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The Hot Rock (Dortmunder #1)

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  3,619 Ratings  ·  287 Reviews
The Hot Rock introduces John Archibald Dortmunder, the thief whose capers never quite come off, as he and his convict friends plot to steal the fabulous Balaboma Emerald.

John Dortmunder, thief extraordinaire, wants nothing to do with the Balabomo Emerald. But when the African nation of Talabwo bids handsomely for his services, Dortmunder changes his tune to "Balabomo or bu
Kindle Edition, 306 pages
Published October 25th 2011 by Road (first published 1970)
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Poor guy...when it comes to capers, heists and general sneak-thievery, John Dortmunder is the Schleprock of crime.
The man has talent and brains but couldn’t locate an ounce of luck with x-ray vision and a GPS device. Best laid plans going to shit is the central premise of Donald Westlake’s light-hearted, entertaining tale of criminal hijinks gone awry...over and over and over again.

Not five minutes after Dortmunder gets released from his latest prison stint, he finds himself recruited by his
Dan Schwent
Fresh out of the clink, John Dortmunder gets draw into stealing an emerald belonging to an African nation. Only circumstances work against Dortmunder and his crew and turn the one heist into five. Will Dortmunder and crew ever get their hands on the emerald?

Wow. I'd heard the Dortmunder books were good but I had no idea. Dortmunder and crew are a well-developed group, especially Murch, the getaway man who listens to the record of the Indy 500 in his spare time. Westlake creates a series of hilar
John Dortmunder gets out of prison and immediately begins planning his next heist. Unfortunately, the job turns out be a version of Groundhog Day and Dortmunder and his crew will have to keep stealing a priceless emerald over and over and over again.

This edition of The Hot Rock had an introduction from the late Donald Westlake where he explained that he originally thought of the basic plot for this as one of his Parker crime novels he wrote as Richard Stark. However, he realized that the ultra-
Mr. Matt
Sep 08, 2013 Mr. Matt rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulp-fiction, 2013
I picked up this book after finishing Money Shot, and I was disappointed. The book had been highly recommended from other readers and I figured it would be a no-brainer - something I would read, laugh and enjoy after a stressful week and a long flight back from Charleston. Unfortunately, I just didn't get it.

Dortmunder is a ex-convict down on his luck. He's been released from prison and he finds himself master-minding a new heist. It should be quick and easy. Of course, like everything that pro
Apr 12, 2013 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone

In the past couple of weeks I read a couple of the later Dortmunder novels, but quickly “froze” that group and ordered up the first few. Having read several of the Parker books, I expected to find good stories with interesting plots and so I did. Then, I picked up The Hot Rock and my mind went “Wow”!

I had just finished (at 1:30 AM the night before) the Julia Child book, “My Life in France”. Now I was inextricably linked to this novel. Good thing I had some spare time one my hands! (Actually I wa
Jun 05, 2013 Bill rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-suspense, dnf
I'm glad this wasn't the first Westlake I had read.
I gave up more than halfway through because at the point where (view spoiler)
the story was just getting stupid. And not really all that funny.

Luckily, this series is just one of the several facets of Westlake's writing styles. I loved The Ax, and enjoyed the first Parker novel.
This series may appeal to those looking for a very light, care-free read, but it lacked substance
Mar 18, 2013 Jessica rated it really liked it
Westlake is one of those authors that I really don't pursue enough - I always enjoy his work when I'm reminded to turn to it, but for whatever reasons he just hasn't attained critical mass with me yet. And it's certainly not due to lack of talent - this one is a gem (pun intended) of heist hijinks, and the Major's reaction to Dortmunder and crew's increasingly outlandish demands to pull off their capers is alone enough to make the book worth reading.
It's been a while since I last read Westlake, I had forgotten how much fun he is. His snarky irreverent style is present on every page. Some of his jokes are just quick asides. You've got to be paying attention because this stuff is gold. Gold, Jerry, gold. I chuckled my way through this book.

The Hot Rock follows 5 lifelong criminals as they make plans to steal a famous emerald. Their attempts are thwarted again and again but these guys won't take no for an answer. Westlake has created a cast of
Jan 04, 2016 Sean rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hardboiled
I'm a huge fan of Donald Westlake's alter ego, Richard Stark, but haven't really found myself to be a fan of the man himself.

