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The Comedy is Finished (Hard Case Crime #105)

3.59  ·  Rating Details  ·  313 Ratings  ·  82 Reviews
The year is 1977, and America is finally getting over the nightmares of Watergate and Vietnam and the national hangover that was the 1960s. But not everyone is ready to let it go.

Not aging comedian Koo Davis, friend to generals and presidents and veteran of countless USO tours to buck up American troops in the field. And not the five remaining members of the self-proclaime
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 21st 2012 by Hard Case Crime (first published January 1st 2012)
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Dan Schwent
Mar 01, 2012 Dan Schwent rated it liked it
Aging comedian Koo Davis is kidnapped and held for ransom by the People's Revolution Army. But will the PRA let Koo live even if their demands are met?

Donald E. Westlake wrote The Comedy is Finished sometime during the 1970's but decided not to publish it for a couple reasons. I'll be completely honest. For the first half of the book, I wasn't completely sold on The Comedy is Finished and was planning on giving it a 2. Then Westlake worked his magic.

My reasons for not loving The Comedy is Finish
In the late 1970s, Koo Davis is an aging and iconic comedian best known for his constant USO tours to entertain American troops overseas. Koo is kidnapped by a group of militants left over from the ‘60s who threaten to kill him unless the US government releases ten ‘political prisoners’.

Leave it to a bunch of goddamn hippies to think that kidnapping Bob Hope is a good plan.

A FBI agent who has been exiled from DC for a minor role in Watergate sees getting Koo back as the key to reviving his car
Lawrence Block
May 04, 2012 Lawrence Block rated it really liked it
First, full disclosure: Donald E. Westlake was one of my closest friends for over fifty years. Shortly after his death, I had the good fortune to play a role in Hard Case Crime's publication of Memory, a dark existential novel he wrote in the early 60s and shelved when his agent couldn't sell it. I read Memory in manuscript, days after he finished it, and I thought it was brilliant. My opinion hasn't changed.

Twenty years later, Don wrote The Comedy is Finished; he shelved this one when a Scorses
Aug 28, 2012 Mike rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
I’m usually open to reading anything by an author who I have sampled and enjoyed. (Heck, I’ll even read an author that I’m not thrilled by if it’s the only thing made of ink & paper around!)

This is a book that sat buried in a basement for decades. The fact that a friend had a carbon copy from the author is the only reason it saw a printing press. It is a very dated book, but that’s okay since it was contemporaneous when written. While the impact of some of the rationales may have been dilute
Jul 04, 2012 Ed rated it really liked it
I'm a big Donald Westlake/Richard Stark fan. This posthumously published novel is set in the post-Watergate 1970s. A political cult of young folks kidnaps a famous comedian and demands the release of political radicals from the U.S. prisons. However, the political radicals are a hodge-podge bunch chosen at random. Odd. The comedian tosses off glib one-liner, but he soon reveals a painful, serious side. I don't know if the narrative would appeal to those readers who didn't live through Watergate ...more
Jun 01, 2013 Krycek rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction
So a bunch of radical nutjob hippies kidnap famous comedian Koo Davis in exchange for the release of "political" prisoners. But let me ask you, who's the real victim here? Koo or the poor schmucks that have to sit around listening to his jokes? Talk about a "captive audience!" Amirite?
*Chirp, chirp, chirp.*
So what's the deal with Ovaltine? The jar is round. They oughtta call it "Roundtine."
Hey, *taptaptap* is this thing on?

Okay, so, clearly, I'm not a comedian. If I were I'd probably be a murder
Mar 26, 2015 Josh rated it really liked it
Koo Davis is a comedian past his prime. Having lived a lavish life performing across the country and providing light relief to the American army during wartime, he now finds himself in the hands of a band of criminals who are using him as a pawn to free ten imprisoned activists.

Set in 1977, THE COMEDY IS FINISHED is a period piece that is very much a product of its time. The political landscape is at the forefront, and socialist viewpoints and present day issues are littered throughout the narr
Craig Childs
Apr 13, 2015 Craig Childs rated it really liked it
I have read five Donald Westlake books and ironically my favorites were the ones published posthumously. THE COMEDY IS FINISHED is not quite the five-star masterpiece that MEMORY was, but it was still well-crafted and absorbing. The main character Koo Davis is an aging comedian, a thinly veiled version of Bob Hope in the late 1970’s, who is kidnapped by some leftover socialist radicals. Like the old Bob Hope movies, he tries to joke and quip his way through the ordeal, but as his outlook gets bl ...more
Feb 27, 2012 Scott rated it really liked it
Finished it today and giving it to a friend tonite

I'll write up my interview with the editor who put the book together and get it published in the next few days

Received this today - interviewed the editor who worked on the book for the publisher and will put together a full article with review by me and book excerpt when i finish this book

