Lawrence Block's Reviews > The Comedy is Finished

The Comedy is Finished by Donald E. Westlake
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May 04, 12

Read in May, 2012

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 Scorsese film came out with a theme that was too close to his. (I remember he acknowledged other problems as well. He was renowned as the ranking master of comic suspense, and he'd written a caper novel in which a Bob Hope-type comedian is kidnapped, so how can a reader expect anything but froth and laughs? But the book, while hardly humorless, is overall about as funny as a heart attack. So how do you promote something like that?

As I said, I read Memory back in the day. I didn't get to read The Comedy is Finished until Charles Ardai (more full disclosure: another friend, and a publisher of mine) rescued it from oblivion. And I'm hugely grateful for the chance to read it now. It's a wonderful look at a largely forgotten chapter in American history, contemporary when it was written, a perfect period piece now. I'm biased, we know that, but I enjoyed and admired the book hugely, and I'm pleased to commend it to your attention.
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message 1: by Heath (new)

Heath Lowrance I'm really looking forward to this one, and especially MEMORY. I came to Westlake via his Stark persona, and only in the last couple of years discovered The Axe, Somebody Owes Me Money, etc. I know he's highly regarded for his comic caper novels, but I find I enjoy his darker stuff much more...


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