Tag Archives: Sara Joslyn novels

Review: Trust Me On This, Part 2

The death of Johnny Crawfish stunned the civilized world.  The thirty-eight year old  country singer who had risen from poverty and squalor as the child of migrant farm workers, the gravel-voiced balladeer who had found both God and his muse in a Tennessee prison where he’d been sentenced for manslaughter, the self-taught millionaire songwriter/businessman who by his thirty-fifth birthday had appeared in command performances before both Queen Elizabeth and President Reagan, died that Saturday morning of at first unknown causes in The Shack, his palatial thirty-room waterfront estate on Chesapeake Bay north of Newport News, Virginia, and when the news was flashed round the globe it was as though four billion human beings had just lost their best friend.

What we call fiction today is different from either the history or poetry known to readers before Cervantes’s time.  For a prose narrative to be fiction it must be written for a reader who knows it is untrue and yet treats it for a time as if it were true.  The reader knows not to apply the traditional measure of truthfulness for judging a narrative; he suspends that judgment for a time, in a move that the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge popularized as “the willing suspension of disbelief,” or “poetic faith.”  He must be able to occupy two opposed identities simultaneously: a naive reader who believes what he is being told and a savvy one who knows it is untrue.  In order to achieve this effect, the author needs to pull off a complex trick.  At every step of the way a fictional narrative seems to know both more and less than it is telling us.  It speaks always with at least two voices, at times representing the limited perspective of its characters, at times revealing to the reader elements of the story unknown to some of or all those characters.

From The Man Who Invented Fiction: How Cervantes Ushered In The Modern World, by William Egginton.

Donald Westlake loved to experiment with the structure of his novels.   Rarely did he write a book that was just Chapters One Through Whatever.  He split his books–even the short ones–into different parts, with different purposes, and he named them, and you just never knew, opening a new Westlake, how it was going to be laid out.

This book starts off with The First Week, which runs four chapters–the week in question is Sara Joslyn’s first on the the Weekly Galaxy, obviously.  The First Day also runs four chapters, and refers to the fact that Sara gets a permanent parking sticker for her car at the end of her first week, and that’s really when she’s a Galaxy employee in full earnest.  The First Hundred Years takes up eight chapters, and is meant to indicate that even though she’s only been there a month by the time it ends, in reality (as with all indoctrination periods) it’s been more like a lifetime.  Our jobs tend to change our identities, the daily routine marks us, for good and ill, and it doesn’t take long at all for those changes to be noticeable.

Which brings us to The Wedding, the longest part of the book, a very busy eleven chapters worth of mendacious maneuverings.  As we saw last time, having learned that she’s actually brilliant at the job she was initially ambivalent towards, Sara Joslyn, once a strong believer in journalistic integrity and serious news, has been well and truly corrupted by her new job–not by the insanely large salary, the basically unlimited expense account, or even the tender ministrations of her nominal boss and newly minted lover, Jack Ingersoll.

No, she’s just found out it’s really really fun to think up ways to con people, to dream up cunning subterfuges, to obtain unobtainable information about the rich and famous–and get paid for it. Basically a tabloid reporter is a professional grifter/spy, with a weekly paycheck and a presumably excellent healthcare plan. Sara Joslyn, who a short time earlier was worrying about which of her half dozen or so half-finished novels to finish, now believes she may have found her true calling in life.

Jack, watching her rapidly become the the most intrepid scandalmonger the Galaxy has ever seen, worries he may have degraded an idealistic young soul. But he’s so enjoying her idealistic young body.   It’s a moral quandary.  And here he was thinking he’d left all such tiresome concerns behind in the 1960’s, where they belonged.

So John Michael Mercer, the brooding hunky star of Breakpoint, is getting married to a delightful young woman named Felicia, who is quite simply a doll. Sweet-natured, unostentatiously sexy, low-maintenance, neurosis-free, with nary a skeleton in her doubtless immaculate closet.  One would think there would be no story there at all, or at least no story other than “John Michael Mercer got married, sorry girls (and boys who hoped he was secretly gay).”

But it is Mr. Mercer’s misfortune that he is the object of a driving obsession on the part of Bruno DeMassi, the Galaxy‘s pernicious publisher, who owes his success to the fact that he understands his readership on an almost cellular level–he knows what Inquiring Minds Want to Know.  (I want to know!)

So ‘Massa’, as his staff only half-humorously refers to him, will not brook any excuses, or set any budget to the single-minded quest of extensively and intimately covering what is supposed to be a strictly private ceremony.  He has decided in his infinite wisdom that ‘the story’ is going to be an interview with Mercer, complicated by the fact that only certain pesky laws against bodily mayhem have stopped Mercer from habitually doing to Galaxy reporters what he presumably does to bad guys every week on his show.

So in brief, this is to your typical wedding coverage in the news what the D-Day Landings are to the Staten Island Ferry making its 30th docking of the day (at Staten Island).  Think I’m being hyperbolic?  Wanna bet?

Jack’s team having won control of the wedding coverage, he, Sara, Ida Gavin, The Aussie Trio, and many others fly to Martha’s Vineyard and set up a command center in a house the paper has rented at obscene expense (hotel rooms being scarcer than poultry dentition).  Louis B. Urbiton and Harry Razza are deployed to waylay the other ‘legitimate’ journalists coming in to cover the wedding, and get them all royally drunk.

Bob Sangster has an additional assignment–to pose as Jack Michael Mercer’s cap-tugging limo driver.  “I’m just a simple Aussie,” he keeps saying.  Simple like a bloody dingo.  More brass than a Big Ten University marching band.

“I don’t mean to intrude, sir,” the driver said, with a little stiffening of the shoulders to indicate the distance he knew he was expected to keep, “but if at some point you wouldn’t mind to give me just a little autograph for my daughter, it would be the thrill of her life.”

“Of course,” Mercer said, smiling, while Felicia squeezed his hand.”  “What’s her name?”

“Fiona,” the driver said.  “She’s your biggest fan.”

“Is she?”

“But we all are, sir, if truth be told.  The whole family, we wouldn’t miss a thing you do.  Not just Breakpoint, you know, but everything.  That blind rodeo rider in the movie for television, Study in Courage, was it?  That was beautiful, sir, if you don’t mind.  Beautiful.”

“I am proud of that one,” Mercer agreed, nodding in manly acknowledgement.

“Not to intrude, sir.”

“Not at all, not at all.”

