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Richard Stark a.k.a. Donald E. Westlake - Page 7

post #301 of 352

Yeah, it was so much better when it was non-stop arguing about whether Parker had to be played by a white guy.   ;)

post #302 of 352

I'm pretty sure folks are factoring that conversation into the equation. 

post #303 of 352
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parker View Post

I'm pretty sure folks are factoring that conversation into the equation. 

That's a BINGO!

post #304 of 352

I certainly am.

post #305 of 352

So somebody change the subject.  

 

I've already tried, several times.   Lauren, I didn't see you responding to my query about the Sam Holt books.

post #306 of 352

Reading this thread in its entirety makes me wish Westlake had never been born, to be honest.
 

post #307 of 352

So we find something different to talk about - how did y'all discover Westlake? I came to Dortmunder first - my father is a fan, and he thought I'd enjoy them - and so I've spent the last 15 years or so gradually reading everything I could find. I actually came to the Parker books late - I wasn't sure I'd enjoy them, in part because of how much I've enjoyed his humorous stuff, but I have thoroughly enjoyed them (though I do prefer Dortmunder).

post #308 of 352

Honestly, because of "Payback".   The movie was a very mixed bag, but I couldn't stop watching it, and I realized it was the dialogue (Payback is the only Parker adaptation I've seen that has a lot of dialogue ripped verbatim from the book).

 

I heard there was an earlier adaptation with Lee Marvin, so I watched that--much better movie (a classic, beyond doubt), but the dialogue wasn't nearly as good.   John Boorman got the feel of the books right, but he was telling his own story, which was interesting in its own right, but it seemed like he was at odds with his own protagonist.    Great filmmaker, but he was no wordsmith.

 

I finally started reading the Parker novels, starting with "Flashfire", because it was the earliest one available at the library (good luck trying to find early Westlake in most libraries).   I started collecting online, and within a depressingly short time, had read all the Parkers.   Then on to the Tobins.   Then and only then did I start reading the books he wrote under his own name, and I really began to get a feel for the guy, and what he was saying.   His message is very consistent:   Know who you are.   Discover your capabilities.  Don't compromise more than you have to.   It sounds simple, but not the way he wrote it.

post #309 of 352

John Boorman wasn't the screenwriter for Point Blank, Alex Jacobs was.

post #310 of 352
Quote:
Originally Posted by Subotai View Post

Reading this thread in its entirety makes me wish Westlake had never been born, to be honest.
 

 

At the risk of being 'that drive-by asshole guy'  I will be keeping this thread handy for when anyone tries to tell me there's a special sort of crazy associated with fans of long fantasy sagas.  Nope, sorry!

post #311 of 352

Hahahahahaha saying what I'm thinking.

post #312 of 352
Quote:
Originally Posted by Subotai View Post

Reading this thread in its entirety makes me wish Westlake had never been born, to be honest.
 

I'd never ever wish that, but I get it.

post #313 of 352
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben Grimm View Post

So we find something different to talk about - how did y'all discover Westlake? I came to Dortmunder first - my father is a fan, and he thought I'd enjoy them - and so I've spent the last 15 years or so gradually reading everything I could find. I actually came to the Parker books late - I wasn't sure I'd enjoy them, in part because of how much I've enjoyed his humorous stuff, but I have thoroughly enjoyed them (though I do prefer Dortmunder).


Used bookstore after I read 8 Million Ways To Die (same place I got the Block novel. Great crime section). I was scouring for more crime novels, found Drowned Hopes. The rest is history.

post #314 of 352
Quote:
Originally Posted by NathanW View Post

John Boorman wasn't the screenwriter for Point Blank, Alex Jacobs was.

 

It was Boorman's film.    Completely.   He got total script approval, final cut, everything.   Very rare.   Marvin was so big at that point, he had it in his contract that he had total creative control, and he gave that to Boorman.   No matter who gets credited for the script, Boorman put his thumbprint on everything.   The original script was thrown out the window, and the reworked script was heavily tinkered with during filming.   I'm not a big fan of the auteur theory, but for this movie, it definitely holds true. 


Edited by pisher - 1/28/13 at 3:50am
post #315 of 352
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben Grimm View Post

So we find something different to talk about - how did y'all discover Westlake? 

