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Penzler Pick, April 2002: According to his publisher's statistics, the peerless Donald E. Westlake, who has made his mark both with witty capers and with gritty noir thrillers, has more than a million copies of his Mysterious Press books in print, as well as more than a million copies of his many titles in print around the world. And I'd like to go on record as saying that he deserves every bit of that success. This is a case of an immensely talented author getting his due, with the vast (and, alas, sometimes taste-impaired) reading public revealing a great discernment.
Westlake has been well and truly acknowledged by his peers over the more than four decades of his career, having, among other honors, been named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, been the recipient of the Bouchercon Lifetime Achievement Award, and been nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay of The Grifters.
His latest book, Put a Lid on It, is a far cry from his recent throat-grippers (The Hook, The Ax) and also different from his recent revivals of his earlier cold-blooded/hard-boiled Parker series (Firebreak , Flashfire) written under his Richard Stark pseudonym. It is closest in tone to his Dortmunder titles (most recently, Bad News), but it introduces a different sort of thief than the protagonist who is featured in The Hot Rock, Bank Shot, and others. Meehan, the hero of Put a Lid on It, like any other Westlake lead character, is a one-name kind of guy and is as recognizably a Westlake creation as if he were branded with a giant "W."
Smart as he is, though, Meehan wouldn't be a Westlake hero if bad luck were unknown to him. When we first encounter him, he's sitting in jail in the Manhattan Correctional Center, denied parole and stoically awaiting sentencing. Out of the blue, a chance to alter his fate presents itself when a clandestinely dispatched representative of the president's reelection campaign presents himself as Meehan's potential savior.
All Meehan has to do is come up with a workable plan to steal a hideously incriminating videotape from the upstate-New York estate of a wacko millionaire. He must find the appropriate accomplices to help him and so forth... while the clock is furiously ticking.
Fans of such sophisticated political farce as Larry Beinhart's American Hero (transferred to the screen as Wag the Dog) or Joe Klein's (a.k.a. Anonymous) Primary Colors will enjoy the twisted application of Westlake's merry cynicism to the idea of the bungled high-level cover-up. They will admire, as well, his long-perfected ability to blend incredible smartness with an ever entertaining degree of smart-aleck impudence. More Meehan, please. And more Westlake, too, for as long as he can tap the keys of the old portable typewriter on which he still works. --Otto Penzler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Every Westlake book surprises in a different way, from the hilarious Dortmunder series (Bad News, etc.) to the dark, ominous novels of suspense (The Ax, etc.), and this latest comic caper is no exception. Francis Xavier Meehan, one of Westlake's luckless crooks, is in federal prison for hijacking a mail truck he thought contained computer chips. A presidential reelection official offers him a pardon with a Watergate-type scheme: Meehan must steal a video that, if made public, may prevent the president's reelection. Meehan's court-appointed lawyer cuts the best deal she can for him, and we're off on the caper as Meehan assembles his heist crew, figures the logistics and cases the estate of the elderly, right-wing gun collector who has the video. Egyptian and Israeli spies, plus a plethora of presidential aides ("A hundred thousand big mouths," says Meehan about Washington insiders), provide intermittent interference. By the time Meehan learns the video involves national security and he's superfluous, we've also learned that he's a lot smarter and more savvy than the better-educated president's men. The novel ends with a typical Westlake twist funny and perfectly appropriate. Westlake hooks the reader from the first sentence, maintaining the suspense with unpredictable turnabouts and dead-on descriptions: a presidential aide has "a store of meaningless smiles like Halloween masks." Though not one of the author's very best, you'll read this one with a meaningful smile and many a chuckle. Mystery Guild Featured Alternate. (Apr. 24)Richard Stark, has won three Edgar Awards.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Weary of torturous plots that didn't make sense that I've been suffering through because they were "highly recommended" by people with "reputations", I reached... Read morePublished on July 12 2004 by Kathryn R. Sullivan
So glad to see more of the witty, stylish Westlake back. The grim stuff (The Axe) is flooding the market; there is no one better at writing the witty mystery than Westlake. Read morePublished on Feb. 7 2004 by Peter of Westminster
Despite the introduction of the likeable Francis Meehan, this book is not up to Westlake's standards. Read morePublished on Dec 26 2003 by Simon DelMonte
This mightn't be Westlake's greatest literacy achievement but it is still pretty good. Meehan a career criminal who has spent much time behind bars hijacked a federal truck... Read morePublished on Dec 3 2003 by Mr James N Simpson
Wow, talk about a poorly written book, this is it.Dismal plot,sentences structure like a 10 year old,honest.I could only read 40 pages or so before quitting, and I love this genre. Read morePublished on July 4 2003 by Dr. L. Johnson
Donald Westlake can do no wrong. Another flawless novel by the emperor of comic timing. Do yourself a huge favor...pick up any Westlake book today and get hooked!Published on Nov. 7 2002 by Christian
Great fast-paced humorous read. I love those zany characters. Inept politicos, thieves, hip female lawyer, even some foreign opportunists are in the mix. Read morePublished on Oct. 3 2002 by Barbara J. Frayser
I've been a fan since "What's the Worst That Could Happen?" and didn't think that the "good crooks" could get any better than Dortmunder, but I fell in love with Meehan. Read morePublished on Sept. 13 2002 by K. Churn