Tuesday 29 June 2010

Westlake Score: Bank Shot by Donald E. Westlake

You might notice I've given up numbering these Westlake Scores in the post headers. For one thing, it'll start to look a bit much when we get into double-digits; for another, I completely forgot to title my post about The Spy in the Ointment as a Westlake Score, so this new one will be #8 and there'd be no #7 (unless I re-title that Spy post, and I can't be arsed with that), and confusion would reign. So we'll just call them Westlake Scores and leave it at that (er, if I remember). And if you're still reading after all that blather, let's have a look at my latest score:

It's a UK hardback first edition of Bank Shot, published by Hodder & Stoughton in 1972, the second of Westlake's Dortmunder novels (my 1971 Hodder first of the debut Dortmunder, The Hot Rock, on the right there for comparison). This rather fine copy actually came all the way from Australia; there's only one copy of this edition available online from the UK so far as I can see, and that's ex-library. This one ain't, and I defy you to find a nicer copy. (I defy you! I do!) I considered getting a US first, but I really like the cover on this one; same general design as The Hot Rock (and Somebody Owes Me Money for that matter), but with nice typography and a well wikkid bullet motif.

I was a bit cool on The Hot Rock when I was halfway through reading it; I think I was so used to Westlake's lean, straight-faced Richard Stark/Parker books that the more laidback approach in The Hot Rock threw me a bit. But by the time I'd finished it I realised I had really enjoyed it (particularly the final sequence where Dortmunder's on the run at an airport and has to hitch a lift in a small plane, much to the bemusement of the pilot), and also that I really liked John Dortmunder. He's often described as a hard-luck version of Parker, and there's some truth in that, but he's seemingly a more decent human being than Parker, and therefore more readily likeable. Bank Shot is about Dortmunder and crew's attempt to steal a whole bank – a mobile one – which is an intriguingly daft premise. Should be good, and also I should have news on the next few books in the series soon...


  1. Did you enjoy the bits of The Black Ice Score that were in The Hot Rock? When Parker is discussing the weapons and vehicles he'll need in Ice, there is a bit of talk about special vehicles. Seems like just a throwaway line. But then in the Rock, Dortmunder needs a train and those other vehicles joked about in Ice. Legend has is it that Westlake had trouble with the Ice book because in his original idea, the ice keeps getting stolen and that didn't feel right for a Parker story - but he kept those ideas and created Dortmunder to fully use them.

    Most of the rest of the Dortmunder books are similarly as enjoyable as The Hot Rock. (The former FBI agent in Bank Shot is annoying but that's the only rough spot.)

    And given your considerable skills in collecting Stark/Westlake, I cannot wait to read about (and see pictures of) your acquisition of Child Heist.

  2. Ah, I haven't got to Black Ice Score yet. I'm on Green Eagle Score at the moment, so that'll be next up. Heh, I'm even keener to get to it now!

    Ah yes, the mythical Child Heist... Gimme a few weeks and I should have something on that...

  3. I'm reading these Parkers at roughly the same time as you are and I goofed and thought Green Eagle = Sour Lemon (which is what I'm due to start). Obviously, not to Black Ice yet. I think its better to have read The Hot Rock before Black Ice as you will more clearly see all that Westlake cut out of Ice.

    Both Parker and Dortmunder are regarded as master planners. Unfortunately for Dortmunder, jobs routinely go spectacularly wrong. But for Parker, after 11 or so books, I'm starting to think that he's just as unlucky as Dortmunder. On balance, don't most of Parker's jobs go bad in some way? Granted, Parker always escapes and usually gets revenge and we still think he is cool. His failures are decidedly non-comic so he retains his street cred. I expect you'll post an excellent critique of Parker and Dortmunder several months from now.

    I took a mini-break from these Starks to read The Passage by Justin Cronin. Given your tastes in fiction and comics, you may want to take a look at The Passage. It is utterly fantastic.

  4. Hmm, Parker versue Dortmunder... now there's an idea. I'll give that a go once I've got Bank Shot under my belt. Ta for the idea!

    I'd only vaguely registered The Passage, so thanks for the heads-up on that. Just ordered the signed UK first edition!