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The Comedy is Finished

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  229 ratings  ·  64 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
ebook, 320 pages
Published February 21st 2012 by Hard Case Crime (first published January 1st 2012)
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Community Reviews

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Dan Schwent
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
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 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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

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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
Written and then set aside by the author in 1977 this novel is just lately available to the public. It doesn't feature any of Westlake's running characters, it's a one off story of the kidnapping of comedian Koo Davis by an SLA-like gang of revolutionaries who hope to trade him for the release of ten "political prisoners" and to revitalize their movement. Of course, plans have a way of unraveling and Westlake is good at illustrating the dynamics among the members of the group as well as those of ...more
Truly an odd gem. It was finished in 1979, but then not published because Westlake or his publishers thought its plot coincidentally was too close to Scorsese's "The King of Comedy" that came out around then. Once again, there is a kidnapped shmaltzy comedian, this one obviously based on Jerry Lewis and perhaps a few of his cohorts, but in this book he is kidnapped by a fragmented washed up far left extremist group who are losing focus with the end of the '70s. Westlake deals with the politics i ...more
A solid effort from Westlake that deserves more love than it has received. A crime novel wrapped in a period piece with some good twists and characters. A little slow at times but overall a fun read.
My first Westlake book and enjoyed it. I have tried other books by this author e.g. the Dortmunder series but found the first two very weak and poorly plotted. Enough to make me say "no more"....
Deren Kellogg
Apparently finished by well-known crime novelist Westlake in the early 1980s, and set in 1977 this concerns an aging comdian, Koo Davis, who is kidnapped by the remaining members of a radical group left over from the 1960s protest era (think Symbionese Liberation Army). I found this solid but unspectacular. There were really no problems with it. It wasn't boring, but on the other hand, it didn't grab me the way a good crime novel sometimes can. Despite a pretty surprising twist that is revealed ...more
Sam Hager
Surprising depth of undercurrent running in the story. Likable character reads like a movie. Highly recommended.
Kathy Moore
Although I am a big fan of many of Mr. Westlake's books, this one left me feeling a little let down. I would not recommend this for anyone under the age of 60 or so; many of the references would be lost on younger readers (or send them so frequently to the internet to look things up it would spoil the flow).

What is basically a simple story of an odd mix of aging radicals who kidnap an aging cultural icon. For some reason, I just found the whole book sad. A commentary on lost and skewed ideals,
Very interesting Noir from Mr Westlake, as usual. This is the first publication of this lost manuscript, as Westlake felt that the base subject matter was too close to Scorsese's film "King of Comedy". As to be expected, while it does share a basic plot, the two are quite different as Westlake explores the psychology of a group of revolutionaries who kidnap a comic (probably based somewhat on Bob Hope) to get the government to release a number of political prisoner. What follows is a very intere ...more
Thomas Burchfield
"Donald Westlake, one of the best genre writers ever, may have passed away in 2008, but his master's voice still calls through the shade. After his realist novel Memory was pulled from oblivion’s ashes by Hard Case Crime in 2010, it was thought that was it—no more treasures stashed in rusty drawers or musty attics; but, happily, we were wrong: Hard Case has unearthed one more: The Comedy is Finished."

You can read the rest of my review at my web page
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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
More about Donald E. Westlake...
The Hot Rock (Dortmunder, #1) Bank Shot (Dortmunder, #2) The Ax What's The Worst That Could Happen? (Dortmunder, #9) Drowned Hopes (Dortmunder, #7)

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