Musing about caper novels and similes

I’m a caper novel nut. My life has not been the same ever since I discovered Donald E Westlake many decades ago. And every time he comes up with a new Dortmunder novel, I make sure I get the time to savour it; I start preparing to get underneath that bough, with a jug of wine and a loaf of bread, ready for that wilderness that is paradise enow.

And so it was with What’s So Funny. As enjoyable as ever. While reading it, I began to sense that Westlake was becoming more luxurious, almost Wodehousian in his use of similes. Here’s a taste:

with such studied nonchalance he looked like a pickpocket on his day off

what he looked mostly like was the part of the rocket that gets jettisoned over the Indian Ocean

the voice sounded as though it were coming from a bicycle tire with a slow leak

his right knee twitched constantly, as though remembering an earlier life as a dance band drummer

Delightful. And no, I don’t have any stock in Donald E Westlake Inc either. [Incidentally, one or two of you appear to think that every time I make a recommendation, I must have some vested interest. Not everyone works that way. For the last 20 years, the only stock I’ve ever held is in the companies I’ve worked for. It’s easy to criticise. Go on, make yourself vulnerable. Recommend something instead.]

4 thoughts on “Musing about caper novels and similes”

  1. Thomas, make sure that when you try Westlake you pick up a Dortmunder novel. He can have a sombre side to him in his non-caper novels. Also, using the name of Richard Stark, he writes hardboiled police procedurals.

  2. Westlake is a comicaper genius, a wildstyle architect. I have not read many in the Dortmunder series, the memory is faint – I know I have read many Westlake books, but I forget which ones.

    My favorites….

    1. Brother’s Keepers
    2. Cops & Robbers

  3. Both Westlake and Wodehouse are both underrated. I always thought it was funny that I came across my first Westlake while searching the shelf for a Wodehouse.

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