The Hook Mass Market Paperback – Apr 1 2001
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Mystery grand master Donald Westlake (who also writes under the name Richard Stark) is nothing if not prolific: his publishing career includes juveniles, westerns, and short stories. He is perhaps best known by mystery enthusiasts for his comic crime novels (Smoke, Baby, Would I Lie?, Trust Me on This) and his Dortmunder series (What's the Worst That Could Happen?, Don't Ask, Drowned Hopes). The Hook, however, moves beyond the machinations and deduction-driven plots of traditional mystery, following the path Westlake spearheaded with The Ax into the twisted labyrinth of psychological suspense. The Hook is a harrowing story, told with a crisp incisiveness, and its riveting central characters are extraordinary: Bryce Proctorr and Wayne Prentice are fascinating, compelling tangles of neuroses and ambitions, both wonderfully drawn.
Bryce Proctorr has a multi-million dollar contract for his next novel, a wife who is trying to extract the last pound of flesh (but money will do just as well) from him in an ugly divorce, a fast-approaching deadline, and a serious case of writer's block. Wayne Prentice is an author drifting ghost-like through a world that has forgotten his novels; he's gone through two pseudonyms, has watched his sales plummet, and is wondering whether the academic life might be better than this, all things considered. When the two meet by chance in the New York Library, Proctorr has a proposition: if Prentice will give him his unsold manuscript to publish under Proctorr's name, the two will split the book advance fifty-fifty. But as in all Faustian bargains, there is a significant catch: Wayne must kill Bruce's wife.
The murder itself is almost insignificant, a small and sordid endeavor. The novel's real appeal lies in its shadowy reflections of the links between the two protagonists: a bond has been created that neither can break--nor wants to. Westlake cleverly questions the boundaries between actual and vicarious experience, fact and fiction. The novel is strikingly self-referential as it plays with the irony of authors trying to "compose" their own realities: "There are moments in almost any novel when it's necessary to move a character from one point to another, so that you can go on with the story, and this was like that." But what happens when the characters, instead of dutifully obeying the wishes of their creators, strike off on their own in unanticipated and fearful directions? --Kelly Flynn --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
This is a very savvy tale of two writers, instantly recognizable to anyone in the publishing world. Bryce Proctorr is a megaseller who gets million-dollar deals; Wayne Prentice, after a promising start, has fallen into the dread midlist, where his sales records haunt him and he publishes under a succession of pseudonyms to present an unsullied record. The problem is that while Proctorr has hit a major writer's block, Prentice is still productive, though his advances are dwindling. So Proctorr, involved in a protracted and draining divorce from a harridan wife, comes up with this terrific notion. He proposes to Prentice, a friend from earlier days: you take my name, I take your book, and we split the proceeds, on one condition: Lucie must be killed. It's a very promising notion, and once Westlake is over the hump of how the very pleasant Wayne will agree to the deed, and actually manage to accomplish it, much to his own surprise, he is left with a very delicate situation. What will the knowledge of the crime do to the relationship between the two men? How will it affect their work habits? Will the dogged New York police detective find out anything? How will Bryce's editor react to Wayne becoming, in effect, his star's ghost? All these issues are skillfully dealt with in Westlake's super-clean, unfussy narration, which manages to make the plight of the left-behind writer almost as lacerating as that of the downsized executive in his brilliant The Ax. In the end, though, he cannot quite bring his story to an unexpected conclusion, and his last scene, though effective enough, seems to have strayed in from a much less subtly told story. 9-city author tour.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Naming his protagonists Proctorr and Prentice for proctor and apprentice and titling their fictional works, The Domino Doublet, Two Faces in the Mirror, The Shadowed Other, does not make the grade as philosophical inquiry, psychological insight or character development. Instead of a meaningful intelligent story the reader gets gamesmanship.
Westlake places concept over believability resulting in an impossible premise that requires inconceivable behavior by the characters. After a quick set-up in Chapter 1 and an early climax in Chapter 8, Westlake spends much of the book's other twenty-nine chapters explaining his characters and excusing himself. In Chapter 17 he admits as much when he writes, "Some behavior is wrong, some reaction is wrong. It's a rip in the fabric of the novel, but it's necessary to get the story where it has to go, so the novelist merely sighs and shakes his head and does it." In real life, both Proctorr and Prentice would be in custody by Chapter 9. After numerous dead ends, Westlake surrenders and leaves his story's conclusion to the reader to resolve.
Still one has to admire Mr. Westlake's fearlessness as he writes about a literary star's work being published, regardless of merit, solely on the strength of the author's name and past sales.
Most recent customer reviews
I do not need to summarize the plot. You can see that above. I found this to be one of the most compelling books I have read in a long time. Read morePublished on Nov. 26 2001 by David Pope
_The Hook_ leaves you hanging would have been more clever, but inaccurate, since, by the end of the book you've long since stopped caring about any of the characters. Read morePublished on Oct. 25 2001 by John Mayer
I bought it on last wednesday in Holland and finished it sunday.
Remind I'm Dutch, so I read a bit slower than the most of you. Read more
I enjoy this author and I particularly liked The Ax which was a real departure from his Dortmunder series, which I also like. (the review is in here somewhere if you care). Read morePublished on June 7 2001 by John R. Linnell
This book is a textbook example of a good idea gone wrong -- not anywhere near enough character development or detail to make the story believeable or compelling. Read morePublished on May 27 2001
This is the first book I've read by the author, but I definitely enjoyed his style. The story would make a great movie. I'd recommend it as a beach read, too. Read morePublished on May 7 2001 by Chelle
I started The Hook with much anticipation, having loved The Ax. The Hook starts out well, but gets muddled in the middle, but has a terrific end (if somewhat predictible). Read morePublished on April 18 2001
In Donald E. Westlake's "The Hook," the title refers to the (b) definition of the word, something intended to attract and ensnare, specifically the "hook" in a... Read morePublished on April 17 2001 by Lawrance Bernabo
I have read other Westlake books and, after reading The Hook, he needs to stay with his Dortmunder series. Read morePublished on Feb. 14 2001 by Leonard P. Bazelak