October 29, 2003
THE HOOK, by Donald E. Westlake (Mysterious Press, 2000). Donald Westlake is a wonder. He’s an astonishingly profilic writer, and seems to have out three or four new books every time I turn around. He also has an incredible range. His books about Dortmunder and his bungling burgular friends are frequently hilarious, but he can turn around and write as grim and hard-edged a crime novel as anyone could want, as witness his “Richard Stark” books. He’s also written SF and fantasy, and some comic stuff about the writing life that is all too true. Writers writing about writers can be a bad idea, but Westlake does it wonderfully in A LIKELY STORY, and again here in THE HOOK, a grim psychological drama about two old friends who chance to meet at the New York Public Library. Both are writers, but one can’t sell his novels any more and is fast running short of money, and the other is in the midst of the divorce from hell, and blocked as a result. When they try to solve each others’ problems, mayhem and madness ensue. Westlake always writes page-turners, but this one packs a nasty punch that will leave you bleeding.