Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Killing Time -- Donald E. Westlake

Here's what Anthony Boucher said: "A considerable novel in the best Hammett tradition . . . uncompromisingly hard, admirably told." I couldn't have put it better myself.

I'll add, however, that the book is obviously Westlake's riff on Red Harvest. It's about a private-eye named Tim Smith ("I many be chunky, but I can move fast when I have to." Sound like any p.i. you might have read about?). Smith lives in a small town in New York where he's decided that the best thing for him to do is to go along to get along. He has the dirt on everyone, and it's all in his files, but he's not turning anybody in. He likes the town just the way it is. If there's corruption, that's fine with him, as long as things run smoothly and well.

Then a reform group targets his town, and Smith becomes the target of a killer. What will he do about that, and whose side will he take now? I'm not going to spoil things for you, but I will say that this is a fine example of a novel that's both hardboiled and noir. I first read it more than 40 years ago, and I still remembered the ending.

4 comments:

  1. This is one of the Westlakes I've always wanted to read. You've only whetted my appetite further. I've got to track this one down.

    Let me belatedly add, Bill, that I observed a moment of silence for your bookcases.

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  2. Thanks, Vince. Things are gradually being restored to their former state. Except I hope that the current state will be less likely to collapse on me.

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  3. KILLING TIME is an excellent early Westlake. I own the edition you show here, Bill. Though I never could understand: why would someone stick a grenade in the middle of a sandwich?

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  4. Because they didn't have a pickle?

    Man, I should read me some more Westlake.

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