You feel kind of sad when the vigilant staff of the exclusive hotel the happy couple are staying at, find Bob out, beat him to a pulp, and show him the door. Fortunes of war, mate.

The Galaxy‘s next move–which both shocks and thrills Sara, increasingly aware of just how much power and money her employer has to throw around when the situation warrants–is to moor a world-class yacht, the Princess Pat, within sight of the hotel, and inform Mr. Mercer that in exchange for his agreeing to an interview, he and his intended may sail off on it, anywhere they please (what do you suppose the odds are there would be no hidden cameras and listening devices installed onboard?).   Mercer is still not allowed to shoot anyone in real life, even in Martha’s Vineyard, so he just says “No” and slams the door in the messenger’s face.

At this point, Massa must acknowledge that ‘the story’ will not be an interview with John Michael Mercer, so it will have to be the wedding album.  Pictures. Exclusive to the Galaxy.  By any means necessary.  And as always wishing to set his reporters at each other’s throats, he tells Jack’s eternal nemesis, the smarmy Boy Cartwright, to go there and get those pictures.  Boy departs with all due alacrity.

Sleeping off a spate of drinking brought up by the aforementioned fortunes of war, Jack and Sara hear shots fired outside Jack’s motel room.  Turns out they were fired inside Sara’s vacant motel room.  Into Sara’s vacant bed.  Unclear if this is a real murder attempt or a very stern warning.  Jack manages to conceal Sara’s presence in his room, since the Galaxy (if you’d believe it) will not brook any moral turpitude from its staff.  Now the police have to actually go interrogate John Michael Mercer, to make sure he didn’t actively follow up on one of his innumerable threats towards the Weekly Galaxy and all those attached to it.  He didn’t, of course.  But now things are really getting out of hand.

The war is going against Mercer and Felicia, in spite of the valiant efforts of the hotel staff–there’s always somebody on the staff who can be bribed.  The manager is sadly forced to admit that he won’t be able to guard their privacy, but being a throughgoing professional (something Donald Westlake appreciates deeply in all walks of life), has a back-up plan.

The couple can stay with Lady Beatrice Romney (no relation, I’m sure), widow of an English general who was forced to leave that more happier land under a cloud after his military bungles led to the Dunkirk evacuations (the most glorious retreat in all of history).   A new Romney Hall, with grounds quite capacious enough to hold the ceremony, has been constructed in Martha’s Vineyard, where Lady Beatrice still broods on the iniquities of the British gutter press which hounded her late husband to an early grave.  No, I don’t believe a word of this either, and I don’t give a damn, do you?  Rarely have I suspended disbelief more gladly.

Hearing that a fellow subject of Her Majesty is now the person to approach, Boy figures he’s got the inside track to nab those wedding photos.  Yes, you see where this is going.  But the thing is, Boy doesn’t.   Been away from home too long. Forgot about the class system.

“Well, he says he’s from a newspaper, Mum,” Jakes said, with a faint but  unmistakable edge of disapproval.  “He says he’s from the Weekly Galaxy, Mum, it’s a sort of servant-girl paper, all in color.”

Lady Beatrice’s eyes glinted.  So the villainous press had traced the fair couple, had it?  Well, it would not be permitted to destroy their happiness.  “And the scamp,” she said, “has the effrontery to come to my front door?”

“He asks if he can have a word with you, Mum.”

“Put the villain on.”

“Boy Cartwright here, Lady Beatrice,” said the villain, and the instant she heard that glutinous voice, that style of Uriah Heep after assertiveness training, Lady Beatrice placed the fellow precisely and unerringly in his proper pew in the great English pecking order.  A tradesman’s son from somewhere like Bradford, a redbrick university dropout, the sort of fellow who in Manchester or Liverpool sells used cars to Pakis.  “If I could have a bit of a chat, Lady B,” this mongrel said, “I’d be most appreciative.”

You’ve had your bit of a chat, my lad, Lady Beatrice thought, and said “Put Jakes on.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“That large strapping fellow there with you.  Jakes.  Put him on.”

“Oh, of course, of course.  See you in half a tick, then,” the creature said, and Lady Beatrice heard him, away from the phone, say snottily to Jakes, “Your mistress has instructions for you.”

Oh, that she does, my lad.  Let us avert our eyes from the distasteful events that follow, involving a large leather belt.  At least she didn’t say ‘release the hounds.’ Later on, she does, in fact, release said hounds, but we’ll get to that. A great pity Dame Edith Evans could not be cast to play Lady B.–certain tonal inflections only she could do to complete perfection.  I rather suspect her Lady Bracknell in the 1952 film version of The Importance of Being Earnest was in Westlake’s mind when writing this scene–but of course she’d gone to her final reward over ten years before this book came out.  Hopefully they have plenty of cucumber sandwiches there, and I trust no journalists of any kind.

These scenes at Romney Hall are written very much from the perspective of Lady Beatrice and her two young guests, who she takes an immediate liking to–somehow, all aristocrats understand each other, and what else are celebrities but modern aristocrats?  John Michael Mercer starts reverting to the courtly western accent of his boyhood, accentuating it to the point where he might as well be doing Gary Cooper.  He positively beams when Lady B. mentions her late husband’s frequent avowal that all reporters should be horse-whipped on sight.   And you fully sympathize with them, identify with their perfectly sane and understandable desire for privacy, and you want them to win out against these ruthless ink-stained sewer rats.

And then you switch back to Jack and Sara, who are themselves such a fine couple, so brave and resourceful and determined to get the personal data the great unwashed who constitute their readership demand as their rightful due for making Mr. Mercer rich and famous and privileged beyond all belief, and you’re right back in their corner again.  And this is intentional.  Westlake is pitting our divided sympathies against each other, forcing us to think about the underlying realities that make up our confused modern world.

A bit earlier in the book, Sara, frustrated beyond all endurance by the obdurate refusal of Mercer to allow them any access whatsoever to his personal life, speaks for all us inquiring minds–and we’re a bit embarrassed by how well she does it. Ida asks who the hell Mercer thinks he is (well he’s an actor, so obviously it depends on the script).

“That’s right,” Sara said, as fierce in her own way as Ida.  Jack stared at her in ambivalent surprise–did he want Sara to become Ida?  What a thought!–as the girl shook her fist and declared, “What do people like John Michael Mercer have, except their celebrity?”

“That’s right,” Ida said, glaring at Sara in aggressive solidarity.