 

Cameron told me to read him...

post #316 of 352
Quote:
Originally Posted by David Levine View Post

 

Cameron told me to read him...

And like a good little Muppet,  you did!

post #317 of 352
Quote:
Originally Posted by pisher View Post

Yeah, it was so much better when it was non-stop arguing about whether Parker had to be played by a white guy.   ;)

Hell, that little drama was part of Dave's recent banning.


Edited by Cameron Hughes - 1/28/13 at 3:47pm
post #318 of 352
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cameron Hughes View Post

Hell, that little drama was part of Dave's recent banning,

 

The mirror shows me some asshole who got banned. 

post #319 of 352
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parker View Post

 

The mirror shows me some asshole who got banned. 

What was funny to me was he said he was a purist about books being made into movies retaining every little detail possible out of some weird respect to the author (unless it was one he wasn't a fan of!), but he was fine with fanfic, or "tribute" as he called them, novels done by other authors after a writer dies.

post #320 of 352

He had some shit to work out.  I wish him well.
 

post #321 of 352
Quote:
Originally Posted by Subotai View Post

He had some shit to work out.  I wish him well.
 


Pacifist Hippie Canadian!

post #322 of 352

Back to Westlake, my favorite remains Drowned Hopes. It's brilliantly plotted, with great characters and the highest stakes. Of the stand-alones, my favorite is The Ax, which feels like a Coens brothers noir film on paper (and in my nerdy brain, takes place in the same universe as A Simple Plan, the book and movie written by Scott Smith, which I've always fanficced as in the same universe as Fargo), Frighteningly relevant for the last several years.

post #323 of 352

My favorite may be What's the Worst That Could Happen?, with Drowned Hopes and Don't Ask close behind. What's the Worst That Could Happen? is also the best possible "last" book, since it ends with a huge score that brings lots of old characters back. I didn't feel like Get Real was a worthy send-off, as it was one of the weaker Dortmunder books.

post #324 of 352

A whole lot of his best books were one-shots written under his own name.

 

361--hard boiled crime thriller.

 

The Spy in the Ointment--humorous espionage story, with a unique twist for Westlake.

 

God Save the Mark--very nearly made into a movie starring Bill Cosby. 

 

Up Your Banners--interracial romance, centered around a teacher's strike.  

 

Help I am Being Held Prisoner--how this never became a movie I don't know, unless it's the last name of its protagonist.  Don't want to spoil it for you.

 

Cops and Robbers--this was made into a movie, and it was the most faithful adaptation of any Westlake novel (not surprising, since he wrote the screenplay).   But the book is a lot better.  The title is a joke--the cops ARE the robbers.   Two NYPD officers want to retire early, and plan a heist to finance it.   Keeps you guessing all the way.

 

Brothers Keepers--I'm not 100% sure this isn't his best book.   And there's absolutely no murder in it.   And just a tiny bit of larceny, which the protagonist isn't involved with.   Well, he's a monk.

 

Two Much--arguably the first Westlake novel in which the protagonist is a complete and unrepentent cad.   And you like him for it.   And then something happens.

 

A Likely Story--it's about marriage, family, and the publishing industry.   No crimes committed at all (except perhaps crimes against art, and a bit of adultery).   Enormously entertaining.   And seems to be heavily drawn from Westlake's own life. 

 

There's people who have written better books than Donald Westlake, and there's people who have written more books than Donald Westlake, but I'm not sure anybody ever wrote as many good books as he did, except maybe P.G. Wodehouse, and he was writing variations of the same book, over and over.   Westlake kept mixing it up.   And he did all this ON TOP OF creating Parker, Dortmunder, Tobin, and Grofield.  And Sam Holt, but I've just started on those. 


Edited by pisher - 1/29/13 at 8:09am
post #325 of 352

The only non-Parker book I've read by Westlake is Memory. It's kind of a sad portrait of a man stripped of his memory, he tries to regain a sense of his life prior to the memory loss and finds he no longer belongs there. I liked it.

post #326 of 352
Quote:
Originally Posted by NathanW View Post

The only non-Parker book I've read by Westlake is Memory. It's kind of a sad portrait of a man stripped of his memory, he tries to regain a sense of his life prior to the memory loss and finds he no longer belongs there. I liked it.

