I was fortunate to snag one of the new Hard Case Crime releases just before everything shut down. And it’s a good thing too because Donald Westlake is one of my favorite writers. I love how versatile he is, doing everything from mysteries to broad noir tales to geopolitical thrillers to biting satire works. When I saw that this would be a re-release of two movie-based novellas, I got excited. This is probably the most eager I’ve been for a new HCC in a while.
And I was not disappointed. Both novellas are good in their own respective ways. Both are also decidedly different…
This one was an absolute riot. A movie critic kills a female friend of his, tries to cover it up and gets sucked deeper and deeper into 1970s New York that involves earnest cops, a greasy private eye, and the world of cinema. This is more of a noir tale than anything, though there are some mystery elements. The critic’s persona is insufferable, which makes everything that happens to him all the more hilarious. A very enjoyable read.
This is a different story that doesn’t go the direction one might expect. There may or may not even be a crime involved. But it’s an interesting, at times moving meditation on the passage of time and what it means to change as a person. For a while, I thought the story was going to have a big reveal. There is an actual reveal at the end, though it might not satisfy. It left me feeling maudlin and ponderous and made me appreciate the story more.
Both of these tales combine for an exciting book from one of the great crime writing voices of the last century.