The Hot Rock by Donald Westlake - PP

In The Hot Rock, John Dortmunder, a hard-luck planner of heists, leads a five-man crew of career criminals on a series of capers in a quest to steal the Balabomo Emerald for an African UN Ambassador.

According to the back of the book, “this thrilling, often hilarious caper is the seminal work of fiction by a true master of the craft.”

According to the Johnny Box, “this caper is a work of crap.”

Westlake’s style of writing (perhaps style is too strong a word) is simply matter-of-fact. He will tell you what people said and what happened and that’s about it. There’s no substance, no creativity, and no wit.

But there are laughs.

Like two of them.

When one of the crooks is offered bourbon by the Ambassador after Dortmunder requested a glass, he accepts the offer saying, “I don’t like to see a man drink alone.”

I thought that was pretty funny. But otherwise, while the gags may work on a big screen involving Robert Redford, they fall flat on paper. There is literally a chase scene where a milkman in the middle of a crosswalk jumps out of the way and his crates of bottled milk go crashing all over the place.

I could describe the characters, but they’re really not that interesting. Although Westlake is clearly pleased with his creation of a bartender who refers to his customers not by their names, but by their usual drinks. Westlake loves that he did that. Very cool.

So we should probably just hustle up and get to the conclusion.

While the heists run the gamut from kinda neat to pointless & ridiculous, and the ending was kinda somewhat sorta satisfying, this book is a dud. I can’t really recommend it to anyone, but I guess if you enjoy light caper reads with a couple chuckles, it’ll do the trick. But there are literally only a couple of chuckles to be had and I already ruined one of them. 2 Pearls.

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