 

Read more Westlake! I promise you'll love it.

post #327 of 352
Quote:
Originally Posted by NathanW View Post

The only non-Parker book I've read by Westlake is Memory. It's kind of a sad portrait of a man stripped of his memory, he tries to regain a sense of his life prior to the memory loss and finds he no longer belongs there. I liked it.

 

It's the most terrifying thing he ever wrote.    To Westlake, the worst possible thing that can happen to you is to lose yourself.   The details in that book are so chillingly convincing.   I've often wondered if somehow Chris Nolan got a hold of the manuscript for "Memory" before it was finally published, because it prefigures "Memento" in a variety of ways.   Whether it's an influence or not, it certainly got there first by a wide margin. 

post #328 of 352
Quote:
Originally Posted by pisher View Post

 

Cops and Robbers--this was made into a movie, and it was the most faithful adaptation of any Westlake novel (not surprising, since he wrote the screenplay).   

This was actually a novelization; Westlake wrote the screenplay before the book.

post #329 of 352
Quote:
Originally Posted by Malmordo View Post

This was actually a novelization; Westlake wrote the screenplay before the book.

 

I wasn't aware of that--and would actually like to see a source, because that would be very interesting.   To my mind, it's not a novelization unless it follows the movie exactly, and Westlake doesn't do that.   If he wrote the screenplay first, he really improved the hell out of the story and the characters in the process.   

 

Since when does a novelization come out a year before the movie?   The movie came out in August of 1973, the book's publication date is listed as 1972.   I could well believe the movie was in the works while he was writing it, but it isn't a true novelization.   It's a novel that happens to have become a movie around the same time.   If it's a novelization, it's the best one ever written, by a long shot. 

 

Novelization means 'tie-in'--this book was not a tie-in.    Sorry to quibble, and if you can show me Westlake referring to it as a novelization, I'll concede the point.   But only then. 

 

(editing this in)

 

I have the first edition hardcover (novelizations are generally paperbacks).   My copy doesn't have a dust jacket, but you can see the dust jacket here--

 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0871310422/ref=tmm_hrd_new_olp_sr?ie=UTF8&condition=new

 

That's not Cliff Gorman and Joseph Bologna (who do appear on the later paperback edition that coincided with the film release, as you'd expect).

 

It was published in October of 1972, which is 10 months before the movie came out.

 

Now here's where I think we're both right--the movie could not have been made in so short a time.   So the film was in the works well before the book came out--Westlake may well have written the screenplay first, though I must say I doubt it.   But if you just read the novel, see how different it is (and how much better) you'll know that Westlake saw this as a novel first, a movie second.  He loved movies, but he never relinquished his belief that books were superior--if only because in a book, the writer can do exactly what he or she wants.   Film usually requires a lot more compromises.  

 

The ending of the movie is MUCH inferior to the book.   But you can see why they had to go that way with it.  Low budget. 


Edited by pisher - 1/31/13 at 6:39am
post #330 of 352

While I started out with the Parker novels, my first Westlake book was "Somebody owes me money."  Thought it was pretty hilarious and seemed ripe for a great action-comedy film adaptation.

 

Just finished The Cutie: that got pretty dark at the end.

post #331 of 352

I like "Somebody Owes Me Money"--it's one of the 'Nephew' books, comic thrillers Westlake wrote throughout the 60's, where somebody gets in trouble because of some kind of misunderstanding involving dangerous people--so called because the first one was "The Fugitive Pigeon", the original title of  which was "The Dead Nephew".    Anyway, that's a good example of a Nephew book, but several of them are better. 

 

"The Cutie", aka "The Mercenaries", Westlake's first crime novel, is pretty dark, but check out "361" when you get a chance.   Arguably darker than anything he wrote as Richard Stark.   Though his darkest work will always be "The Ax."    People often think he just wrote comic capers under his own name.   Wrong, wrong, wrong.

post #332 of 352

Yeah, 361 is a solid, dark little noir ditty. I like that one quite a bit. 

post #333 of 352

Checked out The Ax on Kindle from my library. This is my first non-Stark Westlake book and not at all what I was expecting so far (I picked it up without reading so much as a plot summary), but it's extremely engaging.

post #334 of 352
Quote:
Originally Posted by Beldar View Post

Checked out The Ax on Kindle from my library. This is my first non-Stark Westlake book and not at all what I was expecting so far (I picked it up without reading so much as a plot summary), but it's extremely engaging.

