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The Hot Rock

(Dortmunder #1)

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  4,511 ratings  ·  395 reviews
John Archibald Dortmunder is the thief whose capers never quite come off. Here, the released convict and his ride pal Kelp plot to steal the $500,000 Balaboma Emerald. The former British colony has recently become independent and split. The Akinzi have the stone, the Talabwo want it back, and their UN rep will pay for retrieval.
Paperback, 287 pages
Published April 1st 2001 by Grand Central Publishing (first published 1970)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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 ·  4,511 ratings  ·  395 reviews


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Stephen
Poor guy...when it comes to capers, heists and general sneak-thievery, John Dortmunder is the Schleprock of crime.
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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 chatty friend Kelp to help plan
...more
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 ser
...more
Deb Jones
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: series, crime
This story follows the travails of career criminal John Dortmunder, a man just released from his second prison term for robbery. It is the story of a buddy heist gone wrong -- and more than once and in more than one way. Dortmunder and four other career criminals fumble their way along in attempts to steal a $500,000 emerald at the behest of a man who offers them $30,000 each for a successful mission.

These five buddies are true characters in every sense of the word. The men couldn't
...more
Kemper
Apr 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
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-serious
...more
Jokoloyo
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
I had high expectation when reading this heist-theme story and at first I was rather disappointed, nothing too special at start. But the plot was progressing, and near the climax, I actually laughed, the punch-line worked. The author built the humor slowly, but I admit the story was getting better at the end. I prefer this approach than heist story that have good opening but getting worse toward the end of story.
Somia
Jul 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The crooks/friends in this are planning to steal a lovely emerald for the Major, who has promised them 30 thousand each if they are successful, they also get some pocket money each week as they prep and plan – so they’re all pretty pleased with themselves. However, their attempts to get the emerald are not smooth sailing and honestly after one journey the emerald takes, if I were them, I really wouldn’t be touching it until it had been sterilised for a decade or two (even with gloves).

I did wis
...more
Mr. Matt
Sep 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013, pulp-fiction
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
...more
Blaine DeSantis
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another author I never read until this year. This is a fun caper novel that was turned into a movie starring Robert Redford and George Segal. It has 6 parts and is about 260 pages long. Chapters are very fast moving, lots of dialogue and each section has short chapters that sets up the action in the final part of that section.
What this book comes down to is a buddy heist movie. One African country wants to steal an emerald belonging to its neighboring African country - the emerald is on di
...more
Robert
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: x2018-19-season
A Heist caper crossed with a shaggy dog story, all wrapped in a dry wit that never takes the easy out into broad comedy.
K
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There’s a scene in the movie Fargo in which Marge Gunderson meets an old friend from high school and comments on how nice the hotel lounge is, to which her companion responds, “well you know, it’s a Radisson, so it’s got to be pretty good. “

Whenever I pick up a Donald Westlake book, that’s exactly how I feel: you know it’s got to be pretty good.

The Hard Rock is the first of the John Dortmunder series and is an excellent introduction to the lovable thief whose capers consi
...more
Mike
Apr 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
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! (Actua
...more
An Odd1
May 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fun, fan
John Abernathy Dortmunder is the thief whose capers never quite come off. Here, the released convict and his pal Kelp bring in a gang to steal the $500,000 Balaboma Emerald. The former British colony has recently become independent and split. The Akinzi have the stone, the Talabwo want it back. Embassy Major offers plotters reward -- but is he trustworthy?
David Highton
A serial caper story featuring newly released thief John Dortmunder - the story slightly meanders through a twisting and turning plot concerning a large valuable emerald. Dortmunder is the key planner of all the various capers and there is definitely a little bit of tongue in cheek occasionally. Wii give the next one a go
Julie
Sep 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: comic
This is kind of a comic caper novel. I think it might be a well-done instance of a certain type of thing, but it didn't really work for me. Seems dated and rather flat. Maybe I just was in the wrong mood.
Laura
May 24, 2018 rated it liked it
"They all got out of the cool Lincoln into the hot world and Murch rubbed his hands together as he grinned at the machine in front of them. 'Now, there's a baby that'll go,' he said.
Dortmunder, suddenly suspicious, said, 'You did drive one of these things before, right?'
'I told you,' Murch said. 'I can drive anything.'
'Yeah,' Dortmunder said. 'That's what you told me, I remember that.'
'Right,' said Murch. He kept grinning at the helicopter.
'You can drive anythi
...more
Bill
Jun 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
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 thos
...more
Jessica
Mar 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Michele Lynn
The Hot Rock is the first in a series about John Archibald Dortmunder written back in 1970, this is something that I had to keep reminding myself while reading, as it is also set in the time frame it is written in. I kept having to remind myself that what was happening could be possible since they wouldn't have many of the technologies we have now. Imagine only needing a dime to make a phone call at an actually phonebooth. Once I put my mind in the prospective of the timeline I enjoyed it much mor ...more
Paul
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is my first Westlake book and though it's the first Dortmunder book, I have to say it felt like I came into the middle of something. The characters weren't really well fleshed out in my opinion and there was nothing that gave me the impression they were good at pulling off heists. But I enjoyed the fact that it focused on the heist and not the planning. In this case, we didn't need to hear what the plan was supposed to be to realize that something had gone wrong.

The ending felt
...more
Tim Trewartha
Aug 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Entertaining crime caper, the first to feature Dortmunder, a put-upon criminal mastermind who's plans never quite succeed, leaving him to try and sell encyclopedias door to door. This one sees Dortmunder plan 5 heists in his quest to steal a valuable diamond. This book is a sort of literary equivalent of Groundhog Day, with a cast of memorable characters and lots of double dealing. Quite witty too. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.
Diane
Feb 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Kwoomac
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 criminal
...more
Sean McCoy
Jan 04, 2016 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
...more
Robert Davis
Mar 09, 2015 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) 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)
...more
Michael
Dec 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Harold
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
The first book of Westlake's "Dortmunder" series. Dortmunder is an ersatz Parker. He plans heists and is good at it, but he isn't as ruthless as Parker and Dortmunder has a sarcastic sense of humor, something Parker has none of. In fact there is a humorous tone to the whole book. Westlake was having fun here and I'm assuming the whole series will have that in common. I'm already on the second book in the series.
Connie
Jul 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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!
Diane
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: noir-crime
Fun fact I just learned. Originally, Westlake started writing this as a Parker novel, but it was too funny so he switched it to Dortmunder.
Jamie
Jul 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jamie by: atomicbooks.com
Shelves: adult, new-york, crime, humor
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.
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571 followers
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 ruthless cr ...more

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)
“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
“That’s a geometric figure, that bird, he don’t exist without an angle.” 3 likes
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