Lore has it that The Hot Rock started out as a Parker book, but eventually got so screwy that Westlake had to change it, else Parker lose all dignity and respect. Thus, Dortmunder was born.

The Hot Rock works as a comedic caper, with likeable characters and humorous dialogue. The heists aren't as air tight or amazing as Parkers, and while they are pretty silly sometimes th
Dec 25, 2014 Mike rated it it was amazing
Shelves: humor, thriller-crime
John Dortmunder and Andy kelp are enlisted to steal a precious jewel for a small African nation. It seems like a pretty straightforward job, but . . . let's just say there are some complications along the way.

This is the third time I've read The Hot Rock and I enjoyed it just as much this time as I did the first time through it. Still funny, still imaginative. I could hardly put it down. If you haven't yet been introduced to the Dortmunder gang, this is the place to begin. And please, do begin.
Mar 09, 2015 Robert rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Abandoned after 60 pages

As much as I like caper stories, I'll be honest, I sorta fizzled out after page 60, when the (view spoiler) It wasn't bad, but mediocre writing, and the whole vibe of the thing seemed a little too comical to be taken seriously. The fact that it was 45 years old and a bit dated didn't bother me as much as the unbelievability to their scheme...(view spoiler)
Jul 25, 2007 Connie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read a mystery in a long time, but one summer (a very dull summer), I read all of the Dortmunder series from Donald E. Westlake because they were so funny. Dortmunder always gets involved with a bunch of bungling criminals. Westlake has a great touch with comedy and crafting foolish characters. I just borrowed the lastest one and he's still as funny as ever.
Phoebe Matthews
Oct 27, 2008 Phoebe Matthews rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first Dortmonder and it was wonderful and this series gets better and better - I own them all in hardback. And NEVER lend them out. Because during winter colds season, I start right in at the beginning and read them all again. Thank you, Donald!
Feb 19, 2015 Diane rated it it was amazing
I love the movie, "The Hot Rock", with Robert Redford and George Segal, but I did not read the book it was based on until recently. I wish I had read it earlier. Donald Westlake (who sadly passed away in 2008), was an excellent writer who knew how to combine humor, suspense, and evocative descriptions to make superb crime novels. I love Dortmunder and will definitely check out more of these books.

John Dortmunder is a career criminal who has just been paroled after serving a few years in jail. H
J Gastaldo
Straight up, this book is trash. The kind of trash that takes a couple hours to read, and clearly took Westlake a couple weeks to write. The characters are two dimensional and cartoonish. The plot is simple and drawn in crayon.

Generically, The Hot Rock (and presumably all of Westlake's Dortmunder novels - there are 14 of em) is a heist novel. A couple criminals get together to steal something of value. And while there's nothing original about the crime, both with regards to the item to be stole
May 03, 2016 Jon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-thriller
I wish I could rate this one higher. It was a breezy crime thriller with some fun moments, but ultimately it didn't click for me. This might make for a good comedic 70's movie (of which there is one starring Robert Redford), however it just doesn't work on the printed page in my opinion.

Our main character is John Dortmunder, who is a down-on-his-luck thief recently released from prison on parole. He's not a bumbling moron, and is actually quite clever, but situations never seem to work out in hi
Jan 26, 2013 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: noirboiled
This is less a review of the first Dortmunder novel than a first reaction to the existence of the Dortmunder series. When I finished the last of Donald E. Westlake’s twenty-four Parker novels, I turned to Dortmunder as a possible replacement in my reading program. As the well-known story goes, Westlake wrote the first Dortmunder novel when a Parker novel went awry, becoming too humorous to work as a vehicle for the sociopathically humorless Parker (though Parker does drop a few seemingly intenti ...more
May 23, 2010 F.R. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve read most of Richard Stark’s Parker novels, but feel like I’ve only skirted around the edges of Donald E. Westlake’s Dortmunder books. This is obviously a great source of shame.

‘The Hot Rock’, the first of the series, is an exuberantly amusing and highly intriguing crime caper. A gang of thieves are hired to steal a diamond, but after they’ve done it once are forced to do it again and again in increasingly more difficult circumstances. I particularly enjoyed the inspired raid on the lunati
Jun 14, 2011 V. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Westlake's style is relaxed and easy going, a little like Elmore Leonard, but while Elmore sits inside his characters and makes you like it in there, Donald has a penchant for complicated capers you might find in a locked room mystery.