The Ax is exceptionally dark because the protagonist doesn't start out as an especially bad guy. In a lot of ways, he has the same (de)volution as Walter White.

post #335 of 352

You mean from Breaking Bad?   I see what you mean, but it's extremely different.    In "The Ax", the protagonist is much more self-aware, never once lies to himself, and remains very single-minded in his quest to get back the life he used to have, by any means necessary.   He does not become a tough ruthless gangster that middle class white people secretly fantasize about becoming as an antidote to their boring existence.   He just drives around shooting other laid-off plant managers in the face--not glamorous at all.    It's a much more telling indictment, because it's easy for us to separate ourselves from Walter White, once the fantasy is over.   It's not so easy to draw a line between us and Burke Devore, because he never stops being one of us--it's all so much more grounded in reality.    TBH, I have never really bought into Breaking Bad.    But that's beside the point.

 

See, Walter White starts out thinking he can just crank out some meth, to get back into the middle class, but his path takes him further and further away from his goal, and by the time he sees that, it's too late.  

 

Burke Devore starts out knowing he's going to kill a number of people who haven't done anything to him, in order to get the job he thinks is rightfully his, which is integral to his identity.   He has qualms, but he works around them.  At the end, he's no more inclined to kill or break the law than he was before--he will kill to protect his job, his family, his identity, his rather modest lifestyle.  He's still in complete control of himself, and his plan.  The implication is that he has correctly analyzed the changes in his society--the end justifies the means.   Everybody does it.   Corporations do it most of all.  He just does it a bit more efficiently (and with less self-deceit) than most people.  

 

Devore isn't de-evolving.   There is no such thing.  Evolution has nothing to do with morality--ask Darwin.    Morality is a cultural construct, that is constantly changing.   People in the Middle Ages would not think of us as being more moral than them--quite the opposite.  Our values are different.   Better in some ways, worse in others.  Only a small number of people are strong enough and good enough to buck these trends, and insist that some things are wrong no matter what.   Devore decides to stop fighting the latest trend, and follow it to its logical conclusion.   Society has abandoned him, so he abandons a particular element of its morality, that he deduces it doesn't really believe in anymore.   We say we value individual lives, but we don't act like we do.   We act selfishly, as if everything comes second to our interests, and those of our immediate family members.   I guess in theory anybody could become Walter White, but in reality, we are all Burke Devore.  

 

Remember, pretty much everything Westlake wrote was about self-discovery.    The victory of Burke Devore is also his tragedy--that he finds out he's a perfect killer.   And we find that out along with him.   Because everybody who reads this book is rooting for him to succeed, even as we grieve for the loss of his innocence.  And ours.


Edited by pisher - 2/2/13 at 6:32am
post #336 of 352
Quote:
Originally Posted by pisher View Post

 

I wasn't aware of that--and would actually like to see a source, because that would be very interesting.   To my mind, it's not a novelization unless it follows the movie exactly, and Westlake doesn't do that.   If he wrote the screenplay first, he really improved the hell out of the story and the characters in the process.   

 

Since when does a novelization come out a year before the movie?   The movie came out in August of 1973, the book's publication date is listed as 1972.   I could well believe the movie was in the works while he was writing it, but it isn't a true novelization.   It's a novel that happens to have become a movie around the same time.   If it's a novelization, it's the best one ever written, by a long shot. 

From "An Inside Look at Donald Westlake," by Albert Nussbaum, published in the May 1975 issue of Take One:

 

I have written three original screenplays, one of which actually became a movie -- Cops and Robbers -- and which in the movie biz is a damn good percentage. After the C&R screenplay was finished, I filled it out and made a novel out of it, but I have never wanted to go the other way.

post #337 of 352
Quote:
Originally Posted by Malmordo View Post

From "An Inside Look at Donald Westlake," by Albert Nussbaum, published in the May 1975 issue of Take One:

 

I have written three original screenplays, one of which actually became a movie -- Cops and Robbers -- and which in the movie biz is a damn good percentage. After the C&R screenplay was finished, I filled it out and made a novel out of it, but I have never wanted to go the other way.