This is the never-before-published lost Westlake novel and the first new Westlake since 2010's Memory, and most likely the last new Westlake we'll ever have th
Apr 15, 2015 Dave rated it liked it
I've never read Westlake before, so this is my first one.
The novel is set in 1977, a time when America s getting out of the shadows of Watergate and Vietnam.
An aging comedian, well known for his USO work(Think a darker Bob Hope type) is kidnapped by a small group of people who don't want to let the past go just yet...
I enjoyed ths one very much. It moves fast, gets you invested in the story, and the outcome.
I will have to look up some of his other stuff now...
Feb 29, 2012 Harvey rated it liked it

Definitely an interesting take on '60's antiwar politics as a band of aging radicals uses a kidnapping to (try to) advance their goals during the mid-70s aftermath of Vietnam/Watergate.

The most fully-realized character is the kidnap victim, a Bob Hope-style comedian who has fond memories of the women he played with during all those USO tours. Other characters, including the radicals and FBI agent, are not fully fleshed out.

Publishing this 35 years after it was written (and after the death of
Nov 09, 2015 Tony rated it really liked it
THE COMEDY IS FINISHED. (2012, from 1970s). Donald E. Westlake. ***1/2.
According to information supplied on the web, this was a lost book by Westlake that had been residing in a desk drawer of Max Alan Collins for many years. There are many reasons why it had never been submitted for publication, but it has finally seen the light. It is a good book, and should appeal to all of Westlake’s fans. It is the story of a kidnapping gone wrong. The kidnappers consisted of an assortment of 1960s radicals
Aug 26, 2014 Solitairerose rated it liked it
I am a fan of the Hard Case Crime books, and since moving to Titan Books, they have upgraded their packaging of the books without losing any of the quality. I was looking forward to The Comedy Is Finished as a lost Westlake book. It is set in the waning days of the 1970’s as a bunch of leftover radicals kidnap an older comedian in order to get demands met to release some of their jailed compatriots.

The story is a fairly simple plot, with the kidnappers having a number of problems and issues tha
Jul 06, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing
I'd been saving this book for quite some time, because I am quickly running out of new-to-me Donald Westlake's to read, and the man was an absolute treasure of a writer. Whether writing as Westlake or Richard Stark, he had a way of balancing humor with keen insight into the human condition while still being perfectly compelling and not at all preachy.

In "The Comedy is Finished," Westlake turns a gimlet eye on the post 1960s revolutionaries, the FBI, and an aging comic who hasn't quite figured ou
Benjamin Thomas
What happens when an iconic comedian named Koo Davis, known for his radio program and USO tours (think Bob Hope) is kidnapped by a bunch of radical hippies who demand the release of ten incarcerated fellow radicals? I’m not really sure but I’m not sure the answers are in this book either.

Reportedly, when Donald E. Westlake wrote this novel, a similarly-themed movie had just been released so Westlake chose not to publish it and instead handed it off to his friend Max Allan Collins who later had i
Jun 27, 2012 Melissa rated it liked it
My first Westlake! And also his last. This is an absorbing read with an okay ending. I read this yesterday & had a funny feeling in my stomach today; upon examining this feeling, it turns out I am still creeped out by Liz & the guy who chews the inside of his face. So that's got to be a good thing.
Feb 21, 2016 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Westlake has become one of my favorite crime novelists because his books always have a kind of dee, brooding sense of character analysis that many other books never really get around to, even in the broader literary world. Here, it is no different. A few of the characters come off as stereotypes, particularly the radicals-turned-kidnappers at the center of the action, but the other characters have legitimate emotions that play out importantly as the book goes on. The story is pretty simple, but ...more
Douglas Armstrong
Apr 18, 2015 Douglas Armstrong rated it really liked it
Entertaining caper book about revolutionaries who kidnap a Bob Hope like comedian - a man who made a name for himself doing USO shows and can't stop it with the one liners even when his life is on the line. It feels a bit stretched out before its conclusion, but there are true surprises here to be savored. I've always had a weakness for Donald Westlake ("The Hot Rock"), and I'm glad that his true "last unpublished manuscript" (written in the late '70s by one of my favorite mystery writers) was u ...more
Jan 30, 2013 Dyana rated it really liked it
My son and I are avid Donald Westlake fans, and I was excited to find a book of his I hadn't read yet. He wrote this book in the 1970's, sent it to a crime writer friend to read, and then decided not to publish it because the movie THE KING OF COMEDY was released with a similar plot. The friend stored the manuscript away for 30 years, remembered he had it, and it was published four years after Westlake's death.

It's a great quirky plot. A group of five people calling themselves the People's Revol
Jul 19, 2012 Nick rated it liked it
This book, released from a draft that the author had chosen not to publish, is not one of Westlake's best, but still worth reading. A period piece set in 1977, it is about the political and social leftovers of the previous decade, ranging from aging revolutionaries to discredited FBI agents to an aging comedian who found himself on the wrong side of the new mood of the country.