“And where do they get their celebrity?” Sara demanded.

“From us,” Ida snapped.

“That’s right!” Sara cried, in full voice.  “When they want publicity, we give it to them.  And when we want, they’ve got to give!”

(Westlake used the the pithy declarative phrase “that’s right” perhaps more than any other writer I can think of, but not even in a Parker novel did it ever occur so many times in so short a passage.  Does this mean he thinks tabloid reporters are harder cases than bank robbers?  Hmm.)

Jack’s own identity crisis, relating to Sara, is now in full bloom.   He’s increasingly seeing her as his own perky blonde Frankenstein’s Monster.  And with her sleeping in his arms, he lies awake, trying to puzzle it out.   Is he having–feelings?

With what trouble and difficulty Jack had rid himself of extraneous emotion several years ago he could barely stand to remember.  A thoroughgoing romantic in college and beyond, slopping over with empathy and fellow-feeling, as naive as a CIA man at a rug sale, he had been hardened, annealed, by circumstances too harrowing to store in the memory banks, and since that time he had been safe.

It had been a conscious decision he had made, four years ago, to retire from the human race, to care about nothing, to become as self-sufficient as Uncas. He had chosen deliberately an environment where emotional attachments of every kind from the greatest to the smallest, were literally impossible.  It was not conceivable to care for one’s fellow workers at the Galaxy, for instance. One amusedly pitied a Binx Radwell about as meaningfully as if he were a puppy with a thorn in its paw; one used an Ida Gavin and then washed one’s hands; one rather relished a Boy Cartwright as so thoroughly representing the environment.

Equally, one could not become emotionally involved with the job.  Not this job.  Nor could one care about the pip-squeak transitory celebrities on whom they all lived their parasitic existence.  Even the state of Florida helped; anyone who managed to sing the glorious rocks and rills of that sunny buttcan needed psychiatric care.

Too thoroughly burnt-out a case even to relish the romantic self-image of being a burnt-out case, Jack Ingersoll had retired to Florida and the Weekly Galaxy and the likes of Ida Gavin and Boy Cartwright to lick his wounds and care never again about anything at all.  Not even possessions; his Spartan life not only gave him more money to put into blue-ribbon investments, the better to prepare for that inevitable day of involuntary retirement, it also kept him from falling–like puppy Binx–in love with things.  He who has nothing has nothing to lose.  And he who has nothing to lose has already won.

Except, Jack realizes with bewilderment, looking down at the sleeping blonde head on his chest, he has everything to lose now.   And he doesn’t have to break up with her to lose her.  He can lose Sara by Sara ceasing to be Sara.  And then what is he?  And that’s romantic attraction in a nutshell.  An identity crisis within an identity crisis.  Because Sara is only doing all this to prove herself worthy to him.  And he’s proud of her.  And ashamed of himself for being proud of her. Ain’t love grand?

So finally, all gentler stratagems having failed, the order comes down from on high–STORM THE WEDDING.   An all-out nuptial assault, by land and sea and air.  And you think Westlake is making this shit up?  Google pictures of Madonna and Sean Penn’s wedding, if you get the chance. Coming back to you now?  Yes, I know they’re both stuck-up assholes, and that marriage had about as much of a future as Betamax VCR’s, but still.

Sara leads a cavalry charge–on horses rented from a riding stable.  Boy leads a naval assault, a small flotilla of boats attempting to unobtrusively mingle with the vessels belonging to members of the Mercer wedding.  And Ida takes command of a helicopter bristling with long lenses, the heavy artillery of the paparazzi.

And all for naught.  If only Lady Beatrice had been leading His Majesty’s forces in spring of 1940, instead of her late husband (unkindly dubbed The Dunce of Dunkirk by the aforementioned gutter press), there wouldn’t be nearly so many WWII movies and documentaries.  The attack is beaten back on all fronts, with no loss of life, but considerable loss of dignity.  Clubs are brandished.  Non-metaphorical hounds are released.  Pants-seats are ripped.  Riders are thrown. Shotguns are fired.  The helicopter pilot has PTSD from Vietnam, and gets the hell out of there.  Napalm regrettably not an option.

All is lost.  No usable photos.  They have an interview with the minister who performed the ceremony–in exchange for them publishing his treatise on how to solve the Northern Irish Troubles–send the Protestants to Mars–not entirely without merit, but not nearly enough to satisfy Massa and the readership.  They mussed the bride’s hair up a bit with the backwash from the helicopter, made her lose her veil, made her cry.  Oh good for them.  A hard-fought victory for John Michael Mercer and his blushing bride, but victory all the same, as the happy couple kiss, and are seen no more in this book.  “Bastards,” Sara says, gazing upon them with hatred.  “Bastards, bastards.”  That’s the spirit.

And that defiant indomitable spirit simply will not allow the possibility of defeat. Sara’s gift for lateral thinking comes into play once more.  Lady Beatrice took the wedding photos herself, being an accomplished amateur photographer.  And where do amateur photographers get their photos developed?   Back in the days when photos still needed to be developed?  The drug store.  She finds out which one.  She picks up the photos herself, claiming to be doing so for Lady B.  The Mercer wedding album is presented to a delighted Massa.  The forces of evil have triumphed after all.

And in appreciation of this magnificent service performed on behalf of Vox Populi, Jack’s team is given a Body in the Box assignment.  In Part Five of this book, which is predictably entitled The Body in the Box.  Sara has been hearing this phrase repeated over and over throughout the book, and she’s been afraid to ask what it means.

It means you have to get a photo of a dead famous person in his or her coffin. The family of the deceased typically objects to this.  But certain disreputable members of that family (and what famous person in all of history did not have disreputable family members?  what person, really?) can often be bribed to provide a covert snapshot, of generally execrable quality, but that’s not the point.

No, the point is that The People demand to see their idol’s decomposing corpse, perhaps merely to reassure themselves that if Life is not fair, Death is nothing but.  You see those photos up top?  This is still very much a thing, people.  And will remain a thing as long as people keep buying the papers containing these photos–and then buying reprints of them (the National Enquirer has been reprinting that Elvis issue for decades now).

So the dead famous person is country music legend, Johnny Crawfish, and this is where we came in.  So let’s cut to the chase, shall we?   Sara, not so much a reluctant detective as an absent-minded one, has completely forgotten about the murder mystery.  The murderer has not.  The murderer is a Galaxy reporter. The murderer intends to shut Sara up for good (even though she’s basically given up trying to solve the mystery) .

