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3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  380 Ratings  ·  94 Reviews

Hospitalized after a liaison with another man’s wife ends in violence, Paul Cole has just one goal: to rebuild his shattered life. But with his memory damaged, the police hounding him, and no way even to get home, Paul’s facing steep odds – and a bleak fate if he fails…

This final, never-before-published no
Paperback, 336 pages
Published April 5th 2011 by Hard Case Crime (first published 2010)
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Apr 20, 2015 Kemper rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hard-case-crime
Despite being Donald Westlake’s last novel and published by Hard Case Crime this is not a mystery or a crime story. It’s just one incredibly good book.

Paul Cole is an actor from New York crossing the Midwest as part of a traveling theater company. When he hooks up with a married woman the husband catches them in the act, and Paul gets his skull bashed in before he can get his pants on. The injury does serious damage to his memory so that Paul has trouble recalling elements of his life and people
Dan Schwent
Actor Paul Cole gets caught in bed with another man's wife and suffers a head injury. Now Cole's long term memory is gone and his short term memory isn't anything to write home about. Can Cole get back to his old life in New York and remember who he was?

Memory was among Donald Westlake's possessions after he died a few years ago. Apparently he'd written it in the 60's but never got it published. Thanks to Lawrence Block and the Hard Case Crime series, it's finally seen print.

Since Westlake was p
Apr 12, 2010 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Written in the 1960s but not published until this year, "Memory" is a noir masterpiece by the late Donald Westlake -- the story of Paul Cole, an actor who (as the story opens) is caught in the throes of passion with another man's wife. The resulting attack by the woman's husband lands Cole in the hospital with broken ribs and a concussion -- and no recollection of his former life, save the ID in his wallet. What follows as Cole tries to reconstruct his identity is the essence of classic noir -- ...more
May 14, 2010 Ed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps more of a mainstream novel than a noir/crime novel, Donald Westlake's ambitious posthumous novel concerns Paul Cole, an actor, who gets knocked on the head while on tour with his acting company in a Midwest town. Paul's resulting amnesia presents him with all manner of problems, first in the town as a tannery worker, and then back in New York City where he tries to resurrect his acting career. Some glimpses of Mr. Westlake's brilliance as a fiction writer are on display. By turns wistful ...more
Might be one of the best novels I've ever read. Combines the existentialism of Camus's "The Stranger" with the despair and fear of Kafka's "The Trial." I agree with those who say it's too long but I couldn't put it down. A profound, disturbing work.
Westlake, Donald E. MEMORY. (this ed. 2010). ***. Mr. Westlake, one of my all-time favorite authors, died on New Year’s Eve, 2008. He left behind a legacy of top-notch writing under his own name and a variety of pseudonyms. Writing under the name of Richard Stark, he produced a series of novels featuring “Parker,” his antihero crook/conman. This novel was published by Hard Case Crime, and billed as “The Final Novel from MWA Grandmaster Donald Westlake.” Talk about misleading. In a conversation I ...more
James Thane
I'm coming a bit late to this book and really have nothing at all to add to the many good reviews that have already been posted here. Like several others, I'm not sure what to make of it. I'm a huge fan of the Parker series that Westlake wrote as Richard Stark, but I confess that I'm not that enthused about some of his other books. And in the end, I wasn't very excited about this one.