 

Thanks--but he doesn't call it a novelization, and it's not a novelization.    It's a completely independent work, that came out almost a year before the movie (he must have had it in his contract that he could do this).  Again, we're quibbling over terms, and I figured this was what happened.  It's so much better as a novel--interesting that he didn't want to turn any of his novels into screenplays.   I wish to hell he'd written the screenplay for "The Outfit" with Robert Duvall--interesting film, but the script is a mess.

post #338 of 352

Lemons Never Lie - a Grofield novel - is 99 cents on kindle:

http://www.amazon.com/Lemons-Never-Lie-Grofield-ebook/dp/B007QW58W0/

 

There's a bunch of other books on clearance too, but that's the only Westlake.

post #339 of 352

How do you have a clearance sale on books that don't exist in three dimensions?

 

Anyway,  great book, easily the best of the Grofield novels.  Not up to the level of the best Parkers, and I think you appreciate it more if you've read the earlier Parker novels in which he appears, and maybe one or two of the earlier Grofield solo outings.  There's a kind of cumulative effect you get from reading the Stark books in the order they were published.  You don't absolutely have to, but you'll get more out of them if you do it that way.

post #340 of 352

The Hot Rock is $2 on kindle today:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005UK7TVS/

 

For anyone who hasn't read the Dortmunder books, READ THE DORTMUNDER BOOKS. The Hot Rock is the first one.

post #341 of 352
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben Grimm View Post

The Hot Rock is $2 on kindle today:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005UK7TVS/

 

For anyone who hasn't read the Dortmunder books, READ THE DORTMUNDER BOOKS. The Hot Rock is the first one.

Such a great novel.

 

DON'T ASK

 

Directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Scott Frank

 

Dortmunder: John Cusack (Great at comedy and has a great hang-dog face)

 

Kelp: Seth Rogen (his goofy, affable self with that stoner laugh? Perfect.)

 

Tiny: The Rock (Think bald The Rock in Fast Five)

 

Herman X: (because I liked him so much in Bank Shot.) Don Cheadle or Donald Faison

 

Murch: Sam Rockwell

 

Murch's Mom: Kathy Bates

post #342 of 352

You keep pushing for Cusack as Dortmunder, and I'm just not seeing it. Way too self-aware an actor to tackle that role.

 

Seth Rogen in ANYTHING is a bad idea.

post #343 of 352

I always saw Herman X being played by the black David Bowie, but for the life of me, I can't figure out who that is.

 

I like Rockwell as Murch a lot. And I think Bates would work as Gladys.

 

I still think if Paul Giamatti were taller he'd be the perfect Dortmunder.

 

I see Kelp and Dortmunder as about the same age, and Rogen and Cusack are 16 years apart, and look it. George Segal was a great Kelp - possibly the best casting of any of the Dortmunder movies, and that's probably severely affected how I envision him. He needs that dorky enthusiasm. Rockwell actually could o that rally well; I could also see someone like John C. Reilly pulling it off. I'd say Steve Buscemi, but he's 9 years older than Cusack and looks 20 years older.

post #344 of 352
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben Grimm View Post

I always saw Herman X being played by the black David Bowie, but for the life of me, I can't figure out who that is.

 

I like Rockwell as Murch a lot. And I think Bates would work as Gladys.

 

I still think if Paul Giamatti were taller he'd be the perfect Dortmunder.

 

I see Kelp and Dortmunder as about the same age, and Rogen and Cusack are 16 years apart, and look it. George Segal was a great Kelp - possibly the best casting of any of the Dortmunder movies, and that's probably severely affected how I envision him. He needs that dorky enthusiasm. Rockwell actually could o that rally well; I could also see someone like John C. Reilly pulling it off. I'd say Steve Buscemi, but he's 9 years older than Cusack and looks 20 years older.

Giamatti, short stature or not, would be a GREAT Dortmunder. Damn, now I want to see him and Reilly (That's inspired, but I like Rogen more now as an actor after I saw 50/50 and think he could easily do that dorky enthusiasm and affability. In 10 years, JGL might make a decent Dortmunder, a better Murch now,  but I'd like to see a cast in their late 30's and 40's. These are characters that need lines and wrinkles to show their mileage and that life kicked the crap out of them.) in a Dortmunder movie. Thar's why I dreamed up Soderbergh doing it, he's great with ensemble casts and any Dortmunder movie would basically be Ocean's 11 as a comedy. Scott Frank is good at adapting crime writers, like with Out of Sight. Hell, Leonard even wished he had thought up that great epilogue.