Sara and that same killer who now intends to kill again have entered The Shack under cover of being from the Virginia board of health, because (they say) Johnny Crawfish’s corpse has AIDS, so all non-essential personnel must be evacuated, so now they can take all the photos they want. Yes, this is in terrible taste, most insensitive, and I bet it would have worked if somebody had actually tried it back then.  In the rural south, definitely.  But quite possibly anywhere.

This is a terrific book, make no mistake, but I doubt there’s anyone who reads it who doesn’t have a pet peeve.  Here’s mine.  Sara was the detective here, distracted though she may have been.  Westlake typically put his amateur detectives (all of them guys, up to now) in a position where they had to solve a murder mystery to save their own asses.   And they invariably do so, and get to explain to all present not only whodunnit but how and why it was done, and they’re always right.  Because that’s the genre.

This is not really a mystery novel, but it has a mystery in it, and Sara is the detective.  She did all the legwork (and she has much better legs than all the previous Westlake detectives).  And she not only does not figure out who the killer is until it’s very nearly too late, but having survived, she lies there in a gurney, in a state of shock, while Jack, who has raced to the scene of the almost-crime, after belatedly realizing he’s sent her to her death, tells her what happened, and why.

It works.  Dramatically speaking.  Emotionally speaking.  Jack needed the shock of Sara’s near-death to get him to declare his love for her, and it makes sense he’d be able to put together the pieces Sara had assembled, knowing more about the background of that particular crime.   I’m not saying I don’t enjoy the scene, that it’s not very well written.  I’m just saying it’s not fair.

Donald E. Westlake was simply not put on this earth to write novels about female protagonists–great female supporting characters, yes.  But as the central figure in the story, no.  That’s neither a criticism nor an excuse.  It’s a statement of fact.  Even though he’s put much of himself into Sara Joslyn, even though he’s imbued her with many admirable qualities, even though he was destined to write one more book about her (in which she does solve the mystery all by herself, and Jack is relegated mainly to the sidelines)–his great protagonists are all Americans, all caucasians, all males.

That’s the perspective he was most comfortable with, even though he loved writing from many others, needed to stretch outside of his comfort zone–he still retreats back to it, when all is said and done.   It’s not that he’s a man, because many of the most compelling heroines in all of fiction were created by men, quite a few of them before Donald Westlake came into this world.  It’s because as is true of all of us, his strengths are bound up in his weaknesses.   A package deal.

Sara’s a fine experiment, and since the book does not revolve solely around her, her deficiencies–chief among which is the fact that maybe she’s just a bit too damn cute for her own good–do not detract from the many pleasures of the narrative, which is not about who murdered whom at all.  And maybe I’m still sulking a bit that the estimable J.C. Taylor from the Dortmunder novel Good Behavior never got her own book.  But a writer is his or her choices, and all writers, even your favorites, make choices you don’t approve of. You live with that, or you read somebody else whose choices you don’t always approve of.  Or you write your own stories, and make choices other people don’t approve of.

And his final choice here is to end on a rather deliciously ambiguous note, in Part Six, The Way We Live This Instant.  Jack and Sara have achieved a fuller understanding of each other, and of themselves, and they know now they don’t want to waste the best years of their lives together serving the whims of Massa. So they make their way to the offices of Trend (promoted as The Magazine For the Way We Live This Instant), which Sara has previously deemed nothing more than the Weekly Galaxy for people with money.

Armed with certain embarrassing personal data, they successfully blackmail an editor there into hiring them on (this relates to his having earlier tried to do a Galaxy-style story about the Galaxy).  And though initially discomfited and angered by this violation of his privacy, the editor decides it’s actually a win–these two sharks will make him look good.  And eventually take his job, but hey, that’s the news biz.

And here’s where we have to ask ourselves–the same way we ask at the end of that brilliant fast-paced gender-switched remake of The Front Page that Howard Hawks gave us so long ago, and nobody has come close to equaling since (except maybe here)–have we been rooting for the wrong side?

Sara and Jack have made strides, certainly.  They’ve escaped the feudal bondage of the Galaxy, the trap that represented–only to wander into a larger trap. They’re still going to be reporting mainly on things that don’t really matter, to satiate the morbid curiosity of a better-heeled class of readers.   They have found love, and material success, and personal empowerment, and all the things that are supposed to matter–but have they lost themselves?   In the media-dominated world they–and we–inhabit–is anyone really completely themselves?

So there’s a double-meaning to that ending–the book is on two sides at once, and so are we.   And nothing has changed.  The Weekly Galaxy is still out there in many appalling forms, and can anyone honestly not look at the media scene we have now, 24/7 cable channels, news blogs that often make the National Enquirer and Weekly World News look positively quaint and old fashioned, and not conclude that Massa is the only real victor here?

And how has he won?  By being “an executive who is fond of promoting rivalries among subordinates, wary of delegating major decisions, scornful of convention and fiercely insistent on a culture of loyalty around him.”  You know who that quote actually refers to? Guess.

Viva Love.  Viva Mystery.  Viva Celebrity.  Viva Chicanery.  And viva Freedom of the Press, seriously.  For all its myriad abuses, it’s our best weapon against the plutocrats. But it’s also their best weapon against us.  And the war goes on.  And Jack Ingersoll and Sara Joslyn are not going to be very helpful to us in that war. They’re too busy enjoying life, and each other.  But they entertained us, and taught us a few things about ourselves.  And that’s something, surely.


Filed under Donald Westlake novels, Uncategorized

Review: Trust Me On This

 “Sara,” she said, as they started off.

“I’m Jack.”  They walked between the lines

I remember,” Sara told him, with a faint edge in her voice.

“Don’t kick me, lady,” Jack Ingersoll said, “I just left my bowels back there.”

“What was all that?”

“Every morning at ten A.M.,” he said redundantly, “the editors, of whom I am at least one, go to that shrine back there and lay thirty story ideas at the feet of–”

“Thirty!  Every day?”

“Believe it or not,” Jack Ingersoll said, “I came here as a young and beautiful woman.  Much like yourself.”

She looked sharply at him, but somehow the remark hadn’t had the quality of a pass, or a compliment.  That left it unanswerable, so Sara continued beside him in silence.

The ordinary English public did not want thoughts but sensations. I had begun to edit the paper with the best in me at twenty-eight; I went back in my life, and when I edited it as a boy of fourteen I began to succeed. My obsessions then were kissing and fighting: when I got one or other or both of these interests into every column, the circulation of the paper increased steadily.

