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Bookmarks Issue: 
43-Nov-Dec-2009
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A Dortmunder Novel

A-Get RealCelebrated pulp fiction writer Donald Westlake, the recipient of three Edgar Awards, died in 2008. During his 50-year career, he produced more than 100 novels and short story collections, 14 of which feature John Dortmunder and his coconspirators.

The Story: A smooth-talking reality TV producer tries to enlist John Dortmunder and his ragtag band of crooks for his latest project: "Real criminals committing a real crime, right there in front of your eyes." Dortmunder remains unconvinced. "When you’re committing a felony," he explains, "the idea is, you don’t want witnesses. What you want is privacy." Persuaded to sign on for the series against his better judgment, he soon hatches a plan for a double heist—one for the camera and another behind the scenes, in which the gang breaks into the TV company’s production studio. Of course, as they set to work, nothing goes quite as planned.
Grand Central. 288 pages. $23.99. ISBN: 9780446178600

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Part of the great fun of these novels is watching Dortmunder (and Westlake) outsmart the people who think they’re smarter than he is—including readers like me. … In short, Westlake delivers the goods for which he is justifiably famous—nothing is what it seems, everything that can go wrong does, and the complexity of the heist increases until there is no possible way for Dortmunder to pull off the caper, which is when Westlake surprises us yet again with moves so smart and funny they leave us gasping." Robert Crais

Miami Herald 4 of 5 Stars
"In Get Real … the comedy is as clever and as roarful as ever it has been in his more than 50-year career." John Hood

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"While the formula is clear-cut and familiar, only Westlake seems capable of pulling it off with the perfect balance of technical ingenuity and high-dudgeon humor. The more strenuously outraged he becomes at some social or political absurdity, the more cutting his satiric wit." Marilyn Stasio

San Antonio Exp-News 4 of 5 Stars
"The pleasures of the Dortmunder series achieve special poignance in Get Real, as the story unfolds in the usual way: assembling the regulars—Dortmunder, Kelp, Stan the Driver and Tiny, who was introduced stealing compact cars by picking them up one at a time and loading them into the back of a moving van—in the grungy back room of the O.J. Bar and Grill. … [Get Real] has all the pleasures of twist and wit as Westlake’s other comic capers." Jay Brandon

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"While the developing plot of Get Real has holes big enough to drive a stolen Chevy through, they don’t really matter much. Mostly, one just enjoys Westlake’s ingratiating, laid-back narrative voice." Michael Dirda

Critical Summary

To critics’ delight, the gang is all here in Westlake’s latest—and, sadly, last—comic caper: Dortmunder, getaway driver Stan Murch, safecracker Andy Kelp, muscleman Tiny Bulcher, and recent addition Judson "The Kid" Blint. Though the plot will be familiar to longtime fans of the series, Westlake’s charming characters, clever twists, and mischievous wit combine to create a winning novel. Part of Dortmunder’s appeal is that he’s not an evil genius but more of a criminal Everyman whose careful plans always seem to go hilariously awry. "A rollicking crime caper that pulls the pants right off the reality TV industry" (New York Times Book Review), Get Real will have readers laughing out loud and searching through bookshelves for Westlake’s prior works.

First in the Series

The Hot Rock (1970): Recently released from prison, John Dortmunder is hired by an African ambassador to the United Nations to steal a famous emerald from a rival nation. What starts as a potentially lucrative heist quickly devolves into a comedy of errors as one attempt after another ends in failure for Dortmunder and his hand-picked team.