. . . discovering an extra book in a beloved series after you thought you’d read them all. Donald E. Westlake, writer of great comic mysteries and capers (and lots of hard-boileds under the name Richard Stark, and many other books totalling about 100) had the gall to die two years ago, leaving the world with just one more Dortmunder novel coming through the publishing pipeline. I still haven’t read that one, and I’ve been a little reluctant to track it down, knowing that it would be the last taste of these very funny, very well-written capers. Or so I thought. It turns out that there is another, an older one, that we don’t have and neither of us has ever read. I brought it home from the library, an odd but appreciated Hanukah gift, and let Joy read it first. Now I’m reading it and it is not letting me down.
And the story gets better: Joy greeted it with an “oh yeah, there’s one that’s out of print that we don’t have . . . it’s the first Dortmunder book.” But it’s clear, reading this, that it is not the first, because it makes reference to a couple of previous plots. Looking up a chronology confirms that, while these could conceivably be prequels, they’re not. They did come out first. So this is actually the sixth, and the first (The Hot Rock) is still out there, republished and waiting for us to read it. I’m pretty sure I’ve never read Jimmy the Kid either. And then there’s the really-truly-last, Get Real, also deliciously unread.
Simple pleasures. Thanks, Mr. Westlake, for a few gifts from beyond the grave.