A ruse to bed a pair of twins quickly grows complicated
Art doesn’t mean to tell Liz Kerwin that he has a twin. He’s on Fire Island, and she’s so beautiful that he’s willing to say anything for a chance at getting rid of her clothes. So when Liz mentions an identical twin sister, Art blurts out that he has a twin too. His name is Bart, he says, and describes the most boring man he can dream up. Liz thinks he would be perfect for her sister Betty. When Art meets Betty—who is, of course, just as lovely as her twin—she asks about his brother. Hoping for a chance at the family fortune, Art dons a pair of glasses, slicks back his hair, and soon has “Bart” engaged to the sister. As his simple lie spins out of control, Art learns that wooing sisters is never as easy as it seems.
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 Parker, a ruthless criminal. His writing earned him three Edgar Awards: the 1968 Best Novel award for God Save the Mark; the 1990 Best Short Story award for "Too Many Crooks"; and the 1991 Best Motion Picture Screenplay award for The Grifters. In addition, Westlake also earned a Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1993.
Westlake's cinematic prose and brisk dialogue made his novels attractive to Hollywood, and several motion pictures were made from his books, with stars such as Lee Marvin and Mel Gibson. Westlake wrote several screenplays himself, receiving an Academy Award nomination for his adaptation of The Grifters, Jim Thompson's noir classic.
After taking 2010 off, I've decided to resume my project of reading one Westlake novel a month in 2011. I need to finish the "Parker" series and it's time to make a dent in Dortmunder. But January's entry was the "minor" stand-alone, TWO MUCH, in which a conniving and womanizing Art Dodge stumbles into the jackpot of TWINS who happen to be gorgeous, rich, and very available. His response? He invents a twin brother for himself so he can marry both of them. The first 4/5ths of this novel are utter genius--it's amazing to see how deftly Westlake spins out this absurd concept, weaves in a cast of bizarre characters, and makes it all work with great tension, breathless comedy, and even some delightfully raunchy humor. But then, after masterfully marching the novel down the field, he briefly fumbles the ball at about the 17 yard line. He recovers the fumble, and manages to get the ball into the end zone (yes, this is a horrible metaphor), but when I finished the book I had the sneaking suspicion that the great Donald Westlake had painted himself into a corner on this one. That being said, it was good fun overall, and if Westlake couldn't come up with a better conclusion I don't know anyone who could have.
Lo que nos cuenta. El libro Un gemelo singular (publicación original: Two Much, 1975) nos presenta a Art Dodge, un encantador buscavidas inmoral, dueño de una empresa de tarjetas de felicitación poco destacada, y que se acuesta con la esposa de su mejor amigo que, además, le aloja en su casa. Cuando conoce a una mujer encantadora, atractiva, heredera de una considerable fortuna y con una hermana gemela, Art considera dar vida “real” al hermano gemelo que se inventó, Bart, para acercarse más a su conquista.
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After struggling through Olga Tokarczuk's "Flights" I was in desperate need for something light to clear my mind. What better way than to read the exploits of a cynical sexist in the seventies. It's interesting to see how a book that is 45 years old can be refreshing, In the ultra politically correct, post #Metoo era, where people need custom made shoes for their long toes, the story of a man pretending to be a twin in order to have sex with a real twin is like a cold IPA on a hot summer's day. Some might take offense of the occasional racist stuff, but that was actually the part that made me laugh out loud the most. Chapter 38 is the cherry on top of the cake. If a fictional character is making racists remarks and those remarks make up an integral part of the plot/storyline, being offended is like being a cry baby when your favourite character of Game of thrones dies. It's fiction, not a political pamphlet. Nobody forces you to read the book. Westlake seems like a raunchier version of PG Wodehouse. The style may not be Nobel prize material but is still (way) above average and the plot is carefully worked out. This is the first Westlake that I've read. I'm hooked!
There is a reason I've read more books by Donald Westlake than any other author, however, this book is (mostly) not that reason. Between the irritating sociopath hero and the unrepentant 1970s-era racism in chapter 38, the book just doesn't hold up very well in 2017. But even with this, we have a pile of little gems that Westlake dropped in the book along the way. I ended up flagging 14 spots in the book during my read through, here are a few random notes:
The good: --Chapter 4 features a great example of Westlake showing us who Art is through a series of phone calls in his office. This could have been told to us in a briefer paragraph or two, but this is the type of scene / patter where Westlake really shines. --Art claims that his fake twin is named Bart, but comes clean to his secretary that Bart really has a different reference: "It stands for Bay Area Rapid Transit..." (I happened to read part of this book while riding BART.) --"I didn't care for the way he made himself at home in that chair, settling in as though he'd just foreclosed on a mortgage I hadn't known about." --I love Westlake's written sounds: "Whinninninninninninne. The elevator was coming up again. This time pretending disdain, I strolled casually back to my office and was barely out of sight when the damn thing greeked to a stop at this floor." There is another great use of typewriter sounds later in the book. --More small touches like the repetition in this chapter closer: "Behind me, they formed a tableau, lined up along the porch rail, mouths open, hands up to wave but not quite waving. Not what you'd call waving." --A good throw away line: "The hot city. The muggy city. The impossible city. It had been your typical New York City August, coming in like an armpit and going out like a mass grave." --"Never make a business your hobby, you'll take all the fun out of it. Insult cards had been my business and fornication my hobby, and I'd been reasonably content. Now the card business was on the verge of being scrapped, I was on the threshold of making millions out of fornication, and look at me: staring at the ceiling, worrying about my future." --
The ugly: --Chapter 38. There is an escape via creation of a race riot, but the whole chapter is packed to the gills with racial epithets. Full stop: ugh.
That's enough...I had a lot more thoughts about this comic novel, written in the Playboy era and read in the #metoo era. Probably too many thoughts for this little sex/crime farce. It's probably that I like Westlake "too much" and don't want that spoiled with this volume.
Con su característica mezcla de humor y relato policial, Westlake desarrolla una novela ingeniosa, divertida y entretenida.
Muy buen libro para pasar un buen rato, sin demasiadas complicaciones, y que se lee con facilidad.
Una trama donde las circunstancias que bordean el absurdo son el condimento permanente, y donde todos los personajes principales desarrollan su propio juego de intrigas, en un improbable esquema de gemelos idénticos.
Un imperdible para los seguidores de este particular y prolífico escritor. Nestor
This is the first Westlake book I can't recommend. While sprinkled liberally with the biting Westlake wit, the main character is too much of a sleazy jerk for readers to care about what happens to him. The very definition of a unrepentant skirt-chaser, Art Dodge is more of a cartoon you might see in Playboy magazine, not as interesting as the protagonists Westlake usually creates. The truth is, Westlake is funnier when he paints hapless Everyman schmucks getting into trouble, instead of the professional-grade horndog Art. There are several racial slurs thrown about, and while I understand that the characters in the book are racist (not Westlake himself), it's all just a bit too much (!) for this reader and not enough to make a somewhat interesting plot worth the read. I did finish the book, but was disgusted by the ending. Read Money for Nothing (also by Westlake) instead.
AKA: Alan Marshall, Alan Marsh, James Blue, Ben Christopher, Edwin West, John B. Allan, Curt Clark, Tucker Coe, P.N. Castor, Timothy J. Culver, J. Morgan Cunningham, Samuel Holt, Judson Jack Carmichael, Richard Stark, Donald E. Westlake
I would have given this 4 stars because I really enjoyed it. However, I took off a star due to numerous spelling and punctuation errors throughout the Kindle version of the book. There seemed to be at least one error on every page. It's a great book that could have used a great editor.