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The Comedy is Finished (Hard Case Crime #105)

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  435 Ratings  ·  107 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-proclaim
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 21st 2012 by Hard Case Crime (first published January 1st 2012)
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Dan Schwent
Apr 25, 2011 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
Lawrence Block
May 04, 2012 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
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
Mike (the Paladin)
Nov 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, thriller
***Thank you Petra X. Your like got me to look back at this review and I found no less fewer than 7 typos.***

I am at least "sort of a fan" of the Parker series written by Westlake (writing as Richard Stark). So when I was looking for something a bit more gritty and realistic and saw this I got it from the library. At the time I did I didn't realize it was his last book.

Of late like many people who read a lot I had burned out a bit on the kind of novel I usually read. That would usually veer towa
Feb 26, 2012 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
Jun 28, 2012 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
May 23, 2013 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
Brian Poole
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Look past the titillating come-on of the cover art and The Comedy Is Finished is an entertaining and occasionally insightful romp through the post-Vietnam ‘70s era.

The plot is straightforward: famous comedian Koo Davis finds himself kidnapped by the remnants of a domestic “revolutionary” movement that’s more or less died out by the late ‘70s. A ragtag group hopes to use Koo to score some propaganda points. Taking lead on the case is a functionally alcoholic FBI agent who’d been exiled from Washi
Jan 08, 2012 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
Jul 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was the second of Westlake's posthumously-published novels I've read and both were pretty good. This is is an interesting period piece written almost as though from the vantage point thirty-years hence and meant to evoke a feel of the late 70s, but doesn't appear dated. The main character of Koo Davis, the kidnapped comedian, is the most three-dimensional character I've run across in all that I've read of Westlake's.
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-crime
Feb 19, 2012 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
Nick Anderson
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
For Joyce, the group in the darkness around the flickering TV light was like some wonderful kind of camping out. In her childhood, in Racine, where the winters were so long and so cold, "camping out" had mostly meant what were known as "overnights": half a dozen giggling girls on mattresses or folded blankets on a living room floor, the host parents far away in their own part of the house, the girls clustering together like tiny delighted animals at the dry hidden warm bottom of the the world, w ...more
Craig Childs
Apr 04, 2015 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
Apr 20, 2011 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
Apr 10, 2015 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...
Jun 27, 2012 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.
Jun 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I listened to this audiobook. Koo Davis is a comedian who has entertained troops overseas for years (think Bob Hope). He is a one-line zinger master. One day while taking a break during a taping of his TV show he is kidnapped. The book was written after of Vietnam, so the idea of protest groups making political stands is no longer current, though not completely gone. A strange, rag-tag group of misfits takes Koo. They demand the release of 10 old 1960's era political criminals. What they don't k ...more
Erik Moloney
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
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-proclaimed People's Revolutionary Army, who've decided that kidnapping Koo Davis would be the perfect way to bring their cause back t
Ed White
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Sadly, I think this should have remained the great lost novel. While I understand Westlake not wanting to publish this when The Fan came out at the theatre, it would have been the perfect time to take another look at the story he was telling. It was tough to care about any of the characters, the story was overplotted and contrived, and there was not enough introspection that would have evolved an entirely different and far more interesting story.
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just another gag?

Liked this one, but a little hard to get into at first and the name Koo was very distracting. Developed well, you began to get involved with the characters and thought the ending was above average. All in all a good read.
Tony Sannicandro
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love the books Westlake wrote. This was his last published book though he wrote 30 years ago. If you haven't read any of his books I have to ask, why not?
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
A celebrity is kidnapped by a dissent American group. Very good, tense drama.
Jeroen Nijs
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
There is hardly a likeable character in the whole book, but still I had to keep reading. Well done.
“The Comedy is Finished” is Westlake’s final masterpiece. It is an incredibly well-crafted tale that stitches together storylines about fame and fortune, kidnapping, the end of the sixties, and the loss of ideals. It is a stupendous work and it is a novel that thoroughly transcends the world of crime fiction. That being said, I must concede that the first time I tried reading it I found it dull and pointless. This one was clearly worth a second try.

It is the story of a man, a comedian, Koo Davis
D.H. Jonathan
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found this in hardcover in the used section at a local bookstore, looking brand new. So I bought it cheap. I had read Stephen King's contributions to the Hard Case Crime imprint and had been wanting to read more. Donald E. Westlake was one of those authors I had always intended to read but never had.

The Comedy is Finished was an engaging riveting tale, written in the late 70s but never published until 2012. The story is that Westlake decided not to publish it because Martin Scorsese had a movi
Sean Hackbarth
Mar 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-novels
Enjoyable but not one of Westlake's best.

Set after Watergate, burned out 60s radicals kidnap a celebrity. As plan falls apart, you see the revolutionaries crack under the pressure and succumb to the fact that their radicalism is now out of place.

The book could've used more editing. There was a weak plot, and it rambled a bit (relatively speaking, since Westlake is a seasoned minimalist).
Aug 26, 2014 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
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
Jan 21, 2013 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
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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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