Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Donald Westlake's The Hook

A series of short posts starts from here, just in order to catch up with what's happened and what's going on. I promised to write something about Donald Westlake's crime novel The Hook which I read already during the early days of Christmas (why does that feel like it was already a long ago?). It's a very good novel, in the black humour mold of Westlake, even though not anywhere near the hilarity or the slapstick of the Dortmunders.

The Hook is almost a serious meditation on the state of writing and publishing in the early 2000's America. The famous and best-selling writer meets a midlist writer who was once famous, but has never risen to his ranks. They talk shop and wonder what's become of them: the bestselling one has a writer's block, the midselling one is still an able writer, but can't sell aggressively enough. Westlakes pokes bitter fun at how the bookstores decide what to sell and what not. I guess this is him talking here, though he's never been as low as these guys: the bestselling writer asks the other guy to give his novel to him, to be published under his name, and kill his wife. If he does that, he'll get 50% of the advance and the royalties of the coming novel.

Westlake actually shows how these two men start to resemble each other. It becomes a sort of an identity play, a bit like Orhan Pamuk's The White Castle (a historical novel by a Turkish Nobel winner, you should read it, if you haven't). Westlake sure can keep the reader glued to his seat, even though there's not much happening here. The outcome is bitterly ironic. Strongly recommended.

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