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Get Real (Dortmunder, Book 15) Hardcover – July 17, 2009

58 customer reviews
Book 14 of 14 in the Dortmunder Novels Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A reality-show company aptly titled Get Real recruits the delightfully understated John Dortmunder and his merry men for a heist in this clever Dortmunder novel (after What's So Funny?), a worthy final word from Westlake (1933–2008). The producer of the prospective series, Doug Fairkeep, reveals himself to be both cynical and naïve, a combination that makes him an excellent foil for the guys. Naturally, the gang has to make this gig pay more than what's offered, as much for the fun of it as for the extra cash. While Get Real helps them map out a real robbery, the boys are mapping out a real robbery—of some of the company's hidden assets. The thinking is that Get Real can hardly come after them to retrieve cash that it can't admit that it has. The game plan changes nearly hourly, and the outcome is anything but certain. The assorted idiosyncrasies of the group's members and the interactions among them will rouse chuckles from even jaded readers. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

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.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition edition (July 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446178608
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446178600
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,170,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I think I'd best treat this as an interrogation, in which I am not certain of the intent or attitude of the interrogator.

I was born Donald Edwin Westlake on July 12th, 1933 in Brooklyn, New York. My mother, Lillian, maiden name Bounds, mother's maiden name Fitzgerald, was all Irish. My father, Albert, his mother's maiden name being Tyrrell, was half Irish. (The English snuck in, as they will.) They were all green, and I was born on Orangeman's Day, which led to my first awareness of comedy as a consumer. I got over the unfortunate element of my birth long before my uncles did.

My mother believed in all superstitions, plus she made some up. One of her beliefs was that people whose initials spelled something would be successful in life. That's why I went through grammar school as Dewdrip. However, my mother forgot Confirmation, when the obedient Catholic is burdened with yet another name. So she stuck Edmond in there, and told me that E was behind the E of Edwin, so I wasn't DEEW, I was DEW. Perhaps it helped.

I attended three colleges, all in New York State, none to much effect. Interposed amid this schooling was two and a half years in the United States Air Force, during which I also learned very little, except a few words in German. I was a sophomore in three colleges, finally made junior in Harpur College in Binghamton, NY, and left academe forever. However, I was eventually contacted by SUNY Binghamton, the big university that Harpur College had grown up to become. It was their theory that their ex-students who did not graduate were at times interesting, and worthy to be claimed as alumni. Among those she mentioned were cartoonist Art Spiegelman and dancer Bill T. Jones, a grandfaloon I was very happy to join, which I did when SUNY Binghamton gave me a doctorate in letters in June 1996. As a doctor, I accept no co-pay.

I have one sister, one wife and two ex-wives. (You can't have ex-sisters, but that's all right, I'm pleased with the one I have.) The sister was named by my mother Virginia, but my mother had doped out the question of Confirmation by then--Virigina's two and half years younger than me, still--and didn't give her a middle name. Her Confirmation name was Olga, the only thing my mother could find that would make VOW. The usual mother-daughter dynamic being in play, my sister immediately went out and married a man whose name started with B.

My wife, severally Abigail Westlake, Abby Adams Westlake and Abby Adams, which makes her three wives right there, is a writer, of non-fiction, frequently gardening, sometimes family history. Her two published books are An Uncommon Scold and The Gardener's Gripe Book.

Seven children lay parental claims on us. They have all reached drinking age, so they're on their own.

Having been born in Brooklyn, I was raised first in Yonkers and then in Albany, schooled in Plattsburgh and Troy and Binghamton, and at last found Manhattan. (At least I was looking in the right state.) Abby was born in Manhattan, which makes it easier. We retain a rope looped over a butt there, but for the last decade have spent most of our time on an ex-farm upstate. It is near nothing, which is the point. Our nearest neighbor on two sides is Coach Farm, producer of a fine goat cheese I've eaten as far away as San Francisco. They have 750 goats up there on their side of the hill. More importantly, they have put 770 acres abutting our land into the State Land Conservancy, so it cannot be built on. I recommend everybody have Miles and Lillian Cann and Coach Farm as their neighbors.

I knew I was a writer when I was eleven; it took the rest of the world about ten years to begin to agree. Up till then, my audience was mainly limited to my father, who was encouraging and helpful, and ultimately influential in an important way.

Neophyte writers are always told, "write what you know," but the fact is, kids don't know anything. A beginning writer doesn't write what he knows, he writes what he read in books or saw in movies. And that's the way it was with me. I wrote gangster stories, I wrote stories about cowboys, I wrote poems about prospecting-in Alaska, so I could rhyme with "cold"-I wrote the first chapters of all kinds of novels. The short stories I mailed off to magazines, and they mailed them back in the self-addressed, stamped envelopes I had provided. And in the middle of it all, my father asked me a question which, probably more than any other single thing, decided what kind of writer I was going to be.

I was about fourteen. I'd written a science-fiction about aliens from another planet who come to Earth and hire a husband-wife team of big-game hunters to help them collect examples of every animal on Earth for their zoo back on Alpha Centauri or wherever. At the end of the story, they kidnap the hero and heroine and take them away in the spaceship because they want examples of every animal on Earth.

Now, this was a perfectly usable story. It has been written and published dozens of times, frequently with Noah's Ark somewhere in the title, and my version was simply that story again, done with my sentences. I probably even thought I'd made it up.

So I showed it to my father. He read it and said one or two nice things about the dialogue or whatever, and then he said, "why did you write this story?"

I didn't know what he meant. The true answer was that science-fiction magazines published that story with gonglike regularity and I wanted a story published somewhere. This truth was so implicit I didn't even have words to describe it, and therefore there was no way to understand the question.

