Saturday 14 March 2009



Regular readers will know that I'm a recent convert to the Richard Stark/ Parker books. But after reading two Parkers back to back I decided to change tack. Only slightly though and I pulled this Hard Case from my TBR pile.

Now Donald Westlake is Richard Stark. Or rather Donald Westlake is the author who uses the Richard Stark name as a pseudonym for the darker books.

So here's how this one goes down - Chester (Chet) Conway is one of New York finest - a yellow cab driver. He lived at home with his father and is experiencing a run of bad luck. His poker playing's costing him a small fortune and when he gets a tip for the horses from a punter he decides to take it. He wins big, almost a grand ( big bucks in 1969) but when he goes to collect the money he finds his bookie dead, murdered.

What follows is a comic series of adventures that is a world removed from the Parker books - the confrontations and questioning between Chester and the police are laugh out loud funny and an early section where Chester is kidnapped and then interrogated by a couple of mobsters is wonderfully written. The story moves with the same momentum as the Parker books but there is much more emphasis on character and the humour comes from these characters. In many ways the book reminded me of the type of movie Bob Hope used to make and there is a lot of the Hope kind of reluctant hero in Chester Conway.

Overall I think I prefer the darker Parker stuff but for a welcome diversion and some serious fun Someone Owes me Money delivers big time. I'll certainly be checking out more of the Donald Westlake stuff.

A great story then but I'd buy this book even if it was the most turgid thing ever written. The Hard Case Crime style of book appeals to me and I love to have them on my shelf. Aren't they the most beautiful looking books - the cover painting this time is from Michael Keolsch and features a leggy blond standing over a speeding taxi cab with the hoodlums in pursuit - course, who notices the cars with legs like that!


Cullen Gallagher said...

I've wanted to read this for some time - but my local bookseller kept selling out of it. Which is a good thing - always glad to see Westlake flying off the shelves of independent bookstores. I just picked up HCC's latest Westlake release, The Cutie, but haven't started it.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Now I'm really eager to read this!

David Cranmer said...

A book I read last year and enjoyed very much.

Craig Clarke said...

I, too, liked it a lot (and reviewed it). My favorite of Westlake's is God Save the Mark.

Charles Ardai put Westlake and Lawrence Block as characters in Fifty-to-One, his HCC "50th anniversary" book.

Charmaine said...

I think my comment went off into cyber space.

Do you a think a girl would like this book or for the boys?

Perhaps the blog police are monitoring my scandalous remarks. hee hee

Scott D. Parker said...

If anyone enjoys audiobooks, I recommend this one highly. One of the better ones I listened to last year.

Craig Clarke said...

That's good to know. I'm always looking for more good audio books, and Westlake usually translates well to the format. His Dortmunder series books may even be better that way.


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