August 24, 2009

BOOKS: Get Real, Donald E. Westlake (2009)

The 14th -- and sadly, the final -- installment in the adventures of John Dortmunder and his ragtag gang of thieves.

This time around, John and the gang are approached by Doug Fairkeep, a reality TV producer who wants to build a show around the planning and pulling off of a theft. Dortmunder can't quite figure out how this is supposed to work; his objective is normally not to get caught, and having every moment of the heist on film would seem to be an insurmountable obstacle. But Doug convinces them that he can manage that part of things, and John and the gang agree to go along with the idea.

Naturally, they're almost immediately scheming to find a way to pull off their own real caper while pretending to go along with Fairkeep's TV heist. Westlake piles on the complications in his iminitable fashion, and his writing is as droll and lively as ever.

Some of the Dortmunder novels end with the gang in complete frustration, as one final obstacle keeps them from making any money at all. It doesn't spoil too much, I don't think, to say that there is a payday at the end of this one, and I think it's nice to have the series end on a happy note for John and friends.

Westlake was a master novelist, and his recent death was a great loss. Get Real is a fine farewell, and if you've never made the acquaintance of John Dortmunder, this is as good an introduction as any.

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