So he asked it a different way: "What's the story about?" Well, it's about these people that get taken to be in a zoo on Alpha Centauri. "No, what's it about?" he said. "The old fairy tales that you read when you were a little boy, they all had a moral at the end. If you put a moral at the end of this story, what would it be?"

I didn't know. I didn't know what the moral was. I didn't know what the story was about.

The truth was, of course, that the story wasn't about anything. It was a very modest little trick, like a connect-the-dots thing on a restaurant place mat. There's nothing particularly wrong with connect-the-dots things, and there's nothing particularly wrong with this constructivist kind of writing, a little story or a great big fat novel with nothing and nobody in it except this machine that turns over and at the end this jack-in-the-box pops out. There's nothing wrong with that.

But it isn't what I thought I wanted to be. So that question of my father's wriggled right down into my brain like a worm, and for quite a while it took the fun out of things. I'd be sitting there writing a story about mobsters having a shootout in a nightclub office-straight out of some recent movie-and the worm would whisper: Why are you writing this story?

Naturally, I didn't want to listen, but I had no real choice in the matter. The question kept coming, and I had to try to figure out some way to answer it, and so, slowly and gradually, I began to find out what I was doing. And ultimately I refined the question itself down to this: What does this story mean to me that I should spend my valuable time creating it?

And that's how I began to become a writer.

- Ancram, NY (2001)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Bertilak on July 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First of all, RIP Donald E. Westlake. We will miss you and all your alter egos.


Now I must admit I just got this book yesterday and have only read the first page. But that first page is such a masterful description of John Dortmunder it deserves a review of its own. I will come back and update this review after I have read the whole book.

As I said, the description of Dortmunder is masterful. I will quote just a bit of it here:

"He looked liked a person loitering with intent. The particular intent, as any cop casting an eye over Dortmunder would immediately understand, was beside the point, and could be fine-tuned at the station."

OK -- back to the book, which, based on the first page alone, I expect to be a wonderful, if sad, farewell to John Dortmunder and the gang at the OJ Bar and Grill.

Now that I have read the book, here is a FULL REVIEW:

In case you don't know, John Dortmunder is a thief. That's his job and he's pretty good at it. He is the leader of an informal little gang. He comes up with clever schemes. He thinks on his feet and extracts himself and his friends from difficult situations.

Unfortunately Lady Luck seems to have it in for John. No matter how clever his scheme, now matter how carefully executed, things go wrong in, shall we say, "interesting" ways. Things have a way of working themselves out in the end but John and his friends never hit the big one despite coming *so* close so many times.

It's no wonder poor John has such such a pessimistic view of his chances. But being the professional that he is, he never gives up. At least not with a little prodding from his friends. OK, maybe lots of prodding.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Books and the authors who write them become important parts of our lives. A new novel featuring a beloved series character by our favorite author becomes a special event, something anxiously anticipated. So it has been for the millions of fans of Donald E. Westlake over the years. Westlake died at the age of 75 last New Year's Eve.

You know an author has left his mark when the first thing you think of after the passing of the man is the passing of his creations. When I heard that Westlake had died, my first selfish thought was, "Well, what happened to Parker, the noir heist man he wrote about as Richard Stark, or to John Dortmunder, the hardworking burglar who plans so often went so wrong?" And the sad finality is that they, like Sherlock Holmes, Steve Carella and the gang from the 87th Precinct, are gone now as well.

But sometimes not without a glorious sendoff, a final gift in the form of one last book. GET REAL is the 14th and final Dortmunder novel. It is not a sad occasion but a joyous book that will make you want to go right back to the start and reread the entire series starting with THE HOT ROCK in 1970.

Westlake was a prolific author of over 100 books and a three-time Edgar Award winner. He could write very dark stories --- noir --- with the best of the hard-boiled masters. But it was while trying to come up with a Parker novel about a jewel heist that Westlake discovered John Dortmunder, a small-time burglar with big-time plans. And while Parker is about as funny as a massive heart attack --- and has given a few --- Dortmunder naturally finds himself in funny situations.

We meet Dortmunder again on page one of GET REAL waiting on a New York street corner for his getaway driver and crew mate, Stan Murch, who has a lead on a job.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Rick Mitchell VINE VOICE on June 23, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Dortmunder and his crew are thieves. They are zany, yet somehow believeable characters. The crew of five each has his specialties. Although veterans of the authors many books, this book stands alone just fine. In this episode, they get hitched up to do a reality show of them committing a crime. What makes this rather short mystery interesting beyond the quirkiness of the characters is the depiction of reality TV. Scripted, but not scripted, real but, not so real. Dortmunder and his crew must devise a way to pull off a heist to satisfy the show's executives, but still make a profit - a larger one than the show's producers expect.

By far, the best thing about Westlake's books is his cast of characters and the other people with whom he populates the book. The conversations overheard of a bar's regulars is worth the price of the book alone. The supporting cast in this one, primarily the reality show's producer and his assistant, is developed quickly and well. They are ironical in a way that brings humorous satire to the book.

This is a thoroughly amusing quick reading mystery - perfect for the beach.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Nash Black VINE VOICE on August 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
GET REAL is the final book in Donald E. Westlake's Dortmunder series. Mr. Westlake ticked our funny bones for many years and his legions of fans will miss the engaging writer who had no equal.
The gang agree to stage a heist for reality television and the fun begins when they develop plans of their own to assist their income. John, Stan, Tiny, Kelp and the Kid are at first bewildered by the TV people who supervise their words and actions while developing on the spot story lines, there isn't anything real about it. As the show progresses they fall under the spell of the lights and want to see themselves on TV.
An excellent read for a treasure of laughs, even if you've never seen a reality TV program like me.
Nash Black, author of Indie finalists WRITING AS A SMALL BUSINESS and HAINTS.
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