From My Life and Loves, by Frank Harris

Throughout the 1980’s, Westlake kept trying to break the mold he’d been cast in, resulting in many interesting books, but little in the way of tangible success.  People liked Parker, people liked Dortmunder, people liked Comic Capers (whatever that means).   Parker was incommunicado until the 90’s, Westlake couldn’t write Dortmunder all the time or he’d go crazy, and he’d written about all the stories he could take about directionless young males who get into trouble, meet a fetching female, and find themselves.

He liked writing foreign intrigue (Kahawa, High Adventure) but the book sales had been disappointing.  He’d really enjoyed satirizing the publishing industry, but you can only bite the hand that feeds you so many times before it gets jerked away.  He’d tried a new series character with Sam Holt, and it had not gone as planned.  A male wish-fulfillment fantasy where the hero is deeply ambiguous about his fantastic life was tough to pull off.

Maybe time to try writing from the other perspective?  A female protagonist?  He’d done lots of those back in his days of writing pseudonymous sex books, and his political thriller Ex Officio, with its enormous cast of characters, was more or less centered around the brave and likable Evelyn Canby.  Interesting female characters were never hard for him, but he had never really tried to write a mystery novel where the main protagonist was a woman.

He’d clearly enjoyed writing Bly Quinn, Sam Holt’s west coast girlfriend–blonde, brassy, brilliant–very much the ingenue, but with an edge to her.  Bly was a writer, like him–that made her easier to identify with.  Okay, so take a version of that character, less experienced, still finding her feet.  Put her in a strange situation, that would test her resourcefulness–and her character.  And of course put her in some kind of danger, like he’d done for all the picaresque protagonists of his ‘Nephew’ books (except hers would not be the only POV, so this would be written in the third person).

And he’d give her a love interest who was a sort of Ex-Nephew.  A reformed idealist, a wounded romantic;  somebody who used to believe in principles and fighting for the common good, and all that hopey-changey stuff, before Life had its way with him.  Two people at different stages of their respective learning curves.   Nephew and Niece, jousting their way towards love, in the midst of doing their jobs and fine-tuning their identities.  Wouldn’t that be incest?  I suppose since all his characters are technically his children……

And he could still do another satire of the publishing industry–just another kind of publishing.  The kind that is basically already a satire of itself.  The Supermarket Tabloid.   Who does these things?   Where do they get their ideas?   How do they live with themselves?  How do they know themselves?   This has been a ripe source of comedy for generations now, as two images I posted up top can attest.

There can be no doubt at all which tabloid in particular caught Mr. Westlake’s attention, as he pushed his grocery cart into the checkout lane.  Started up not quite a decade before this book came out.  Published by Generoso Pope Jr.–yeah, try improving on that name, Mr. Westlake.  Should I mention that the Jesuit college I attended had an auditorium named after the generous Mr. Pope, a benefactor of my alma mater?  (Or possibly his slightly more respectable dad, who had the same name, I never asked.)  Nah, why bother.

Headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida, along with its sister rag, the National Enquirer (in essence, the tabloid featured in this book is a diabolic admixture of the two), this curious publication first saw print in 1979.  And the world of ‘news’ would never be quite the same again.

You see the inherent problem to writing this?  Westlake surely did.  No matter how wild and wacky he got, the source material would always top him.  I mean, these are relatively tame examples I’ve posted up above.  I didn’t even mention Bat Boy.  Did you know he led us to Saddam Hussein?

Anyway, Mr. Westlake was well aware of the large legal staff employed by that publishing group.  His experience with Scott Meredith would tell him not to underestimate such a personality’s (if you want to call it that) capacity for small-minded vindictiveness.  So a small disclaimer opens the book.

Although there is no newspaper anywhere in the United States like the Weekly Galaxy, as any alert reader will quickly realize, were there such a newspaper in actual real-life existence its activities would be stranger, harsher, and more outrageous than those described herein.  The fictioneer labors under the restraint of plausibility; his inventions must stay within the capacity of the audience to accept and believe. God, of course, working with facts, faces no such limitation.  Were there a factual equivalent of the Weekly Galaxy, it would be much worse than the paper I have invented, its staff and ownership even more lost to all considerations of truth, taste, proportion, honor, morality or any shred of common humanity.  Trust me.

I really don’t think Ambrose Bierce (or Messrs Hecht, MacArthur & Waugh, how’s that for a law firm?) could have said it any better.  Since Bierce worked for William Randolph Hearst a while–one of the fathers of Yellow Journalism, who would start actual wars to boost circulation (along with the guy the most esteemed prize in journalism is named after)–I greatly doubt any modern skullduggery of the press could have shocked him.  I trust we’re all beyond shock now, in the era of 24/7 cable news.  With that shared sense of inurement taken as a bitter yet inescapable fact–shall we proceed?

Sara Joslyn, not too far into her 20’s, her dark blonde hair long and straight, with legs to match, is driving down a strangely empty highway just outside Miami,  when she sees a car stopped by the road.  She’s a reporter by trade, recently had her first newspaper shot out from under her (the death of print journalism just then becoming a thing).  Nosy by nature, much like Pandora, Nancy Drew, or Bluebeard’s wife, but with a journalism degree to legitimize it.  She goes back to check it out.  There’s a man in the front seat.  He’s been shot in the head.  “Oh jeepers,” she says.  The story won’t be as G-rated as her language.

She reports the crime to the security man at the gate of her new employer, the Weekly Galaxy.   We’ve already discussed what they do.  She’s not crazy about the gig, but they are offering an enormous starting salary (35k per annum, and remember, it’s the late 80’s).  Her employment alternatives are thin on the ground right now.  How bad could it be?

She’s got about half a dozen novels in the works (show me a journalist who doesn’t), one of which is called Time Of The Hero (at least it’s not A Sound of Distant Drums).  She doesn’t really know who she is, and at that age, who does?  Maybe this job helps her find out.  If she lives long enough.

She stumbles into a daily ritual at the Galaxy–as mentioned up top, every editor has to submit thirty story ideas–per day–to ‘Massa’, otherwise known as Bruno DeMassi, the publisher of the Galaxy, and for all his plebeian origins, the Westlake-ian equivalent of Lord Copper from Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop.  He Who Is Not To Be Questioned.   An absolute dictator, as capricious as he is uncouth–and so powerful that he was able to have a twelve-mile four-lane highway built to service his corporate headquarters, even though there’s absolutely nothing else there for it to service.