 

 The biggest hurdle in making a Dortmunder movie would be tone (that's why so many Elmore Leonard movies are so bad, Hollywood doesn't get that Leonard doesn't just write action or comedies and often blends tones or changes them on a dime, like Unknown Man #89). Dortmunder and crew are really good thieves, they just have incredibly bad luck. I've met too many people (that have read at least one or two of the books!*) that think Dortmunder and crew are idiots, my favorite parts of the books are always the meticulous planning parts, just to see how the plan falls spectacularly apart.

 

*While I like Jimmy The Kid, I can see why people might think Dortmunder's crew aren't the brightest bulbs with that plan if that was their only exposure to their characters. The rest of the books have fairly plausible plans.

post #345 of 352

No, I just can't see Giamatti.   He's not just too short, he's too EXPRESSIVE.   Dortmunder requires a deadpan comic actor.   He's the Buster Keaton of the heisting set.

 

Tim DeKay (from White Collar) would be perfect for a TV Dortmunder (and you could never cram all the complexities of a Dortmunder novel into a theatrical feature less than three hours long, which is never going to happen). 

 

But there's a lot of actors who could play Dortmunder.   He's much easier to cast than Parker.   And they've still never gotten him right.   C'mon, Hollywood.   Surprise us.  Just once. 

post #346 of 352
Quote:
Originally Posted by pisher View Post

No, I just can't see Giamatti.   He's not just too short, he's too EXPRESSIVE.   Dortmunder requires a deadpan comic actor.   He's the Buster Keaton of the heisting set.

 

 

Giamatti can do subtle and deadpan. But Dortmunder shouldn't be totally deadpan - there needs to be a constant undercurrent of frustration, exasperation, and irritation to him that's always under the surface. Giamatti can play that. He dosn't have to be shouting all the time.

 

I've said it before though - my perfect Dortmunder is Harry Dean Stanton circa 1970.

post #347 of 352

Jeff Daniels and Hank Azaria are my choices for Dortmunder and Kelp in a televised -- or very low budget feature film -- project (neither of them can sell tickets, unfortunately). Michael Keaton would be my second choice for Kelp.

post #348 of 352
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben Grimm View Post

 

Giamatti can do subtle and deadpan. But Dortmunder shouldn't be totally deadpan - there needs to be a constant undercurrent of frustration, exasperation, and irritation to him that's always under the surface. Giamatti can play that. He dosn't have to be shouting all the time.

 

I've said it before though - my perfect Dortmunder is Harry Dean Stanton circa 1970.

 

Well, even Keaton wasn't totally deadpan all the time, but Dortmunder mainly does slow burns--he holds things in a lot--and I agree, Giamatti can do all that, but Dortmunder is tall and lean, and he's neither.  Physical types do matter. 

 

Giamatti would be a great Andy Kelp.   Harry Dean Stanton could have done that role as well.   Dortmunder?   Well, he makes more sense than Robert Redford, but with Dortmunder what you need is basically a guy who just missed being handsome.   I could see Harry Dean Stanton in any number of roles from the Dortmunder books, but not Dortmunder.   Be interesting, though. 

post #349 of 352
Quote:
Originally Posted by Malmordo View Post

Jeff Daniels and Hank Azaria are my choices for Dortmunder and Kelp in a televised -- or very low budget feature film -- project (neither of them can sell tickets, unfortunately). Michael Keaton would be my second choice for Kelp.

 

Yeah, they might have worked.   Not gonna happen now, though.  I think better to cast a tough guy actor who can do comedy than a comedian who can play tough.   A comedian is going to overplay the comedy--Dortmunder you have to play really straight.   He does NOT know that he's funny.   He does not WANT to know that. 

post #350 of 352

Bank Shot, the second Dortmunder, is $2 on Kindle - looks like all month:

http://www.amazon.com/Bank-Shot-Dortmunder-Novels-ebook/dp/B005UK7TQ8/

 

It's one of the weaker novels (mainly because it's incredibly slight) but it's still fun, and it introduces some good characters that come back later in the series.

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