Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Things I learned from Donald E. Westlake . . .

. . . that I would never have suspected

From What's the Worst That Could Happen? (1996):
The casino part of each strip hotel is widespread, but it is also low-ceilinged and windowless, so that its air supply, except out at the very edge of the slot machines near the check-in desk and the main entrance, is completely artificial. It is air-conditioned, of course, with temperature and quality controlled from an air room near the rear of the hotel, next to the kitchens and very close to the loading dock. But air-conditioning isn't all. Each night between midnight and 8:00 A.M., the controlled air delivered from this room to the vast casino area is sweetened with just a little extra oxygen, to make it a richer air than human beings normally breathe on the planet Earth. This richer air makes people feel more a wake, happier, more energized. Because of this, they don't feel like going to bed, not quite yet. They feel like staying up, playing at the tables just a little longer, trying just a little harder. Who knows? Luck might turn.
Sounds like an opening for an unscrupulous set of characters like Dortmunder and his crew, no?

. . . that I already knew, but enjoy learning again and again

From What's the Worst That Could Happen? (1996):
When Stan Murch felt the need for temporary wheels, he liked to put on a red jacket and go stand in front of one of the better midtown hotels, preferably one with its own driveway past the entrance. It was usually no more than ten or fifteen minutes before some frazzled out-of-towner, vibrating like a whip antenna after his first experience driving in Manhattan traffic, would step out of his car and hand Stan the keys. One nice thing about this arrangement was that it wasn't technically car theft, since the guy did give Stan the keys. Another nice thing was that such people were usually in very nice, clean, new, comfortable cars. And yet another nice thing was that the former owner of the car would also give Stan a dollar.
. . . both of which would be number [insert large number here] in a series if only I'd bothered to keep track.* Oh, the many and varied debts I owe to Donald Westlake!

1 comment:

  1. Donald E. Westlake has died exactly one year ago - but he lives on in his books. I'm an Italian man in Germany and I owe quite all his books (I began at the age of 17 with the casual reading of "Help I'm Being Held Prisoner" - it was love at first read). To well begin this new year I recommend to you "A Likely Story", a Woody Allen-like N.Y. comedy about marriage, divorce and the bogus books biz. "A Likely Story" is one of his best (and wryly funniest) non-Dortmunder novels!