That’s why there was no traffic when Sara arrived.  That’s why there were no witnesses to the murder. Which absolutely no one at the Galaxy gives a solitary shit about.  Not their department, unless he was murdered by aliens, or Bigfoot.  All they have to do is come up with those thirty ideas a day and not have too many of them red-penciled (ie, shot down) by their boss.  Somebody (namely our male lead) suggests the Galaxy clone a human being.  This conversation ensues:

“Which human being?” Massa asked.  “Man or woman?”

“Well, I was thinking of a man originally–”

“Where’s the cheesecake?”

“We could do a woman, of course,” Jack conceded.  “But remember, sir, it’s going to be a baby for–”

“A what?”  Massa glowered.  “You mean we don’t start with a person?”

“No, sir,” Jack said, with every appearance of calm.  “Clones have to be born like anybody–”

“You mean we got a baby around here for twenty years?”

“Well, we don’t have to–”

Binx, who at odd moments tried to help other people, even though no one ever tried to help him, said “It might be a mascot, sir.”

“Oh, no,” Massa said, with a negative wag of the beer bottle.  “We had that goat that time, and it didn’t work out.  A baby isn’t gonna be better than a goat.”

Worse, really, but hardly the time to bring that up.  Binx Radwell, in case you were wondering, is Jack’s best friend at the paper, which isn’t saying much.  A born loser, though his day will come, in a subsequent book.  Where do these Wasp boys get those first names from?  We’ll talk more about him later.

Lord Copper aside (I don’t know who the model was for him, never even read the book–somehow Waugh is not me), I’ve already mentioned the real-life model for Massa– Munificent Pontiff, or whatever it was.  Here’s a picture of him.


(Before I bothered to look any of this up, just from reading the book, I’d head-cast DeMassi as Danny DeVito–and the weird thing is, he’d have worked just as well for the role in the late 80’s as he would today, not that anybody’s making a movie, but it’s good to know he’s still available if they ever do).

So Sara, like Alice through the looking glass, is our entry-point to this topsy-turvy world.  Nobody has offices, they have ‘squaricles’, which is to say desks with lines drawn around them to designate the non-existent walls, and everybody is expected to pretend the walls are actually there.  The phones don’t ring, because there’s so many of them and so many incoming calls that everyone would go mad as a hatter if they were not instead fitted with flashing lights (Actually, hatters in the days of mercury poisoning were probably quite unexceptionable persons compared to your average Galaxy staffer).

Only  Massa has an actual office, but it’s located in a large service elevator, fully equipped with desk, mini-fridge stocked with beer and etc, so he can move unpredictably from floor to floor, keeping an omniscient eye on everyone, and nobody knows when the door on their floor might open and the Voice of God might issue from within, along with the occasional belch.  I don’t know if the real Generoso Pope Jr. really did this, and I don’t want to know.

It’s a cutthroat working environment, with each editor assembling a team of quack I mean crack reporters, and each team striving to outdo the others, which means getting more stories into each edition (if you start getting too few, that’s where throats start getting cut).  There is, believe it or not, actual fact-checking involved in this process, but it’s done mostly for tedious legal concerns rather than for veracity’s sake. Did I just say ‘mostly’?

The stories involve weird (and quite possibly fatal) diets, strange scientific discoveries the staff has made up that they’ve gotten some tame expert to half-heartedly verify (a huge part of the workday involves getting ‘money quotes’ from such people to cover the paper’s inquiring ass), the colorful activities of various paranormal beasties, but of course most of all the private lives (and deaths) of celebrities.

Massa has become obsessed with one such luminary in particular,  John Michael Mercer, star of the hit television series Breakpoint.  Who for reasons I’m sure we could not begin to guess hates the Weekly Galaxy with every charismatic fiber of his being, and is constantly firing all the people working for him that are actually working for the object of his truly puzzling hatred.  What, a person can’t moonlight?   You might think such industry would be commended, but show people are notoriously eccentric.

So Jack and Sara meet, and the proverbial sparks fly.  They’re attracted to each other immediately, but she’s assigned to his team, and his first concern is that she do her job the right way, which at any other paper would be the wrong way–she needs some retraining, and occasional restraining.

She’d be willing enough to date him if he played his cards right (even though such fraternization is technically frowned upon at the Galaxy), but his caustic domineering manner rubs her the wrong way (much as he’d privately like to rub her in more pleasant ways).  Sara Joslyn is nobody’s little plaything, and she’s determined to prove she can be as scurrilous a scandal-monger as any man. Over the course of the rest of the book, she sets about doing exactly that.  And Jack, his conscience not quite as dead as he’d like to think, watches this pulchritudinous pilgrim’s progress with mounting concern.  Oh grow up, you know what I meant.

Jack’s reminiscent of many earlier Westlake protagonists, such as Eugene Raxford of The Spy in the Ointment (the activist thing), but also that scurrilous scoundrel Art Dodge of Two Much, most of all in his bickering yet somehow sibling-like relationship with his secretary, Mary Kate.  Jack’s somewhere in-between–more cynical than Eugene, less caddish than Art.  Early on, he muses to himself about why some small voice within him says ‘fire the broad’ after Sara hangs up on him because he forgot her name.  “You want to save her from corruption,” Mary Kate suggests.  “No, that can’t be it.”  Later, he says out loud, “Maybe I hate women.”  Mary Kate tells him he’s not that selective.

There is also a professional nemesis for Jack (who by extension becomes one for Sara)–the most successful editor at the Galaxy by far, Massa’s pet pupil, one Boy Cartwright, scandalmonger supreme–incurably English, 40 to Jack’s 30, dissolute, degenerate, and dead to all concerns other than material ambition.  Which means getting his stories into the paper, which he does with nauseating frequency.

(Westlake goes to some pains to explain that because gutter journalism of the very lowest order is commonplace in the UK and Australia, Brits and Aussies are commonly found in the ranks of the Weekly Galaxy, having been so well-drilled for its comparatively innocent little excesses in the slimy trenches of Murdochville.  Would that News of the World phone-hacking scandal have come as any kind of a shock to Donald E. Westlake?  Don’t make me sneer.)

Sara finds this out for herself, when she’s given a special assignment.  This comes as a reward for helping Jack find out a juicy tidbit about John Michael Mercer, who has thrown over all his prior bimbos I mean ladyfriends for a shockingly sweet and wholesome girl named Felicia who has the temerity to have absolutely nothing at all wrong with her.