Here, the first of the Dortmunder novels, you get five capers for the price of one, as the same emerald has to be stolen five times. It's an amusing and clever tale that zips along and the plot(s) are inventive enough to keep you guessing what will happen next.

I liked this inaugural volume of Westlake's Dortmunder novels. I'm used to his (as Richard Stark) Parker books, which are darker in tone and serious, and I'd heard of these Dortmunder books being lighter in tone and maybe even 'funny'. Looking back, I think I was expecting it to be funnier, which is why I'm only giving it 3 stars. It's a good story, but the many setbacks the thieves go through eventually made me slightly impatient, like a 'Are they ever going to see some progress?' type of thing ...more
One of my guilty pleasures is hard boiled old school crime novels. Donald Westlake is a well known name in the field and, until now, one that had skipped my attention.

This is the story of a bunch of thieves who embark on a caper to steal an emerald from a museum. Things do not go quite as planned and they end up having to run several capers to try and complete the first. An interesting story and written a bit tongue in cheek. For me it seemed a bit to long and one of the capers in particular rat
Lynette Barfield
Oct 08, 2011 Lynette Barfield rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am such a fan of Donald Westlake. I have been reading his work for many years and never get tired of all the capers his so called crooks get into. This is the first for the Dortmunder character who, with his crew, attempt to steal an emerald from a museum for a foreign government that claims it was stolen from them. The gem is stolen successfully, but one of the crew swallows it and is taken to jail. The other crew members have to figure out a way to get it back. High jinks ensue. This is typi ...more
Nov 16, 2015 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Classic old school heist novel with the funniest group of bumbling criminals around. How many times do you need to steal an emerald? At least 5 I guess, each attempt more outrageous. Of course it's dated and if they had cell phones it would've sped the whole thing up. This is an old series and I plan on reading the rest to amuse myself here and there.
Jun 14, 2015 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Got 10 pages in & realized i've already read this.

A good introduction to the hapless, inept criminal that is Dortmunder, in this, the first in the 'Dortmunder Series'.
I've read several of these & enjoyed them. Although the reader will see glimpses of Westlake's alter-ego Stark (Parker Series), it's like the two series were written by similar, though completely different writers.
Gail Stewart rumsey
I previously read this book years ago but didn't realize it until I was well into it. It was not as enjoyable the second time probably because it is now quite dated including the quirky characters. still a good fun read.
Loved loved loved the movie of this.
Book is okay... This ebook edition has a lot of typos and missing words, however. Ah well.

Saw the scenes of the film in my head as I was reading along... Good times!
Jul 28, 2013 Jamie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jamie by:
Shelves: adult, humor, crime, new-york
Read for Atomic Book Club Crime year. Another book I never would have picked up on my own, but I am so glad I read. It was HILARIOUS and full of plot twists and also SO SEVENTIES. A blast.
May 16, 2011 Corey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Breezy and clever.
This was a fun romp from one mismanaged caper to the next.
Eduard Spacil
Sep 19, 2016 Eduard Spacil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Postavy Westlake moc neřeší, což je trochu škoda, naštěstí dobývání policejní stanice nebo psychiatrické léčebny jsou to nejvtipnější, co jsem poslední dobou četl.
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Mysteries & Crime...: BOM March - The hot rock 49 111 Apr 18, 2015 07:31AM  
The Mystery, Crim...: Donald Westlake 12 134 Feb 20, 2012 11:08AM  
  • Deadly Edge (Parker, #13)
  • The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling (Bernie Rhodenbarr, #3)
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...

Other Books in the Series

Dortmunder (1 - 10 of 15 books)
  • Bank Shot (Dortmunder, #2)
  • Jimmy The Kid (Dortmunder, #3)
  • Nobody's Perfect (Dortmunder, #4)
  • Why Me? (Dortmunder, #5)
  • Good Behavior (Dortmunder, #6)
  • Drowned Hopes (Dortmunder, #7)
  • Don't Ask (Dortmunder, #8)
  • What's The Worst That Could Happen? (Dortmunder, #9)
  • Bad News (Dortmunder, #10)
  • The Road To Ruin (Dortmunder, #11)

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“A lady doctor in the foreground, black horn-rims and white lab coat, suddenly cried, “You people ought to be ashamed of yourselves! Do you realize what you're doing to the reality concepts we're trying to instill in these people? How do you expect them to differentiate between illusion and reality when you do something like this?”” 6 likes
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