Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Just Read: What's So Funny? by Donald E. Westlake

I'm over a week behind on these posts, and I've been reading at least one book a day (granted, mostly comics collections, but, still, the pile is getting wobbly), so let's see if I can bash a few out today.

I read What's So Funny?, the new Dortmunder book by Donald Westlake, on a family trip to Great Wolf Lodge, a franchised indoor waterpark out in the Poconos. Both were a lot of fun. (All three, if you count my family.)

One might think that taking a book to a waterpark would be a dangerous endeavor, but it really was no more difficult than reading at the beach. Sure, there are wet areas, but those aren't the spots where anyone is going to sit and read to begin with. As a matter of fact, I finished What's So Funny? even before the trip home, which left me with no obvious reading material on hand. (So I read one of Thing 1's book-shaped comics, and then part of a P.G. Wodehouse novel on my Palm -- though I haven't gone back to the latter, proving, I guess, that I'll read anything else than an ebook, given the choice.)

Anyway, What's So Funny? is not the best Dortmunder book (I still think that's Drowned Hopes), but it's a damn funny Dortmunder book. In case you've never heard of John Dortmunder before, he's a career criminal in New York City with a string of friends in the same line of work. He's very good at making plans to steal things, which is good, since events always conspire to ruin at least two or three plans before one of them actually works (more or less). In this book, John is blackmailed by a crooked ex-cop to locate and steal a jewel-encrusted chess set originally meant for the Tzar.

Westlake loosens the focus on Dortmunder quite a bit in this book; we see a lot of the action from other points of view (always people outside the usual cast, as I recall), which gives this book a feeling similar to Carl Hiaasen's work.

I wouldn't suggest starting the series here, though I'm sure Funny would stand on its own perfectly well. But grabbing one of the early books like Bank Shot (about stealing a bank -- not robbing it, stealing it), or Jimmy the Kid, or Nobody's Perfect, or Why Me, would be even better, and would allow the reader to meet the characters as Westlake brought them into the series.

And for those who've read Westlake before, here's another one, and he's still as smooth, engaging, and readable as ever.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I went to a beadshow in Williamsburg, VA last year and while looking for a hotel, found Great Wolf Lodge. It sounded perfect -- lots of water, rustic -- and then I looked at the rooms. Not a single room in the place. It's designed for families.

So I stayed at the beadshow's recommended hotel whose "handicapped room" was adapted only by putting a lever on the bathroom door handle. Really. And it was an outside room and I had to call up to the desk to get someone to come down and bash at my door to get it open when I wanted to get in or out because the door swelled with the humidity during the day.

I sent a blistering letter to the hotel management and received a phone call, but no taking back of the charges.

Apparently Great Wolf Lodge was exactly right for you guys.

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