scattered others , I have set out to read all the remaining novels of Donald E.
The story of an Everyman who wants revenge on the mob, I note with interest that it was published in the same year as The Hunter , the first Parker novel, which is the story of an independent professional thief who wants revenge on the mob. Part of the motivation for this reading project is the existence of a class at my college called "Major Authors," which I occasionally get to teach. First reading : circa Second reading : 4 June Sep 02, Ann Sloan rated it it was amazing. I was familiar with the humorous Donald Westlake, the creator of John Dortmunder, who is the most clever and least lucky thief in crime fiction.
You want a good laugh and a terrific mystery, look for John Dortmunder. Good giggles there, too.
However, is not that Donald Westlake. No grins or tickles in this book. Ray Kelly is newly discharged from the Air Force as the story opens, going to New York to meet his father. A month later Ray wakes up in hospital having lost an eye and, his brother Bill informs him, his father. There was no stop at a church for the suicide; he went straight out of town to a clipped green hill with a view of Lake Champlain, and into a hole which no priest had blessed with holy water.
This taken care of, Ray runs around New York and surrounding areas leaving a bloodbath behind him. We learn the reason for his mean streak, and then an additional trauma that he accepts with his by-now expected emotionlessness, after which he does his best to embrace the badness within him. Pretty descriptive. Westlake's characters have feelings but that are never celebrated at the expense of the plot. This clear-eyed attitude is refreshing and addictive, but it's also probably why Westlake never had a breakthrough bestseller: the average reader needs more obvious sentimental emotional engagement than Westlake was willing to provide.
Westlake himself said that it was almost a technical exercise in creating emotion without speaking of it. This is the kind of mystery I prefer. Westlake had over a hundred novels and non-fiction books to his credit. Read the book, read the movie, or else. Mar 23, AndrewP rated it it was ok Shelves: bookshelf-clearance , read-in , crime-detective. A tale of gone, but not forgotten, mob connections from the past, lust for power and revenge.
Nothing particularly wrong with the story but it just failed to grab me in any way. Not a great fan of the choppy writing style and the best thing I can say about this book is that it's very short. Feb 11, Allan Dyen-Shapiro rated it really liked it. And they're short, he said.
So I picked up this one. And I read it, studying it, seeing what I could learn about the writing, especially as I was having some struggles with an action scene in my own writing. Well, action scenes, as in what a modern reader expects--not what I found. What I did find was a study in how to cre "I haven't read many crime novels," I said to a fellow writer friend, who then told me I had to read one of Donald Westlake's, just to see what perfection in the genre was like. What I did find was a study in how to create a character through what isn't said. Modern writing expects internal monolog, narration, deep thought, especially in a first person novel.
Not here. Lots of painting the world through description of scenes, but description suffused with details the character would have noticed and only those details. A typical passage, from the first page, at a point where the protagonist has just left the Air Force and is going to meet his Dad in Manhattan: "I went through the gates and the snowtops didn't look twice, and then I wasn't in Manhattan Beach Air Force station any more, I was on Oriental Avenue.
Ahead to my left there was an asphalt oval by a field, where the buses turned around. There was a bus standing there, green. I went over and got aboard and asked the driver to let me off by a subway stop, I wanted to go to Manhattan. He said he would, and I sat in the sideways seat right behind him. A whole chapter of this, a touching, understated reunion with Dad scene, and then the shocker, shocking only because it is in the same sparse style, without the modern frills: "Thirty-eight miles outside New York City, when we had the road to ourselves, a tan-and-cream Chrysler pulled up next to us, and the guy on our side stuck his hand out with a gun in it and started shooting.
Dad looked at me, and his eyes were huge and terrified. He opened his mouth and said, "Cap," in a high strange voice. Then blood gushed out of his mouth, like red vomit. He fell staring in my lap, and the car swung off the road into a bridge support. And that was divided into three paragaphs, two of them one sentence each. The emotion--the shock, the sadness, the worry--is entirely the readers, not spelled out.
This wasn't a masterwork in plot twists; there weren't any great action scenes. The protagonist's philosophy--that every man needs either a purpose or a home--is simple, Steinbeckian. Not a think piece. But the character will stay with me, despite his being a simple guy, a typical, macho, mids, almost stereotypically American man, because the style allowed me to know him so well. And that's Donald Westlake's genius. Not the crime. Getting me to care deeply about someone who is at once victim and criminal, because the style lets the reader know the character well. I should thank my friend for the recommendation.
Jun 19, Matt rated it really liked it. Nothing I picked up interested me, and nothing I was reading already seemed worth grabbing. This would do, I thought, for a momentary distraction while my computer struggled to open a single web page. But I was wrong. This was perfect. This was just what I needed. Kelly himself has no patience for people throughout the book, and it comes across in everything he does and relays to the reader. He was just a guy who was discharged from the Air Force, happy to be reunited with his father and heading home. But where Johnson refuses to push on and leaves Ray on his own, and Kapp throws himself gleefully back into the New York mob scene, Ray is simply a scared, hurt man, who has had everything taken from him.
He wants justice and is willing to do whatever is necessary to achieve it. Unlike the characters in similar books who suddenly find themselves at home in the darkness where their vengeance lies hidden, Ray has no interest in that life. Aug 21, Benjamin Thomas rated it really liked it Shelves: audio-books , mystery-crime , pulp-old-and-new. Subscribe to this podcast. A weekly discussion of comics and pop culture. Hey Handsomites! Eric and Robbie are discussing Murder Falcon this week. Eric and Robbie are finishing up The Boys this episode, and boy oh boy, do they not enjoy it! They talk about its various problematic attitudes, how it completely fails its characters, and how the ending disconnects entirely from the work itself.
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