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Put a Lid on It [Mass Market Paperback]

Donald E. Westlake
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 1 2003
Facing life without parole, career thief Francis Meehan awaits sentencing in Manhattan when he's approached with an offer he can't refuse: all charges will be dropped if he steals an incriminating videotape that could cost the President of the United States his reelection.

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From Amazon

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.

From Publishers Weekly

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.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Francis Meehan, Recidivist June 30 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Westlake is a master of both the comic crime novel and the caper story, and here he combines both to great effect. Francis Xavier Meehan (known always as "Meehan") is a felon and a recidivist. ("That's what they'll put on my tombstone, 'Francis Meehan, Recidivist'.") He's also very bright and an autodidact, mostly because there's lots of time to read in jail. This time, he's awaiting federal changes for having highjacked a truck he didn't know was carrying the U.S. Mail, and he's definitely not looking forward to federal time. So he's cautiously interested when a politician from the president's reelection campaign committee comes to see him about engaging his professional burglary skills to recover a "package" that could damage the president's chances and which is presently in the possession of the Other Side. The problem is, as Meehan lays his plans and tries to set up a team to do the job, nobody in Washington can keep their mouths shut. Jeffords, the political contact, is a hoot. Goldfarb, Meehan's lawyer, is another one. And Meehan himself is a trove of highly quotable dialogue and observations, espeically when it comes to the Ten Thousand Rules. Like many (perhaps most) of Westlake's yarns, this would make a pretty good film, too.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Master of the Caper May 9 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Somewhere between Parker and Dortmunder is Francis Meehan, a streetwise thief facing a long term in federal prison. Not quite as violent as Parker, not quite as comic as Dortmunder, Meehan is recruited by some true low-lifes: politicians.
Having learned from the mistakes of Watergate, the President's men have hired a competent crook who they can tantalize into work with the possibility of freedom. Both sides are in over their heads: Meehan is used to a more honest breed of crook, and the politicos have little idea what the world of crime is like.
Like other Westlake caper novels, half the fun is in the preparation of the eventual crime. Most of this book deals with the preparations, with the actual crime not taking place till late in the book. Westlake is a master in this field, and he doesn't disappoint here. If the book rates four stars, it is only because, good as it is, it is not quite the level of some of his other works. Nonetheless, neither Westlake veterans nor first-time readers should be anything less than pleasantly entertained.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Shades of Watergate Feb. 19 2003
This is vintage Westlake and a bitter satire of government.
All of Westlake's characters have runs of bad luck and Franci (not Frank, thank you) Meehan is no exception. Meehan is a non-violent career criminal who has just been incarcerated at the Manhattan Correctional Center awaiting sentencing on a federal charge (how was he to know the truck he was hijacking was carrying registered mail in addition to computer parts). He is approached by Jeffords, obviously a lawyer, who makes him a strange proposition. Jeffords whisks Meehan off to the Outer Banks in a corporate jet. The U.S. president's campaign committee needs a burglary performed, and they've learned a lesson from Watergate: If you need a successful burglary, hire a professional burglar. Amateurs, they are, they pick one in prison. They want Meehan to steal a very incriminating videotape from a supporter of the opposing party. All charges will be dropped if he can pull it off.
Meehan is no fool, however, hates to work with amateurs - that would violate one of the "ten-thousand rules" - and he works his own little sting in the midst of the large one. He enlists his own crew to lift the video from the estate of a wacko millionaire all the while trying to protect himself from incompetent but malicious forces (rent-a-thugs from the rival campaign and some errant Middle-Eastern types) who want the video for their own purposes.
In this humorous crime caper, Westlake is at his cynical and impudent best.
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5.0 out of 5 stars PROFESSIONAL THIEF vs. POLITICAL CROOKS July 18 2002
Westlake is up against the real crooks this time as he takes on the spindoctors, dirty tricks and honorable candidates of our national political scene. And you know he's going to win in the end by poking fun "RIGHT" and "LEFT!"
Francis Xavier Meehan is a thief. He's also sitting in jail getting ready to be found guilty of "big time" federal charges because the ordinary truck he helped hijack wasn't full of the expected computer stuff from Mexico, but U.S. Postal Service mail. Then out of the blue a very non-lawyerly person claiming to be his lawyer shows up at the jail to see him and makes him a deal that he can't refuse. It seems as if the president, who is running for re-election has committed a slight political blunder, which just happens to be detailed on a video tape the opposition is going to release as a last minute dirty trick that will blow the election. So Meehan agrees to the offer which is to steal the tape and watch the federal charges disappear.
So, do you really expect a bunch of politicians to ever do anything right - especially in a Westlake comedy of errors? Before long everyone from the opposition to international espionage agents know that something is brewing with Francis Xavier.
There's no "little blue dress" in this political farce, but expect to see just about everything else. Westlake has returned to his classic comic crime style for this one and created a whole new cast of enjoyable characters that really deserve a second visit. Hint. Hint. This one has my total recommendation.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful summer week-end read
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 more
Published on July 12 2004 by Kathryn R. Sullivan
5.0 out of 5 stars Great!
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 more
Published on Feb. 7 2004 by Peter of Westminster
3.0 out of 5 stars Westlake Lite
Despite the introduction of the likeable Francis Meehan, this book is not up to Westlake's standards. Read more
Published on Dec 26 2003 by sdelmonte@aol.com
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't Keep a Lid on the Secret that is Westlake
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 more
Published on Dec 3 2003 by James N Simpson
1.0 out of 5 stars Throw it away
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 more
Published on July 4 2003 by Dr. L. Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Another flawless Westlake!
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Put a Lid on It
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 more
Published on Oct. 3 2002 by Barbara J. Frayser
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed it a lot!!!
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 more
Published on Sept. 13 2002 by K. Churn
5.0 out of 5 stars An engrossing thriller of cover-ups and intrigue
Francis Meehan makes his living by stealing - until an offer made in prison brings him an unusual job involving protecting a Presidential secret. Read more
Published on Sept. 7 2002 by Midwest Book Review
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