Nice Quotes by Donald E. Westlake


Yes, below is a fine “characterization” quote by Donald E. Westlake from his caper novel What’s the Worst that Could Happen?. No, I didn’t see the movie.  The plot is a little Sting-like with lovable crooks whacking a rich unlovable bad guy (played by Danny DeVito on the big screen) where it hurts most– in the wallet.

Taking a slight detour here– I don’t like unputdownable books as a rule.  Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects kept me up til four and then made me feel slightly nauseated.  I’ve stopped reading Marcus Sakey for the same reason.  (But I read five of them before I stopped and The Blade Itself is his best)  Being able to put down a book does not mean the book is bad.  Humph!  Well, not always anyway.

What’s the Worst that Could Happen?, which I found unputdownable but you might not, isn’t Westlake at his funniest.  Although looking at the blurbs, The New Hampshire Herald disagrees: “This is Westlake at his funniest.”  The Cleveland Plain Dealer says the book is “the best thing to happen.”  And it kept me up til 3:30AM.

Well, because it’s darned enjoyable.  That said, there were four pun-ishing pages revolving around the words “bar”, “code”, “bar code”, people in a “bar” you get the idea– bleah.

Here is the quote about Lutetia Fairbanks, the bad guy’s wife. (She favors turbans):

“A tall and handsome woman, with striking abundant black hair, she moved with a peculiarly deliberate walk, a heavy but sensual thrusting forward and bearing down, as though she were always seeking ants to step on.”

Some people prefer Westlake writing as Richard Stark.  He’s more hard-boiled and humorless in those books.  An egg cooking for five hours in an inch of water.  If memory serves (which it probably doesn’t) I’m thinking of the Stark line “We ordered things off the menu and ate them.”  Now, that’s a pared down style.

I’ll end with this dialogue from WTWTCH:

“‘It’s a special kind of bankrupt they have for people that aren’t supposed to get hurt,’ Gus explained.  ‘Like when countries go bankrupt, you don’t see an auctioneer come in and sell off the towns and the rivers and stuff, it just means a court takes over the finances for a while, pays everybody eight cents on the dollar, and then the country can go back to what it was doing before it screwed up.  This guy, he’s that kinda rich, it’s the same deal.’

Dortmunder shook his head.  All of finance was too much for him.  His understanding of economics was, you go out and steal money and use it to buy food.  Alternatively, you steal the food.  Beyond that, it got too complex.”


Thanks for stopping by.  Happy Thanksgiving!  Read an unputdownable book.  Or three.


Unrelated addendum:  Nobody but nobody creates a more melancholy mood, a more pervasive angst and regret and irreparable sadness than Kazuo Ishiguro.


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