The assignment is a trip to the sacred heartland of America (or whatever Indiana may be).  She’s to cover the 100th birthday of identical twins, living in a nursing home there.  To provide back-up, she’s given three Australians, and let’s just say Westlake had way too much fun writing them.

Whitcomb, Indiana, on a Tuesday in mid-July.  Even the dogs were bored.  A couple of them lying around in the shade under Edsels and LaSalles didn’t even look up when the Trailways bus groaned to a stop in front of the Rexall store, farted shrilly, and opened its door to release the big-bellied sweat-stained driver and the Down Under Trio.  Bob Sangster scratched his big nose, Harry Razza patted his deeply wavy auburn hair, Louis B. Urbiton gazed about the somnolent downtown of Whitcomb in mild amaze, and the bus driver opened a bomb-bay door in the rib cage of the bus to remove the Aussies’ battered and disgusting mismatched luggage.

“So this is America,” Harry Razza said.

“Can’t say I like it much,” Bob Sangster said.

“Oh, good,” said Louis B. Urbiton, “there’s a pub.”

“Bar,” Harry corrected.

Bahhhh,” Louis amended.

“Have a nice day,” the driver said, and remounted his bus.

The Aussies stared after him, in astonishment and shock.  “What?” demanded Bob.

“I call that cheek,” Harry said.

The bus door snicked shut.  The bus groaned away.  The dog under the Edsel opened one eye, saw the six well-polished shoes of the Aussies, decided in his doggy innocence that these must be acceptable functioning members of society, and closed the eye again.

So they proceed to do what they always and invariably do, shameless raconteurs that they are, the life of every party–get everyone on their side simply by temporarily relieving everyone’s deep  boredom with free drinks and improbable yarns.  The only one in the ‘bah’ who isn’t laughing at their antics is a disreputable bag lady hanging out there.  Sara arrives, and demands to know where their photographer is.  Guess.

After badgering the local master baker (oh shut up) into engineering a twenty-foot birthday cake, Sara is horrified to learn one of the twins has chosen this precise moment in time to quietly expire.  They were both vile cantankerous lecherous old coots who didn’t even like each other, but that’s neither here nor there.  The story calls for two beaming oldsters to be photographed in close proximity to an enormous cake.  What actually happened is not the story.  The story is what was decided upon by editorial before any of them set foot in Whitcomb, and her job is to deliver that story, and no other.  No twins means no party, no cake, no free booze.  Massa says.

So oddly anticipating Weekend At Bernie’s, Sara, while explaining the debacle to Jack over the phone, and hearing Massa’s stern decree shouted from the elevator, suddenly changes tack and says the dead twin has been miraculously revived, not to worry, everything’s great.  She delivers the story, twins, cake, party and all–who’s to know the dead twin is actually Bob Sangster, cunningly made up to look like the deceased sibling, with the bag lady photographer shooting him in such a way as to conceal the artifice, and the living twin threatened by his fellow inmates not to raise any fuss about it, because they want free cake and liquor, as do all decent god-fearing Americans, except maybe in some of the dry counties.

And Jack, who knows Sara lied about the twins, even though she staunchly refuses to admit to it, and should by all rights be applauding his reporter’s ingenuity, is instead strangely troubled by it.  Is he ruining this girl?  Without even going to bed with her first?  Where’s the fun in that?

So Sara pulled off a minor triumph, which is all well and good, and makes for a nice two-page spread, but pales before the significance of John Michael Mercer’s rumored impending nuptials to the lovely Felicia, which must of course be covered in depth by the Weekly Galaxy (Massa wants), even though Mercer would much rather see all of them dead, and has said as much.  His and Felicia’s goal is a small private ceremony in a beautiful and secluded location, with no press of any kind (and a few hundred close friends and family members present, and the press still encamped nearby, because after all, major TV star).  The Galaxy‘s goals are less than fully compatible with this deeply selfish agenda.  Let the games begin.

And the games are multi-tiered, because even as Mercer fights for his right to party privately, Jack’s team, which found out about Felicia first, has to fight Boy Cartwright for the story.  Massa encourages such high-spirited competitiveness among his editorial teams.  Boy has a mole in their ranks, and Jack puts Ida Gavin, his top reporter, in charge of smelling the foul subterranean varmint out.  He knows it’s not Ida, because she has an ancient blood vendetta against Boy for having seduced and abandoned her, years before, purely in the line of duty, of course.  Jack’s pretty sure it’s not Sara who’s giving Boy the goods, but no one is above suspicion unless they hate that bilious Brit at least as much as he does.

Sara is enlisted to infiltrate an elite employment agency Mercer has contracted to replace his repeatedly infiltrated domestic staff, and does a great job with the interview–very nearly fools the sharp-eyed proprietor into assigning her to Mercer, but with an almost supernatural canniness, he spots her as a ringer (neither knowing or caring which newspaper or magazine hired her), and shows her the door.   Frankly, I don’t know what Jack was thinking there, since he identified Sara as a Galaxy reporter to Mercer in a Miami restaurant earlier in the book, as part of a ruse–so wouldn’t she be recognized?  Perhaps a plot hole, but a moot one, since the intrepid interviewer sniffs her out, complimenting Sara on the smoothness of her delivery.  Says she’ll really be something once she gets her growth.  She’s suitably flattered.  Not even the least bit embarrassed.  She’s getting her growth by leaps and bounds.

And the name of this paragon of personnel, this maid-vetter to the rich and famous?  Henry Reed.  Huh. Why does that name sound familiar?  Oh right!

So really you could argue he’s still baby-sitting.  And why is Westlake making this reference?  Well, Keith Robertson also wrote murder mysteries under the name Carlton Keith, you see.  The first two Carlton Keith novels were published by the Cock Robin imprint of Macmillan, where Richard Stark briefly held court with the first three Grofield novels.  And Mr. Robertson (like his bespectacled young protagonist) was living in New Jersey at around the same time as Westlake.  That might well explain it.  It’s not really that important, but sorta neat, wouldn’t you say?

And in the midst of all this, Sara is still trying to solve the murder mystery that started this book.  She gets sidetracked a lot, but it keeps nagging at her.  She finds out, to her confusion, that the story never appeared in the local papers–okay, probably a drug killing, not worth mentioning in the greater Miami area.  Except then she finds out the police were never notified.

