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The Comedy Is Finished Hardcover – February 21, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


"The characters are well drawn, the dialog flows, and the chapters speed by, making for a breezy, solid read. This late discovery is a welcomed treat for Westlake’s many fans. A natural for all mystery collections." - Library Journal

“One of the best Westlake novels I’ve read.” - Washington Post
“A terrifying sprint for redemption and rescue with the reader kept in agonizing suspense until the literal last page. Not to be missed.” - Mystery Scene
“A tense, compelling story...painfully insightful...[readers will] be hard-pressed to put the book down.” - Booklist
“Halfway into January and we already have the first great book of 2012…some of the finest work of the author’s career. And that is truly saying something.” - Vince Keenan
“We’re all in the presence of the master one last time.” - Open Letters Review
“Sharply written and insightful…a worthy addition to Westlake’s lengthy catalogue.” - Publishers Weekly
“Unexpectedly moving.” - Detectives Beyond Borders
“…a master at the top of his game.” - Slacker Heroes
“Surprisingly emotionally potent…God bless Charles Ardai and Hard Case Crime.” - Barnes & Noble Ransom Notes
“A real page turner…Westlake's book is hot with fear, remorse, lust and violence…” - Ed Gorman
“Westlake is a master of ratcheting up the tension…the book is highly recommended.” - Bill Crider
“A masterful little gem.” - In Reference to Murder

About the Author

Donald E. Westlake was the award-winning author of more than 100 books and screenplays, including the Academy Award-nominated screenplay for The Grifters.  Named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America (the organization's highest honor), Westlake also received the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Award three times. 

Under his famous pen name "Richard Stark," Westlake wrote the Parker crime novels that inspired the movies Point Blank and Payback, as well as the acclaimed graphic novel series by artist Darwyn Cooke.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hard Case Crime; Advance Review Copy edition (February 21, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857684086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857684080
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,050,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence Block on May 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover
First, full disclosure: Donald E. Westlake was one of my closest friends for over fifty years. Shortly after his death, I had the good fortune to play a role in Hard Case Crime's publication of Memory[ MEMORY ] by Westlake, Donald E.[ Mass market paperback ]a dark existential novel he wrote in the early 60s and shelved when his agent couldn't sell it. I read Memory in manuscript, days after he finished it, and I thought it was brilliant. My opinion hasn't changed.

Twenty years later, Don wrote The Comedy is Finished; he shelved this one when a Scorsese film came out with a theme that was too close to his. (I remember he acknowledged other problems as well. He was renowned as the ranking master of comic suspense, and he'd written a caper novel in which a Bob Hope-type comedian is kidnapped, so how can a reader expect anything but froth and laughs? But the book, while hardly humorless, is overall about as funny as a heart attack. So how do you promote something like that?

As I said, I read Memory back in the day. I didn't get to read The Comedy is Finished until Charles Ardai (more full disclosure: another friend, and a publisher of mine) rescued it from oblivion. And I'm hugely grateful for the chance to read it now. It's a wonderful look at a largely forgotten chapter in American history, contemporary when it was written, a perfect period piece now. I'm biased, we know that, but I enjoyed and admired the book hugely, and I'm pleased to commend it to your attention
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Format: Hardcover
Like I did, other Westlake fans will jump at a chance to read a previously unpublished novel by the late master. According to the interesting publishers note before the novel begins, Max Allan Collins apparently had this one in a box in his basement from the early 80s, since Westlake thought fans would think it too similar to a movie called The King of Comedy when he finished writing it in the late 70s. However I think Westlake more likely decided not to publish it, simply as it's not up to par with the rest of his usually masterpiece level work. The Comedy is Finished is readable, but it's pretty slow and to be honest pretty boring at times. Westlake wrote over a number of different genres over his career covering everything from comic capers, science fiction, a Western, to hard boiled crime. This is definitely not a comic caper novel, although the main character does make a few lame jokes since he is a comedian after all, but if you're expecting a comic caper you'll be disappointed. Likewise if you were expecting something violent or action packed like say the Parker series your expectations won't be met either. I can't see any Westlake fans not reading this no matter how low the average review ratings are, but I'd highly recommend borrowing this one from your local library before paying money for it.

If you're wondering the basic plot has a disgruntled with the way the world has changed, especially respect for those who go to war, ageing career comedian kidnapped at gunpoint from a movie studios performance for tourists. He is kept in a room by a group of terrorists, including a woman who isn't bothered to walk around nude. We read the story from the terrorists, Koo Davis (the comedian) and FBI agent's points of view. Unfortunately none of these people are either interesting or likeable, meaning you've got to push through the pages, the opposite to the usual can't put the book down Westlake factor.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Charles Engelke on February 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A Bob Hope-like comedian is kidnapped by former (and now again active) radical terrorists. We follow the action as the terrorists hold him and argue among themselves, and the police and FBI hunt for them. It's clear that none of the characters, not even the comedian, are guaranteed to survive to the end, which maintains the tension throughout.

If you love Westlake's books you'll want to read this and you'll be glad you did get one more chance at a new book from him. But if you're just looking for a good crime novel you probably shouldn't bother with this one. The characters are very thin (though not the caricatures that a poorer writer might have made them) and the story isn't very compelling.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By tvtv3 TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A lost novel from Grand Master of Mystery, Donald E. Westlake, THE COMEDY IS FINISHED isn't so much a mystery novel as it is an survival story mixed with a little 1970s crime noire. Westlake originally wrote THE COMEDY IS FINISHED in the early 1980s, but he never had it published because he thought the overall plot structure of his novel was too similar to Martin Scorsese's 1983 movie THE KING OF COMEDY. Other than a comedian who is kidnapped, this novel doesn't share anything with THE KING OF COMEDY.

The setting of the story is Los Angeles, California circa 1975. Koo Davis is a famous comedian (ala Bob Hope), beloved around the nation for his films, USO tours, and television talk show. Koo is kidnapped by a group of five radicals who plan to use Koo as a tool in releasing other radical leaders from prison. The story moves back and forth between Koo and his experience with the radicals and the search and rescue operation for Davis led by a FBI agent who was somehow involved in the Watergate scandal.

There's lots of humor in the book as well as some serious introspection. Since it's not really a mystery, there's no puzzle to solve. Instead, the main plot of the story is whether or not Koo will live or die.

The only complaint I have about THE COMEDY IS FINISHED is that it feels a bit dated. It's not because of the setting, but more because of the overall tone and mood of the novel. The setting is the 1970s, but so are the tone and mood. There are references to events, such as the abduction of Patty Hearst, that many readers just won't understand at all. Also, the world has changed drastically since this book was first written. For example, we now live in a post-9/11 world and the type of the terrorists in the book almost seem quaint. Overall, though not a traditional Westlake novel, THE COMEDY IS FINISHED is a fitting final (?) novel from Westlake.
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