While touring with a theater company in a small town in the Midwest, Paul Cole, an actor, is caught in bed with
Allen Richards
Aug 02, 2011 Allen Richards rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perfect. Absolutely perfect.... well, if one can get past all the typos, but that's Hard Case's fault for letting them get past the proofreaders. The final published novel from Donald Westlake (although written in the 1960's) doesn't fit the classical "pulp" mold that Hard Case is known for, but it's easily my favorite title so far from both the writer and publisher. I can't remember reading a book that so perfectly captures both the frustration and desperation of the heroes predicament. It's ni ...more
William Thomas
Donald Westlake, also known as Richard Stark when writing the Parker novels, had this book of his posthumously published by Hard Case. I can understand why it was never published while he was alive. It just isn't finished. And I don't mean that the book is open-ended or that it wasn't written. The book itself is just a shell of a story, a vague outline of a novel that was on the way to becoming an existentialist noir opera. However, Westlake never got to finish the rewrites for "Memory". And I f ...more
MEMORY is more literary than noir – the central character; Paul Cole gradually comes to terms with his new sense of self following an incident with another man’s wife which resulted in a severe and long term case of amnesia. That violent encounter, describe in piecemeal detail by Westlake builds MEMORY as a novel of redemption, discovery, and knuckle grazing noir. However, soon thereafter the theme becomes apparent with the focus shying away from Cole’s means for revenge to a damaged man trying ...more
Nov 30, 2011 Spiros added it
Recommends it for: Westlake completists, of whom I used to consider myself one
In the truest sense of the word, it grieves me to say I'm giving up on this book, something I never in my wildest imaginings thought I would ever say about a work of the sublime Donald Westlake. But the trancelike fugue state of this tale of touring company actor Paul Cole, simultaneously struck with a chair and amnesia whilst performing an adulterous horizontal tango in a midwestern hotel room, inspired me with a fitful sense of profound uninterest. I suppose we are meant to care whether Paul w ...more
Thorsten Franz
Jun 23, 2012 Thorsten Franz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Deeply disturbing novel about memory and losing the core of one's identity. Years after Donald Westlake's dead, his final work is at last published. I can't recommend this profoundly irritating and humane book highly enough.
Feb 09, 2013 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
So this really isn't a traditional crime book. A crime does happen but that is not the focus since it is dealt with within the first chapter. The focus is the main character's (Paul Cole) recovery from memory loss and how the world around basically destroys the innocent person he has become. Damn, this book is depressing and give you the sense of being flustered with Paul. I felt nervous the whole time I read it.
Jan 18, 2013 Johnny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: noir
Billed as the last novel by Donald E. Westlake, it is clear that Memory had been sitting in the master novelist’s unfinished archives for a while. There is nothing in the narrative that specifically addresses Memory as a period piece, but it is filled with anachronisms if we try to force it into the present day. Prices and salaries are extremely low, a phonograph needle and vinyl plays a role, travel is mostly by bus, and small towns may only get one television channel. In order to keep from bei ...more
Joel Neff
Mar 21, 2013 Joel Neff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Benjamin Thomas
Well, this certainly wasn't what I was expecting. This is billed as Donald Westlake's "last" novel and while it is true that it was published posthumously, it was actually written in the 1960's and left unpublished due to his publisher's comment that it was too "literary".

It's neither a crime novel, nor a mystery per se. Or perhaps it is the grandest mystery of all. It depends on how one looks at it. Regardless it is noir fiction at its finest. The main character, an actor named Paul Cole, suffe
Selaine Henriksen