And the security man at the gate she reported the crime to has himself disappeared–without a trace.  And Sara realizes–the murdered man was  on his way to the Weekly Galaxy.  On that highway, he couldn’t have been going anywhere else, until he got rerouted to the Great Beyond.  And since she’d seen nobody driving the other way when she herself made that passage, only a Galaxy employee could have been the murderer.  The plot thickens!

But such paltry matters cannot long distract her (after all, the only reason there’s a murder mystery at all is that this book is being published by The Mysterious Press).  The Galaxy doesn’t cover murders, unless it’s Bigfoot murdering the Loch Ness Monster (I’ve heard there’s bad blood there).  The Mercer Wedding takes priority.  And her growing affection for Jack, her desire to impress him with her brilliance, and that she does, when she snatches victory from the slavering jaws of Boy Cartwright.

Boy had won the right to cover the wedding away from Jack’s team, since a well-placed spy on Mercer’s staff (even Henry Reed is only mortal–his books would have been so boring were that not the case) has revealed that the nuptials are to be held at Martha’s Vineyard.  Still, Boy had to know about Felicia’s existence in the first place to gain this advantage, and as Ida Gavin triumphantly reveals, Phyllis Perkinson, Sara’s co-worker, friend, and roommate, is the spy.

Not just for Boy, either–he only got a hold over Phyllis because he found out she’s doing an expose on the Galaxy for Trend magazine (which sounds a lot like New York magazine, going by the description, and I rather suspect Westlake was more of a New Yorker man, but never mind that now).   Not about the fact that they report things that are not true (that would be reminiscent of John Stossel’s legendary “Pro-Wrestling is Fixed!” segment on 20/20 that got him beaten up by an irate grappler), but rather the squalid inner workings of the paper.

Sara is furious at Phyllis, more than she would have imagined possible–how could she betray Jack Ingersoll, the man whose character Sara herself has never had one good word to say about?   But that’s different. She’s not merely offended on Jack’s behalf, but on that of the paper she is feeling an ever-increasing loyalty towards–even as she wonders if she’ll be employable as a reporter on any other paper, if she stays there much longer.  And she just saw poor Binx get his ass fired–saddled with a house, kids, and a wife who doesn’t give a damn about him, he’s been living right at the edge of his means, as overpaid people so often do, and she knows he’s tried repeatedly to get a job in serious journalism, only to be laughed out of each and every office.

She has it out with Phyllis at the apartment they share, and Phyllis (who comes from Old Money, don’t you know) has the nerve to pull the First Amendment on her.  These people are a threat to decent news media everywhere!  To which Sara sarcastically asks if Froot Loops (sic) are a threat to sirloin steak.    I guess that depends on whether you can afford the latter, and actually neither is very good for you, but we’ll let that drop.

With a pitying smile, Phyllis said, “So the Galaxy is just a harmless enterprise?”

“No, I don’t mean that,” Sara said.  The memory of Binx Radwell leaving the office this afternoon, briefcase and shopping bag hanging from his arms, brown-uniformed armed guard trailing him, employees along his route turning their backs and studying reference books and doing anything they could not to meet poor Binx’s eye, was still fresh in her mind.  “The Galaxy is very harmful in one way,” she said.  “It eats its young.  That part scares me sometimes, but I think maybe I’m smarter and tougher, and it’ll come out all right.  But our arthritis cures and our interviews with people from outer space don’t hurt the First Amendment, for Pete’s sake!”

“We have a difference of opinion,” Phyllis said, shrugging again.

Sara said, “What it comes down to is, you want to do the same kind of muckraking we do, but you want to feel holy while you’re having your fun.  Like television movies about the evils of teenage prostitution.”

“Isn’t teenage prostitution evil?”

“So are the crotch shots on TV.”

“Oh, really, Phyllis said airily, “if you can’t see the difference between the Weekly Galaxy and Trend–”

“That’s right, I can’t.”

(And I rather think Mr. Westlake was bothered by how little difference there really was–and is–but more on that in Part 2, and of course there’s going to be one).

So she concocts a plan involving Betsy Harrigan, a beautiful red-headed telephone repair girl I mean person that Sara met earlier, and she’d wanted to do a story about Betsy, but she couldn’t quite find the right Galaxy-esque angle.  She finds it (a seemingly prophetic dream the girl’s mother had that prefigured her daughter’s future employment).  The girl happily reciprocates the favor (her mom is a devout Galaxian) by bugging John Michael Mercer’s phones.

So in no time at all, Sara’s got far more and far better intelligence than the elderly Asian gardener in Boy’s employ could ever hope to obtain.  So she goes to inform Jack at his modest surburban home (modest because he’s socking away most of his outrageous salary against the day Massa cans him), and finds him baking of all things, drowning his sorrows in cake dough (you never know about some people).  She tells him they’re going to Martha’s Vineyard, and explains how she made it happen.  He explains they still need to get a personal interview with Jack Michael Mercer (Massa wants).   Well, that’s going to be a little harder.  Also possibly fatal.  But the bug has well and truly bit her, and she says they’ll find a way.

“What I really think is,” she told him, “this is fun.  This is the most fun I’ve ever had in my entire life.  Absolutely nothing in the world matters except that we beat Boy Cartwright to the John Michael Mercer wedding.”

“Grinning crookedly,” Jack said, “Not even your murdered man beside the highway?”

Sara laughed.  “On what series is he a regular?”


“Then forget him!  We’re on our way to Martha’s Vineyard, that’s all, and whatever Massa wants from us, we’ll get it!”

“By golly, Sara,” Jack said, gazing upon her in wonder, “you are not the girl who walked into the Galaxy office last month and told me you were a real professional reporter.”

“You’re darn right I’m not,” she said.  “I don’t have a serious bone in my body.”

“I want to put my arms around you,” he said looking down at himself, “but I’d get you all over flour.”

“Flour from a gentleman is always nice,” she said.

Asterisks follow.  Then, as they lie (and lie and lie and lie) post-coitally  in Jack’s bedroom, he pops the question–“Tell me one thing.  Were those twins legit?”  “Of course they were” she prevaricates easily.  Too damned easily.  And he knows it.  This is the problem.  But it can wait until Part 2, which shall arrive on deadline, sometime next week.  The veracity of my statement vis a vis the matter at hand may be fully relied upon.  Words to that effect.

(Part of Friday’s Forgotten Books)


Filed under Donald Westlake novels