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The Hot Rock [Paperback]

Donald E. Westlake
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 1 2001 Dortmunder Novels
The Hot Rock introduces John Archibald Dortmunder, the thief whose capers never quite come off, as he and his convict friends plot to steal the fabulous Balaboma Emerald.

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About the Author

DONALD E. WESTLAKE has written numerous novels over the past thirty-five years under his own name and pseudonyms, including Richard Stark. Many of his books have been made into movies, including The Hunter, which became the brilliant film noir Point Blank, and the 1999 smash hit Payback. He penned the Hollywood scripts for The Stepfather and The Grifters, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay. The winner of three Edgar awards and a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master, Donald E. Westlake was presented with The Eye, the Private Eye Writers of America's Lifetime Achievement Award, at the Shamus Awards. He lives with his wife, Abby Adams, in rural New York State.

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Customer Reviews

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Greatest Comic Heist Novels July 31 2003
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
If you have not yet read The Hot Rock, you have an amazing treat ahead of you. With brilliant plotting, amusing characters and a strong sense of irony, The Hot Rock makes side-tickling fun of just about everything you can imagine. This book also introduces the character, John Archibald Dortmunder, who stars in the marvelous series of books that followed this one.
Dortmunder is about to get out of prison on parole, and is looking forward to the $300 that another inmate will pay him for his old cell. That plan is scotched when the warden decides to personally escort Dortmunder out of the prison. So there he is with regret for his lost $300 and poor prospects. Then it gets worse! A Cadillac chases him onto the sidewalk against a wall. And that's just the first three and a half pages!
Dortmunder's old pal, Andy Kelp, has lined up a job that requires Dortmunder to do the planning for the caper. A former British colony in Africa has recently become two independent nations, Talabwo and Akinzi, each run by a different tribe. The Akinzi have possession of the Balabomo Emerald, worth $500,000, and the UN Ambassador from Talabwo, Major Patrick Ito, is offering $30,000 a man (for up to five men) to retrieve the emerald which is now residing in the New York Coliseum at a Pan-African display. Dortmunder needs money, so he decides to take the job . . . if the major will pay a little walking around money in the meantime.
Soon, Dortmunder has developed a brilliant plan that requires some special props, which the major provides. Into the Coliseum go four of the five, and three return . . . minus the emerald. After this setback, the plot starts to get really complicated.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An Absorbing Caper Sept. 6 2001
Format:Paperback
When a valuable emerald is on display in New York City, it presents an opportunity for those who feel it's rightfully theirs, to steal it. The emerald in question is a religious icon, owned by a small African nation. A neighbouring African nation believes it's theirs and they want it back, so they hire John Dortmunder for the job of retrieving it. John Dortmunder is a master thief and has a knack for planning, but can't do it all himself, so he needs to call on others for their expertise. This is when the fun really begins.
What starts out as a simple case of robbery quickly develops into a comedy of errors as unforeseen circumstance follows plain bad luck. John Dortmunder and his men become determined to succeed at their task, which leads to a series of events ranging from amusing to farcical.
The offbeat characters portrayed in the book add an extra dimension of humour and helps create an upbeat atmosphere throughout. There's a car nut who, of course, is their getaway driver, a gentle and possibly just a bit loopy (toot-toot) model train lover, a Casanova-type pretty boy and a stock standard right-hand-man. All of them thoroughly professional yet, sort of oozing a not-quite-right feeling about them.
We're treated to a light-hearted caper in and around New York City in the book that introduces John Dortmunder to us. You can't help but like these rogues as they stumble from bad situation to worse. It's an amusing comedy that should have you smiling as you read the last page.
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4.0 out of 5 stars What a gem! Aug. 8 2001
Format:Paperback
Within a few hours of being released on parole, John Dortmunder, a small-time thief and con artist is embroiled in a new caper. He has been commissioned to steal a valuable emerald for a newly-formed small African nation. John handpicks the men who will assist him in this heist, each of whom brings their special skills to the job at hand and their off-center behavioral traits. This is not exactly your gang that couldn't shoot straight. Rather, these misfits just seem to be the victims of events often beyond their control. No matter how much inventive planning goes into each robbery, they never seem to walk away with the prize. It is constantly back to the drawing board for Dortmunder and each robbery calls for more innovative and daring methods.
At times, the dialogue reads like the old "who's on first, what's on second" routine made famous by Abbott and Costello. At other times, the humor is much more subtle. Either way, you will find yourself chuckling or, if you are in the safety of your own home, laughing out loud.
Living in New York, I was amazed at how well Mr. Westlake knows the city and the outer boroughs. Having grown up in a rather obscure part of one of these boroughs, I think that unbeknownst to me, Mr. Westlake must have lived next door to me. He can describe stores and houses on the smallest side street with pinpoint accuracy.
This is not the type of book that I would normally seek out. However, I had recently read a short story by Mr. Westlake that caught my fancy. I liked the style of writing so much that I decided to try one of his books.
If you like a well written action caper that will have you laughing throughout, I suggest you pick up a copy of "The Hot Rock." As for me, I am going to order the next few books in the Dortmunder series as soon as I submit this review.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Perfect Start to the Perfect Series April 25 2001
By Ivy
Format:Paperback
If you haven't devoured the whole Dortmunder series by now, wait no longer: start with this one, and as soon as your stomach muscles recover, move on to the rest. This is the kickoff to the funniest mystery series ever written.
Our hero is Dortmunder, a very recent ex-con. His opponent is the Balabomo Emerald, a gem with a history, a price on its head, and, apparently, a nasty sense of humor. Hired by the representative of an African nation that wants the jewel for religious and political reasons, Dortmunder assembles a team of the finest, funniest men ever to make a dishonest dollar. They make attempt after attempt (as the blurb says, giving new meaning to the term repeat offender) at the job, striking by helicopter, train, and mesmerism, among others. Any one of the plans should succeed. But fate - or the emerald - has other ideas.
The plot is only part of the humor, though. In a way, the Dortmunder series is very like Terry Pratchett's Discworld series; they both rely on language and character as much as situations for laughs, and they both get incredible results from the strategy.
Seriously, this book (and the series it spawned) is a better antidepressant than any pharmaceutical I've ever encountered. If you're just now starting here, wow, do I envy you. (But how did you live this long without Dortmunder?)
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