Memory Donald Westlake
Written by Selaine Henriksen
Monday, 03 June 2013 23:30
This is billed as the final novel from Donald Westlake. I was truly upset when he died. His books have given me so much enjoyment over the years. I can remember being in my room, laughing out loud reading a Dortmunder book, then going downstairs and hearing my sister laughing out loud in her room and when I asked what she was laughing about, said "A Westlake". On the same trip downstairs my mom was laughing over anothe
Jul 09, 2013 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 09, 2013 Ryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book doesn't read like any other Donald Westlake book that I have ever read. This is too bad for some people coming into it with completely different expectations. Most modern readers, just a few chapters in, will expect it to be similar to Memento. And it is to a certain degree for a little while. But in the end it is mostly influenced by Flowers for Algernon. I'm also glad that Westlake did not fall into the trap that most other writers would fall prey to when they reach the end of their ...more
Of course that's how it had to end. I hate the fact that my memory feels like that. Like you can remember names and not faces or vice versa. He wrote an awesome portrayal of bad memory. I have M.S. to thank for that, not some fling to a chair to the head. But I couldn't stop wishing that the pieces would fall into Cole's favor. But I guess that's what makes this part noir. Well worth another read some other time to see if there isn't anything thing I might have missed.
George Harris
Aug 14, 2013 George Harris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A posthumous novel from great pulp writer Donald E. Westlake, this is set in and was fairly clearly written in the '60s. Concerns a man who was attacked and suffers from partial retrograde and anterograde amnesia (he doesn't remember much about his previous life, and has difficulty forming new memories. An excellent read. Not cheerful.
Nov 20, 2013 Brett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant and harrowing. One of the best books I've read in a long time. This is the story of an actor who has lost his memory, maybe even worse just parts of it, and struggles against endless obstacles to regain it. A lot of this book is about questions of identity and the struggle between what a person "should" be doing and what a person truly desires and they really hit close to home. Excellent atmosphere of late 50s/early 60s New York. As great as Westlake's Parker books are, his later stand ...more
Dec 30, 2013 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At the heart of classic noir fiction is a man alienated from his society, at odds with the world and with himself. In this novel, Westlake strips noir down to that essence, eliminating every other element of noir (crime, detection, femme fatale, seedy glamour) to give us Paul Cole, condemned by brain damage to wander postwar America in pursuit of himself, increasingly unclear about who or what that self might be. Pretty cool.
Michael Brown
One mans struggle through a beating, recovery and trying to regain a life he really does not fit into. Long slow read. Not the usual Westlake thriller. But OK overall.
"So help me god, if you drop that computer on the floor again, I will make sure you wake up in a mental ward with total amnesia under someone else's name."

Ok, so maybe that's a quote from The Man from Jupiter (classic Malory) and not the exact premise for this book, but that's only because I thought getting back into this whole reviewing the books I read thing was gonna be way easier.
Jan 07, 2015 Nicolas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perdre la mémoire. Retrouver sa vie d'avant ? La remettre en question ? En changer ?
Sans gros effets de manche et sans forcer, l'ami Westlake nous cueille bien comme il faut.
Feb 22, 2015 Dlytle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Paul Cole, an actor with a touring group, is assaulted by the husband of his current lover, and left behind in small town nowhere while the tour continues without him. The beating has left him with serious memory losses, and he only knows his own name because it's on his driver's license. His final pay is held by the hospital to pay his bill, and the local police chief who seems to have a personal vendetta against adulterers delivers him to the bus station and tells him to get out of town. Paul ...more
Gregg Bell
Jun 12, 2015 Gregg Bell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one will make you think. You know, the kind of book that leaves you wondering about the protagonist, and the choices they make, and the author, and the choices he made.

I loved the premise. An actor, doing something bad, gets conked in the head and loses everything but the scantest traces of his memory, of who he was, how he'd lived.

So he was up against re-familiarizing himself with everything, including his profession of acting. Picture it: one day you know who you are, what your life is a
Sep 22, 2016 Raoulette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Je m'attendais à trouver là un Westlake pur jus, noir et haletant, plein d'astuce et de poilade. Autant dire que je ne me suis pas poilée du tout, bien au contraire.

Ce livre narre la descente aux enfers d'un héros qui perd son identité en même temps que sa mémoire. Il tente de résister au chaos, de garder la tête hors de l'eau (et nous avec lui!) tandis que son monde se délite. Rentrer chez lui pense-t-il, lui permettra de se retrouver enfin, tel qu'il était avant son accident. Alors, besogneux,
Sep 16, 2016 J rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
One of the most terrifying books of Westlake's. I kept hoping things would get better but unlike cheesy memory loss stories, this one was unrelenting and the follow up tragedies were so prosaic and you could see them coming with massive dread inside, knowing the main character never would in time. Then the ending just left me gutted.
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Donald E. Westlake (1933-2008) was one of the most prolific and talented authors of American crime fiction. He began his career in the late 1950's, churning out novels for pulp houses—often writing as many as four novels a year under various pseudonyms such as Richard Stark—but soon began publishing under his own name. His most well-known characters were John Dortmunder, an unlucky thief, and a ru ...more
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