Review: The Hot Rock by Donald Westlake

This is a fun book. I’ve never read anything by Donald Westlake before and tried this as part of a group read at Goodreads. Westlake has evidently written a lot of books under various names. There are about a dozen in this series alone, which means there are plenty to keep you busy.

This book, and evidently the series, is about Dortmunder. Dortmunder is released from jail and looking for honest work, which comes his way when his friend Kelp offers to let him in on a heist (honest being a relative term to these guys). Dortmunder and his friends aren’t hapless. In fact, they are relatively skilled thieves, although some of the things they do are more than a little far-fetched. Somehow though, events continually conspire against them until they all view the jewel they are hired to steal as cursed.

I won’t go into the details because I don’t want to spoil it if you decide to pick this book up. The characters are a little thin, but colorful. I do like that the bad guys are the only ones you really end up liking. They spend a fair amount of time talking past each other with some pretty good dialogue in a laconic sort of way.

“His word and a dime will get you a cup of coffee,” Kelp said, “but it tastes better with just the dime.”

I will definitely be looking for more Westlake books, and in particular, more Dortmunder books. They don’t make any pretensions to being great literature, but they’re well worth a few hours on a weekend.

The Hot Rock was also adapted as a movie starring Robert Redford and George Segal in the early seventies. I haven’t seen it yet but I’ve heard it’s pretty good. I’ll be doing that soon. I’ll let you know what I think of that as well.


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