Kemper's Reviews > Memory

Memory by Donald E. Westlake
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Jul 24, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: hard-case-crime

Despite being Donald Westlake’s last novel and published by Hard Case Crime this is not a mystery or a crime story. It’s just one incredibly good book.

Paul Cole is an actor from New York crossing the Midwest as part of a traveling theater company. When he hooks up with a married woman the husband catches them in the act, and Paul gets his skull bashed in before he can get his pants on. The injury does serious damage to his memory so that Paul has trouble recalling elements of his life and people from his past, and he can easily lose track of what’s going on. The police quickly push him out of town to avoid a local scandal, but Paul doesn’t have enough money to make it back to New York, and he can’t remember anyone he can call for help.

The book becomes a heartbreaking story of Paul’s struggle to remember while keeping a roof over his head and food on the table. He’s desperate to go back to being the man he used to be, but he doesn’t even know who that is. Relying on notes and spotty recollections to manage his life, he learns that its very hard to get by when you’re constantly losing the context of what’s going on.

Westlake wrote this back in the ‘60s, but couldn’t get it published because he was a genre writer at the beginning of his career. He put it in a drawer and never had it published, even after he became successful. Westlake’s friend Lawrence Block read it shortly after it was written, and always thought it was a great book. After Westlake’s death, Block asked his widow to look for a copy. She found it, and Block helped get it published.

Some may be disappointed that this isn’t Westlake doing his serious or humorous crime thing, but I think this is some of his best writing. I’m very glad it didn’t stay hidden away.
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Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by Nancy (new) - added it

Nancy I love the cover!


Kemper Nancy wrote: "I love the cover!"

Me too. It looks even better when you're looking at a real copy.


message 3: by Nancy (new) - added it

Nancy The real copy is now waiting for me at Borders. A perfect excuse to use my 30%-off coupon.


Kemper Nancy wrote: "The real copy is now waiting for me at Borders. A perfect excuse to use my 30%-off coupon."

The bad thing is that the jet black covers starts showing fingerprints as soon as you pick it up. I tried to read it by touching the spine and front edge of the pages but it still looked like I'd been eating a bucket of KFC while reading it....


message 5: by Nancy (new) - added it

Nancy No doubt those goopy hand creams I use will do a number on the cover.


message 6: by Dan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan Schwent I got chocolate finger prints on a few pages of The Hook while I was reading it.


message 7: by Nancy (new) - added it

Nancy So I stopped at Borders to pick up my book. Even before I got my hands on it, I noticed there was a fat thumbprint right in the middle of the cover.

Dan, chocolate and books don't mix! It's so easy to lose track of how much you eat.


Mara The book becomes a heartbreaking story of Paul’s struggle to remember while keeping a roof over his head and food on the table.

You big softy! And here I was, thinking your heart was made out of an alloy of adamantium and mithril!


Kemper It was a moment of weakness on my part.


message 10: by Mara (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mara Damn you dwarven technology!


Kemper Mara wrote: "Damn you dwarven technology!"

This is what happens when you try to get dwarves and secret Canadian intelligence projects to work together.


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