Koo Davis, partly a Bob Hope-type, but with interesting differences, has donated his time to the USO and similar agencie
I have not read a lot of Westlake's books since I started tracking my reading. I have listened to most of his Dortmunder series which is always fun. This is a very different book. The Westlake humor is there, but this is a much darker tale.

It is the end of the 1970's and the revolution not only has not be televised, it has basically failed. However, there are always a few people who persist in their belief that their cause is worthy. This novel is about five people who want the revolution to suc
Brian E. Spivey
Nov 13, 2015 Brian E. Spivey rated it really liked it
Comedian Koo Davis is kidnapped by a wacky group of radicals who just can't seem to understand that the 60's ended, and the struggle may well be over.

They demand that 10 political prisoners be released from prison and taken to Algeria, or else. They never expected that 7 of the 10 wouldn't want to go, for various reasons.

Exiled FBI agent Mike Wiskiel is given charge of the case and sets about trying to locate the hide out of the radicals. Will he find Koo before harm is done to him?

A good read.
Sep 28, 2013 Maduck831 rated it really liked it
I liked it...character wise a little more development would've been cool, that said it was a large "cast" and even with only a couple of pages of background/switching between various people you still got a "feel" for everyone's motivations, etc...enjoyed the plot the idea that the "comedy is finished."

"And: "Did you know Thomas Jefferson said America needed a new revolution every twenty-five years? Because otherwise the country would stagnate into just another power, just another nation like al
Chris Rhatigan
Sep 28, 2015 Chris Rhatigan rated it liked it
I love Westlake--this is pretty far from his best. I liked the premise, but there's too much back story and the constant commentary on seventies wears thin. Koo Davis is an interesting character, but he's the only one.

Yet it's still Westlake--it's still a well-plotted noir about a kidnapping that descends into chaos. It's just less engaging than his other work, so I was disappointed.
May 14, 2012 Roybot rated it it was ok
I'm a big fan of Donald Westlake--particularly his "Richard Stark" work--so I was very excited to see that there was another Westlake book available.

In the end, The Comedy is Finished is a perfectly fine kidnapping book, but it doesn't really stand up well against Westlake's other work. It feels... unpolished. It's not as tense as many of his other works, nor does it have the breakneck pace that many of the Stark books have. The switching point of view and unusual antagonists felt very Westlake
Dec 28, 2015 Peter rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery-thriller
This "lost" novel by Donald Westlake probably should have stayed lost. Peopled by unsympathetic characters with unlikely names, none of whom can resist psychoanalyzing everyone he meets, out loud and at length, The Comedy is Finished revolves around the kidnapping of "Koo" Davis. Davis is supposedly an internationally renowned funny man, but Westlake is unable to provide any dialog for Davis that makes this even remotely plausible. There are a few genuinely tense and interesting moments, but mos ...more
Justin Sorbara-Hosker
Still looking for a Westlake novel that I like as much as the weakest Parker novel. This isn't it. Meh, unfortunately - kind of interesting to see what he can do with the shackles off (more cursing & sex than you'd expect when you're a Stark reader), and kind of interesting to see him work in some social commentary for a change (he's got stuff to say about America coming out of the flower power '70's), but its just too long & not as compelling as a Stark book - specifically, a Parker Sta ...more
Aaron (Typographical Era)
Yesterday I posted a review of the new Russell Banks novel and one of the things that I neglected to mention, mostly because of sheer embarrassment, is that I had never before read anything written by him. The same holds true for Donald E. Westlake. How a man who was awarded the Edgar Allan Poe Award three times and was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America somehow managed to fly under my radar for so long is baffling.

Because of the numerous accolades Westlake received I approac
Mar 17, 2012 Richard rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Mystery lovers or those who want to know about radical politics in the 1970s.
Recommended to Richard by: I think I have read all Mr. Westlake's novels.
As I read other comments everyone relates the character of Koo to Bob Hope. I think of him more like Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Phil Silvers or Henny Youngman. Hope was a little more sophisticated, I think, than some of these others. All, of course, came out of burlesque, so they all had a coarse background and a foundation in blue humor.

I'm sorry to see Mr. Westlake will no longer be providing us so much entertainment. He was one of a kind. This last work is also one of a kind. Starting as a car
This is somewhere between a 3 star and 4 star book. It's a bit better than average but not enough so that it will stick in my mind if someone asks me about it a year from now.

It's a kidnapping story line with a few interesting points. The victim is an aging comedian who, even in the most dire circumstances, cannot help cracking a joke. The majority of the book revolves around the relationships of the victim and the kidnappers. Some psychological elements and shades of Stockholm syndrome thrown i
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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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