Wednesday, August 25, 2010

People who liked this book also liked . . .

I wrote recently about some hints that Donald Westlake embedded in A Jade in Aries (1970) that he was the person behind the “Tucker Coe” to whom the book was credited. Now that I’ve seen the dustjacket from the original cloth edition of the previous Tucker Coe novel, Wax Apple, which I picked up from the library this week, I realize that Random House certainly wasn’t trying very hard to keep Coe’s identity a secret. Take a look at the back of the jacket:

"If you’ve enjoyed this Random House mystery don’t miss Donald E. Westlake’s Somebody Owes Me Money"

What’s odd about this is that it’s not at all clear that someone who enjoys a Tucker Coe novel would enjoy Somebody Owes Me Money. The Coe novels are serious and straightforward, focused on the ways that the brooding, disgraced cop at their center finds himself again and again drawn out of seclusion by his empathy and sense of justice. Somebody Owes Me Money, on the other hand, is one of Westlake’s funniest books, a near manic comedy that is driven by a wonderfully distinct narrative voice that declares itself right in the opening line: "I bet none of it would have happened if I wasn’t so eloquent." On top of that, while the Tucker Coe novels are some of Westlake’s few straightforward mystery novels, with clues and a solution and all that, in Somebody Owes Me Money, Westlake was so unconcerned about the plot that he left it unresolved--at least, that is, until recently, whenHard Case Crime editor Charles Ardai asked him about it. As Charles explained in an interview a while back,
When I pointed out that Somebody Owes Me Money ended without ever resolving the central plot thread of someone owing the narrator money, Don graciously penned a few new lines to tie off the loose end.
Much as I love Somebody Owes Me Money--which you should read, if you haven’t--I think Random House would have been better off suggesting The Sour Lemon Score, which had also just been published. That still wouldn’t have gotten Westlake’s name onto the jacket, of course, but it would at least have been one step closer.

A final note: check out the last paragraph of the descriptive copy for Somebody Owes Me Money:
[It] pratfalls onto the scene, joining Donald E. Westlake’s earlier comic capers to show that crime can be capital fun and the world owes us a laughing.
“Owes us a laughing”? Is that a phrase that anyone has ever actually used, or is this a case of a Random House marketing lackey on deadline just making something up? We copy writers have been known to do that . . .

1 comment:

  1. "I'll give you a laughing you'll never forget, young man!"