A few years ago I read the graphic novel adaptation of Donald Westlake's The Hunter, and loved it. It was my introduction to the prolific crime novelist's work. When I recently picked up his 1970 novel, The Hot Rock, I expected it to have the same grim tone as The Hunter. But the first scene set me straight: the anti-hero of the story, John Archibald Dortmunder, is getting out of prison after serving time for a failed caper. The prison warden, pleased at Dortmunder's good behavior while being incarcerated, extends his hand to shake Dortmunder's. Dortmunder lets go of the mucus-drenched tissue paper he'd been holding in his right hand and shakes the warden's hand, smearing it with his snot.
This perverse style of humor permeates the story, which is about Dortmunder and his team of oddball professional thieves' multiple attempts to steal the Balaboma Emerald, a valuable jewel that two African countries are fighting over. Dortmunder's gang is hired by a representative from one of the countries to steal the gem from a museum while it's on display at a museum in New York's Central Park. The gang is promised $30,000 per man for the safe delivery of the gem (which is a lot of money in 1970 dollars). When the meticulously planned heist is botched,
Dortmunder and his partners must try again, and again, and again.
The smart dialogue, clever heist planning, and offbeat characters (the gang's lock picking expert is a mild-mannered, married model train enthusiast without a shred of conscience about the multiple felonies he commits) made this a snappy and enjoyable read. Westlake went on to write a 14 novels and 11 short stories featuring the hapless John Dortmunder, and I plan to read the next in the series (Bank Shot) soon.
The Hot Rock
5 years ago, Boing Boing described James Gleick’s The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood as “a jaw-dropping tour de force history of information theory… The Information isn’t just a natural history of a powerful idea; it embodies and transmits that idea, it is a vector for its memes (as Dawkins has it), and […]
Since Daguerre’s first images of the moon in 1839, we have sought to capture the essence of the heavens above us through photography. We built observatories equipped with bigger mirrors and better cameras in the hopes that we will be able to see farther and yet more clearly. When those proved to be insufficient, we […]
Sinclair Lewis’ chilling political novel of a journalist’s struggle against a fascist regime is available free via Feedbooks.
Loot Crate is a totally different kind of subscription service that mails subscribers monthly boxes filled with curated geek, pop culture, and gamer paraphernalia. Its cult following awaits a box every month filled with everything from bobble heads to T-shirts to special edition collectibles. But nothing gets Loot Crate fans as excited as the limited […]
The ARMOR-X Mini Flexible Phone Tripod is a smartphone tripod that is designed with flexible legs to rest on virtually any type of surface. Other tripods have proved useless unless I conveniently have a flat surface in front of me, which is why this particular tripod was appealing enough to try out. The ARMOR-X is compact and easy […]
You don’t need to get an advanced degree and take out massive loans to become a coder. This bundle of 10 courses was designed to teach anyone to code at home for less than it costs to go out for dinner. I was particularly impressed with this new 2017 bundle because it includes courses on […]