Thursday, September 1, 2011

Jim is observing Labor Day weekend, which traditionally marks the end of summer (and does so for him in fact as well as custom, as next week marks the beginning of the new school year). His recent reading includes Somebody Owes Me Money, by Donald Westlake, recently republished as part of Hard Case, a small specialty publisher that focuses on resurrecting gems of crime fiction as well as new work in the genre. (This is not the first time I've written about it.) Hard Case, which was based in New York, went on hiatus last year, but has been resurrected by a London company. I look forward to more delightfully trashy books.

Donald Westlake (1933-2008) was one of those writers who wasn't a household name, but deeply admired by his peers and much beloved by generations of fans (among other credits, he wrote the screenplay for the 1991 film The Grifters). Westlake wrote over 100 books in various names across a series of genres. Somebody Owes Me Money tells the amusing story of a gambling NYC cabbie who unexpectedly gets a hot tip on a horse race -- and then unexpectedly finds his bookie murdered with himself as a leading suspect. Originally published in 1969, it evokes a gritty moment in New York City history, with an intriguing side trip to suburban Long Island. Interestingly, the book was recently reissued in a $10 trade paperback edition a few years after its first reissue as a $7 rack-sized paperback. Either way, cheap fiction is all the more satisfying when it's inexpensive as well, as these books are. And even in an age of e-books, which in many ways are best suited for this kind of disposable reading, small paperbacks offer psychic satisfactions of their own, especially for summer reading.

Happy reading to all, and to all a good weekend.